March 1, 2017
The Great Reversal
Dust to Dust, Ashes to Ashes and the New Creation
History is going somewhere.
God’s story is going forward.
Most first century Jews and Christians believed that God was guiding history. A new created world with His justice, peace, healing and hope was on it’s way. This transformation from old to new, from death to life, would not be a matter of destroying everything and starting all over though, but rather a matter of radically healing everything. The writers of the New Testament looked forward to this time and saw the Resurrection of Jesus as it’s beginning. And thus the Great Reversal began 2000 years ago.
I hope to make ‘The Great Reversal’ our study through Lent, and I also hope to be able to explain some of the different ways in which Easter and Pentecost turned the world on its head.
Today marks the beginning of our preparations for the celebration of that Great Reversal, Easter Sunday.
During Lent we prepare ourselves by reflecting on our human frailty and the ways that we have disobeyed God. We also reflect on the suffering and temptations that Jesus experienced as he fasted for 40 days in the wilderness, yet He did not disobey God. He is our Example, the Model for us. The result of our reflections, prayer, and preparations helps us to become more and more like Jesus. We want to be obedient to God; in a loving, intimate relationship with Him; we want to be Christ-like, Christians (little Christs).
So to begin these preparations and reflections we have this service of the Imposition of Ashes where ashes are put on our foreheads in the sign of a cross as a visible symbol of our repentance, contrition, humility and desire to be more Christ-like.
In Old Testament times ashes were often used to express grief, and sorrow for sins. For example Job responds to God, …
Job 42:3-6 ‘I had heard about you before, but now I have seen you with my own eyes. I take back everything I have said and I sit in dust and ashes to show my repentance.’
Or ashes were used in the context of supplication or pleading prayers,
Daniel 9:3 ‘So I turned to the Lord God and pleaded with Him in prayer and fasting. I wore rough sackcloth and sprinkled myself with ashes.’
A New Testament example can be found in the Gospels, ….
Matt 11:21 & Luke 10:13 ‘ What horrors await you Korazin and Bethsaida! For if the miracles I did in you had been done in wicked Tyre and Sidon their people would have sat in deep repentance long ago, clothed in sackcloth and throwing ashes on their heads to show their remorse.’
Ashes also represent our mortality and frailty , that our life passes away on earth, as God told Adam and Eve.
“All your life you will sweat to produce food from the ground, until your dying day. Then you will return to the ground from which you came. For you were made from dust, and to the dust you will return.” Gen 3:19
These words remind us to humbly seek God’s mercy.
And now for the good news!
We know that our Creator God is merciful and gracious to all those who believe in His son Jesus and call on Him with a repentant heart.
‘For now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. For the power of the life giving Spirit has freed you through Christ Jesus from the power of sin that leads to death. Rom 8:1-2 And….
Rom 8:39 “Whether we are high above the sky or in the deepest ocean, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.’
I said in my introduction that History, His story, is going somewhere. Our frail bodies shall return to dust But that is not our final destination, praise God!
In His infinite mercy the Lord has a wonderful destiny for ‘this dust’, a great reversal.
We will one day be resurrected just like Jesus.
He was first.
All those who repent and confess that Jesus is their Lord will have this great reversal to look forward to, the day of Resurrection.
“Jesus didn’t say a lot about the future life. He was primarily concerned that God’s kingdom was coming on Earth as in Heaven. He gave no fresh teaching on the resurrection apart from hints that it was going to happen soon, to One person, ahead of everyone else. (N.T.Wright Surprised by Hope page 177.)
God is going to make everything right in the end. He has turned the world on its head, turned it up side down (or right side up). We are in the midst of this great reversal now, but one day our frail dust will be transformed into resurrected bodies that will not ever turn to dust again! Heaven and Earth will be married together into God’s New Creation when Jesus returns for His bride. And we will play a vital role in His New Creation. That is the whole point of being saved. It’s not just a question of whether or not we (I) will forever live in bliss after we (I) die but rather what will we (I) be able to contribute in God’s New Creation? ‘We are fellow labourers with God’
1 Cor 3:9
For now though, we are part of God’s family who seek to live our earthly lives by the standards and purposes of the Kingdom of heaven, constantly assured of our belonging to the future New Creation.
And we pray Thy Kingdom come on earth as it is in Heaven.