Ash Wednesday Sermon Text: Exodus 3
Let us pray: let the words of my mouth and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, Oh Lord, our strength and our Redeemer. Amen.
Grace be unto you and peace from God our Father and from our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
The people of Israel groaned because of their slavery and God heard their groaning and remembered his covenant with Abraham with Isaac and with Jacob. The time had come for deliverance; God would rescue His chosen people from the bondage of slavery.
Enter Moses, the son of a Levite. Moses; whom God had saved from the mass slaughter of the male Hebrew children. Moses; who once had tried to deliver the Israelites from their Egyptian taskmasters by taking matters into his own hands. He had witnessed an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, and when he thought no one was looking, took the life of the Egyptian. Yet Moses didn’t deliver his fellow Hebrews from the oppression of the Egyptians. Rather, his deed reached the ear of Pharaoh and Moses, who had so desperately wanted to free his fellow Israelites, had to flee for his life to the land of Midian.
Yet God had heard the groaning of the people and the time had come for His chosen people to be freed from their captivity. So, one day, as Moses the shepherd of his father-in-law’s sheep was about his vocation, he sees a great sight – a flame of fire in the midst of a mountain shrub. What a strange sight to behold, and being naturally curious, Moses decides: “I will turn aside to see this great sight, why the bush is not burned.” God calls out to him, “Moses, Moses!” He replies, “Here I am.” The Lord God, Maker of heaven and earth, says to him, “Do not come near; take your sandals off your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” And he said, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.
Now Moses, being told just who is here in this burning bush realizes he is not on equal ground; he is in the presence of his Creator. And so Moses doesn’t just take off his sandals; he falls to the ground from which he and his ancestors had come from. Dust to dust. There on the mountain of God, Moses meets his Maker. He stands before the One who had fashioned man from the dust of the ground, who had breathed life into the nostrils of man. Moses cannot stand to stand in the presence of his Creator.
There, on Mount Horeb, God reveals Himself to Moses. He tells Moses that it is His will that the people of Israel will be delivered from their Egyptian masters and brought to a rich land, the land which He Himself promised to Moses’ forefathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. Moreover, when Moses asks who he should tell the people of Israel has sent him, the Creator who brought about all thing into existence tells Moses just who he is dealing with. God said to Moses, “I am who I am.” “It is true Moses, you are dust and to dust you shall return; yet I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. I am not the God of the dead, but of the living” (Matt. 22:32). “I have observed [the children of Israel] and what has been done to you in Egypt, and I promise that I will bring you up out of the affliction of Egypt to …a land flowing with milk and honey.” “I will deliver my people.”
God has revealed Himself to you. There, on Golgotha, the Mount of the Skull, Jesus, the Crucified One, says to you: “I have delivered my people. I have delivered you from sin, death, and the power of the devil. I am who I am. You are dust and to dust you shall return, yet I have ransomed you from death’s sting. I have taken your sin upon myself. I have delivered you from the clutches of the devil. I am. For you, I was delivered into the hands of my enemies. For you, I became a curse and suffered and died upon the tree. I endured the afflictions justice demanded on account of your sins. I died for those sins. And now there is nothing left to pay, nothing more for justice to demand, no one to accuse you. Mercy has won the day.”
We are dust and to dust we shall return. Christ Jesus, true man is dust as well. You see, He joined Himself to your dustiness and was laid to rest. Yet when Christ Jesus died, He stopped death. He died and His body was laid in the grave. He lived as one of us. His lifeless Body was laid into the tomb. Yet His body did not decay because death had done its worse already. He allowed death to have its way with Him; then it was done and there was no more. You see, it could do no more. Death was dead, empty. It had lost its sting, its victory.
Why? Because Christ Jesus is also true God. Remember the words He spoke to his servant Moses, the words He speaks to you this evening. “I am who I am.” He is not the God of the dead; He is the God of the living. And so He took up that dust from out of the tomb; He was raised to life. Dust of your dust, and ashes of your ashes, He lives perfect and whole, God and Man in one, that you would not taste death but live forever in His Father´s house. Your own dustiness, your mortality, was changed that day; a promise rose from that empty tomb for you. You, too, will go the way that He has gone. Your dust will rise, perfected, and be reunited to your holy and clean soul. You will live.
He has revealed Himself through the waters of Baptism; for there in that cleansing, sin-drowning water, you are marked with His Name; adopted as one of His children; bestowed with life. You are joined to the Godhead Himself through the risen and ascended Messiah who laid down His life for you and took it up again to open heaven. The One who spoke all creation into existence, I am; has called His people and delivered them – delivered you. Amen.
The Peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.