03062019 Ash Wednesday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

“Savior, When in Dust to You”

03062019 Ash Wednesday Emmanuel Lutheran Export PA

March 6, 2019
“Savior, When in Dust to You”
Sermon Audio

Tonight we take our first step in our Lenten journey.  We began a few moments ago with our coming and making the sign of the Cross over our foreheads hearing the words, “From dust you came to dust you shall return”.  The Lenten season begins in this way connecting us to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, where God formed our first parents from the very dust of creation.  We are connected to this through our first hymn in our series. Let’s make the connection clearer by singing the first stanza of “Savior, When in Dust to You”:

1 Savior, when in dust to you low we bow in homage due; when, repentant, to the skies scarce we lift our weeping eyes; oh, by all your pains and woe suffered once for us below, bending from your throne on high, hear our penitential cry!

Robert Grant, author of this hymn points to the penitential nature of the season of Lent and how our Savior, Jesus Christ, deserves our ‘homage’ as ‘we bow’.  For our hearts in repentance can as the end of the stanza reminds us this season is a penitential season.  Jesus in love for us suffered and endured the ‘pains and woe’ on the Cross of Calvary in order for mankind to receive salvation.  We begin this season reminded of the dust we came from and the dust we will return to upon our entrance into the church triumphant.  Let’s join in the second and third stanzas where our ‘penitential cry’ is but a ‘humble sigh’.

2 By your helpless infant years, by your life of want and tears, by your days of deep distress in the savage wilderness, by the dread, mysterious hour of the insulting tempter's pow'r, turn, oh, turn a fav'ring eye; hear our penitential cry!

3 By your hour of dire despair, by your agony of prayer, by the cross, the nail, the thorn, piercing spear, and torturing scorn, by the gloom that veiled the skies o'er the dreadful sacrifice, listen to our humble sigh; hear our penitential cry!

Hearing our lives traced from our formation and our ‘infant cries’, we are not promised in this life ease, but endure ‘days of deep distress in the savage wilderness’, with faith in God to ‘turn a fav’ring eye’.  For in having trust in God we in faith trust God’s redemption of us and all of mankind, because of the promises of God.  Stanza 3 reminds us of what God accomplished and did for us. ‘By your agony of prayer, by the cross, the nail, the thorn, piercing spear, and torturing scorn’ God offered His Son and our Savior as the atoning sacrifice for us and all of mankind.  God offers us salvation freely and we are given the opportunity to lay claim to His offer of grace and salvation, in spite of what Satan and our world places in our path.  Yes, we can and do ‘sigh’ at times, but our ‘humble sigh’ reminds us it is ‘our penitential cry’ for our God to save us.  Let’s conclude with the fourth stanza.

4 By your deep expiring groan, by the sad sepulchral stone, by the vault whose dark abode held in vain the rising God, oh, from earth to heav'n restored, mighty, reascended Lord, bending from your throne on high, hear our penitential cry!

The imagery of a ‘deep expiring groan’, ‘sepulchral stone’ and ‘vault whose dark abode’ can be seen as the reality that Jesus took His final breath, was buried and His death is permanent with darkness surrounding us.  Yet, notice the promise like light that streams over the distant hills turning darkness into light. ‘The rising God, oh, from earth to heav’n restored, mighty, reascended Lord’ this is victory for us and for all of mankind.  Jesus has risen and the victory is His. And through our baptism, it is ours as well.

When we came earlier in darkness and received the cross on our forehead, our rite of Ashes on Ash Wednesday was to humbly remind us that we are dust and to dust we shall return.  This reminder connects with each of us, because Jesus, ‘bending from your throne on high’ reached down and touched each and every one of us on our forehead and in our hearts with the forgiveness only He can offer us.

With the ashen mark on our forehead promised by the sign of the Cross on our foreheads the gift of grace offered is for us and for all of mankind.  And Robert Grant in our hymn tonight clearly lays claim to the gift of grace for us. So when we go and wipe our foreheads tonight to clean off the ashen mark, please remember that our Savior, Jesus Christ, took on our human form in order to redeem us and all mankind.  And through His Cross, we when we ask Him to ‘hear our penitential cry’ are offered forgiveness, by, through and because of His love for us and all of mankind on this Ash Wednesday with the mark and reminder of His Cross with our ashen Cross as we sing, “Savior, When in Dust to You”.  AMEN!