The Bible reminds us that we were all made from the dust of the earth, and we will return to it. In the creation story, God takes clay and breathes life into it. And the first human being was created. It tells us how humanity fell. So, sin came into the world. And because of sin, death.
The season of Lent begins with Ash Wednesday. We are nothing but ashes and dust as part of the theme of this season. Perhaps it is the most important part of Lent. We like to emphasize the positive and eliminate the negative. But Lent makes us look at our own sinfulness. Without God we are as lifeless as the dust of the earth and we are as dead as the rocks.
Today Scriptures deal with the reality of the deadness of the human race. One is about a promise of life from a lifeless and barren womb. The other is about the death of Christ. The first is about God making a covenant with Abraham. The Bible says Abraham was 99 years old.
Abraham was old and Sarah was not far behind him. She was probably in her late eighties. The two of them had reached the point in their lives when most people sit in rocking chairs on their front porches spending times with great grandchildren. But they had no children. Sarah was barren and much too old to bear children.
So, God came to Abraham to make a covenant with him. God said, “I want to make a deal with you. You walk blameless before me and I will make you a great nation. You shall no longer be called Abram, but you shall be called Abraham, Father of multitudes.”
How could Abram become a great nation with no children? He was the end of his line. But there was Ishmael, Abraham’s son by Sarah’s servant. He could produce descendants. But God said, “Your wife Sarai shall no longer be called Sarai but Sarah. I will bless her and she will bear you a child. She will be the mother of nations.”
Could a 100-year-old man have a baby boy? A 90-year-old woman bear a child? “God bless Ishmael and we will be fine. I am too old to raise children, he said.” God said, “That is your way! I’m a God of hope. Your wife Sarah will bear a son. And my promise will be fulfilled.”
The lifeless womb of Sarah was a reality. The physical reality of a ninety-year-old woman cannot bear children. Life could not be produced from an old couple. They were close to returning to dust themselves. But God decided to make Abraham a great nation. God decided to take something lifeless and create life out of it.
Thousands of years later Jesus told his disciples that the Son of Man must suffer. And he will be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes. He will be killed. And on the third day he will rise again. Jesus said this plainly so they would not misunderstand him.
But Peter pulled him aside and said, “No, Lord you have it all wrong. You are the Messiah the Son of the Living God. A minute ago, you asked me who I thought you were, and I said you are the Messiah. You are supposed to go to Jerusalem and all people will greet you as King. You will not die, you will live forever!”
Jesus said, “Peter you have it all wrong. That is the world’s way. My way is different. My way is to bring life out of death. The world says, ‘Look out for yourself, save what you’ve got.’ But my way says, ‘If you try to preserve your life you will lose it and if you lose your life for my sake you will preserve it into eternal life.’ So, I must die to bring you eternal life.”
We live in a world where death is a reality. There is death of sin. There is lifelessness of our stone-cold culture. There is the decay of our own bodies and the death of our loved ones. There is the mass death of war. And there is the lifelessness of the human soul without God.
These things cannot be denied. Our culture praises youth. It is part of our attempt to deny the fact that we all will die. We try to project the image we are eternally young. We attempt to deny the reality of death is the way we treat war. War is a war and people get killed.
Sometimes innocent people. Sometimes a bomb, which is intended to destroy a bridge, hits a house and civilians are killed. We refer to it as “collateral damage.” Sometimes a shooting at schools and churches. The truth is - we come from dust and we return to dust.
But Jesus offers us hope. God brings life out of death. God made the lifeless womb of Sarah bear a great nation. God brought eternal life out of the death of Jesus. God brings life out of the deadness of tomb. God has taken the grave and lifeless dust and turned it into new life.
God can take the dead and lifeless parts of our lives and breathe in new life. If we deny these lifeless parts exist, no life will come out of them. If we deny sin kills our spirits, God can’t breathe in new life.
The world says, “Life can only come where there is life.” God brings life out of death. God can bring life out of ashes and dust of our lives. Shalom and Amen!
Scriptures: Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16, Mark 8:31-38