Dion's random ramblings

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

From dust you came, to dust you shall return. Turn from your sin and follow Christ.

This evening we held an Ash Wednesday service in our College Chapel.

It was a truly significant end to a wonderful day. The service itself was extremely meaningful. We used a magnificent liturgy (chosen by the students) from John van de Laar's 'Sacredise' website (he has many exceptional worship resources to aid Churches - many of them are free).

Ash Wednesday marks the start of Lent. It marks the start of the 40 days that lead up to Easter. In many less traditional Christian Churches these festivals in the Christian calendar are not celebrated. However, I have come to appreciate the rhythm of memory that is created by celebrating these significant events that mark important events in the life of Christ, and in the lives of Christians.

Central to the Ash Wednesday service is a moment in which one has Ash (normally from a burnt palm branch) placed upon one's head and the ministers says From dust you came, to dust you shall return. Turn from your sin and follow Christ.

It serves as a rich reminder that life is short... It cannot be wasted on inconsequential things. It must be spent in honour of Christ and in fulflilling Christ's will for your life. Life must be spent in dedicated and loving service - service of God, and service of the people whom God loves.

Today's service was significant for because since we last met in the College Chapel for this very service (Ash Wednesday 2007) I have numerous encounters with death. Tomorrow morning I shall awake at 3.45 AM to drive to Newcastle to participate in the funeral of one of the students who studied at the seminary last year, the Rev Godfrey Baqwa. He was a great student! He did 9 subjects last year, he passed them all and passed some with distinction. He was killed just over a week ago in a motorcar accident on his way back from a Church meeting - life is short.

My father passed away 4 weeks and 6 days ago. Indeed, life is short.

During last year I had to undergo surgery and treatment for cancer. It was a wake up call. Life is short.

However, the Ash Wednesday service also reminds me that life God's gift! It is a gift from God and can be given back to God as a gift!

I have recently been wrestling with the text of Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38-42). In this text Martha is engaged in work. She is preparing a meal for Jesus who is visiting her house. Her sister Mary is washing the Lord's feet. Martha complains to Jesus that Mary is doing nothing. Jesus tells her "Mary has chosen what is better, and it shall not be taken from her".

I was struck by a few things in this narrative.

1. Neither Mary, nor Martha, are going against Christ's will! Both know the needs of Jesus (for Mary it is to serve and worship him, for Martha it is to serve and care for him).

2. However, while both KNOW the Lord's will, only one of them seems to UNDERSTAND the Lord's desire. Only Mary knows that Jesus needs, what he truly needs.

I have spent the last few years like Martha - very busy. I have been engaged in ministry (ministry of oversight, education, and care within the Church). However, I have often felt like Martha, worn out, tired, abused, and neglected. I have faced incredible challenges and pressures... I know it is God's will that I work hard, work creatively, work diligently, and work well. But, I think have been misunderstanding what God may be wanting for my life...

This lent I realised that I need to do more than just KNOW God's will, I must UNDERSTAND it, and in doing so, I must serve and bless the Lord.

This was the third thing I realised:

3. Do you realise that this is the ONLY account in the New Testament of anyone serving Jesus? I mean, there is no other account of anyone sitting down to bless the Lord. Jesus is normally the one who does all the blessing.

I want to bless the Lord. I have come from dust, and to dust I shall return. Now, I shall turn to follow Christ more faithfully.

It is Lent. I shall remember that Christ's journey for my life was a journey of struggle, hardship and pain. But beyond the crown of thorns is a crown of life!

A blessed Lent to all.

Today was special for another reason. I had the great chance to meet with two new friends, Andy and Glen, both elders at the 3Ci Church (Capitol City Christian Church) in Pretoria. They are oustanding guys! I first met Glen when Liam was in hospital last year and Glens daughter was also there (Chloe). She is doing great! Andy and Glen came and prayed for us in a time when we truly needed care.

Today I got to visit them and find out about their incredible ministry and their passion for Christ. They are doing great work, Gospel work! I look forward to seeing them again.


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