This evening, I’ll walk down the center aisle of the sanctuary of my church. My pastor will reach into a small bowl and, using ashes, smudge a black-gray cross on my forehead. In a low voice, he will tell me, “For dust you are and to dust you will return.”
With this declaration of my mortality ringing in my ears, I will head back to my spot on the pew. My mind will go much further back. Back to when God pronounced these same words to Adam and Eve, barring them, and us, from paradise.
How soon after her devastating bite did Eve realize what she had done? Did she immediately feel the enormity of her sin? Or, was it later, after hearing God’s promise of salvation, that her heart became contrite? What about me?
I will consider the original sin that continues to dirty God’s creation. I will confess my sins: Those that I am agonizingly aware of and those that are so far in the hidden spots of my heart, they are alien to me. The sins that I commit sully the full creation that God intends for me. They remove me far from God’s righteousness. They cast me away from his presence. Their collective weight rends my heart.
Jesus, Remember Me
But the clean Light from the cross beckons. It shows me how to return to the gracious and compassionate Lord. It urges me to echo the plea of the repentant thief who hung next to my dying Savior: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”
In the voice of my pastor, as he pronounces forgiveness of my sin, I hear Jesus’ reply: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”
God’s promise to Eve is realized for me in restored joy of the salvation found only in the sacrifice of the Lamb. Through absolution of my sin, God grants me a willing spirit, that only in him, is sufficient to sustain me.
Tomorrow, I will reflect, as the season of Lent asks. Tomorrow, I will seek the Holy Spirit’s power that helps me leave my life of sin and live a renewed life producing fruit of repentance.
But tonight, at the foot of the cross, I will marvel at the good news that pours from it. The invitation to all to once more be with God in paradise. His bidding bound in the words, “I forgive you.”
See you in the Round,