There’s a funeral tomorrow - and I think it’s going to be mine.
Let’s put ashes on our heads tomorrow and admit that we’re dead men.
It’s the only way we can truly live!
Confused? I'll explain:
About 2,600 years ago, Israel was a mess. Their towns had been destroyed, thousands of people had been murdered or sent into exile, and hope was lost for many Jews. A wild-man prophet named Ezekiel had an incredible vision from God about it all.
God showed Ezekiel a desert valley covered in human bones. The bones were totally lifeless; bleached white by the sun. God told Ezekiel that his people (you and I!) were like those bones.
There was no way they could save themselves. No way they could bring themselves back to life after everything that they had done, and everything that had happened to them. God showed Elijah that the only answer was actually very simple: Admitting that they were dead. God said that something amazing would happen when they finally acknowledged their inability to survive on their own:
“When this happens, O my people, you will know that I am the Lord. 14 I will put my Spirit in you, and you will live again” Ezekiel 37:13-14
Ezekiel spoke to the bones and suddenly the vultures flew away and the bones became living, thriving, hopeful humans. He spoke again and the wind of God’s power filled each one of them. The bones were transformed from a heap of hopeless waste to an earth-shaking powerhouse of an army, filled with the Spirit of the living God!
The thing is - they had to admit that they were dead first.
Ash Wednesday and Lent are all messed up these days. Lent, which begins on Ash Wednesday and ends Easter Sunday, has somehow become a Jesus-version of a New Year’s resolution.
It’s exactly the opposite of that, actually.
Lent is not a time to try to do anything. Lent is a time to give up trying and just be dead.
This is a season for putting ashes on your head and acknowledging that you can’t do it on your own. Not now, not ever.
You can’t be a good person. You can’t overcome your addiction. You can’t survive your struggle. You can’t heal from your grief. You’re dead on your own!
17 You say, ‘I am rich. I have everything I want. I don’t need a thing!’ And you don’t realize that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked. Revelation 3:17
Ash Wednesday, and the entire 40 day season of Lent are a time to cover your face in ashes (asymbol of loss, sadness, weakness, and mourning), sit alone in a room, and weep about how much of a failure you are.
That sounds awful until you remember that the end of this season is marked by the celebration of resurrection. A celebration of dry bones coming back to life.
And you can’t come back to life until you acknowledge that you’re dead.
“He (Jesus) must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less.” John 3:30
You’ve been struggling in your own power to stay alive. You’ve been striving to be someone special and make a difference in the world. You’re worn out, stressed past your limit, depressed by your lack of accomplishment, and hating your current circumstances. You’re a heap of dry bones.
Tomorrow, stop trying to DO, and just BE. Be a helpless heap of bones. Have a funeral party for yourself. Cry about your failure and your sin. Pray about it. Throw a fit. Give up. Ask for forgiveness.
And then watch as the tender power of Jesus breathes new life into your old bones.
Perhaps you’ve forgotten how sweet his presence is. You knew him once, or thought you might have felt Him once, but that feeling is long gone. That feeling of the nearness of God has been crowded out by your ambition, your strength, and your struggle.
The season of Lent is a chance to let your strength and ambition die so that His presence and power in you can be very much alive. It’s a time to replace striving with ceasing, stressing with prayer, and trying with dying.
Let him be King. Let him be Dad. Let yourself go.