Sermon – 03-20-19 – Wednesday in Lent
Scriptures: Job 38:1-7, 12-13; Job 42:1-6; John 3:1-9, 16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:49
Genesis 2:7; Genesis 3:14; Job 19:25; Ecclesiastes 12:7
Sermon Title: “From Dust to Eternal Life”
The story in Genesis tells us that man was created from dust or soil. Do you think of dust and soil as totally mineral or a combination of animal, vegetable, and mineral?
How about ashes? How do you classify ashes? Picture a forest fire even though it hurts us to bring such a disaster to mind. Desolate! Nothingness! Everything once living – animal, vegetable – blended into ashes! No life! Now picture a little section of these ashes, a small heap. In fast forward motion of a camera, a seed starts to sprout, two tiny leaves appear, they move upward, more tiny leaves appear. As the motion of the camera speeds along, the stem becomes thick, the branches spread, more and more leaves appear. It is a new tree from an old seed that would not be burned. It is a resurrection.
Yes, a seed must die before new life can arise from it. O-o-o-oh. Now the green blade rises from the buried grain. When our hearts are wintry, grieving, or in pain, Your touch can call us back to life again. Fields of our hearts that dead and bare have been; Love is come again like wheat arising green. Do you know that hymn?
Ashes, dust, soil! How many times do these words appear in the account of Christianity which is named the Bible? In Genesis 2:7, God breathed life into the nostrils of the man he just shaped. It is the breath of God, the very breath of God! Then in Genesis 3:14, we find the evil serpent who shall from now on, eat dust. No reaching for apples for this particular creature in our literature. Thankfully, not all snakes are punished for this one snake’s deeds. I know snakes that have climbed trees. Double thanks that I have not yet come face to face with a snake in an apple tree or a peach tree or a lemon tree.
How about us? Are we really punished because Adam and Eve did not resist temptation? Is that why we don’t live in a paradise environment until we die? Maybe, but I have other ideas. Maybe we inherited Adam’s and Eve’s arrogance. However, we got it, most of us have it. But do you know people who seem to have not a smidgeon of arrogance? I have known such people. I am certainly not thinking of myself! I constantly need to be replacing the lid of humility on my arrogant nature. What did we inherit? What did we acquire from the other people around us? What did we acquire from the devil? Do you ever recognize and accept the idea that the devil is tempting you?
Moving right along to Job, something was keeping Job from a good relationship with God. You may remember that God was taking almost every material possession and almost every living person and animal from his life. Why? Did Job deserve this punishment? Maybe. It is not for us to judge. But this book gets rather monotonous as three friends and Job dialogue with each other – more like accusatory conversation about why this is happening to Job. He must have done something wrong, his friends say. God seems to be silent through all of Job’s arrogance.
“Not one wrong thing did I do,” says Job to his friends and to God. I did not do anything wrong. Pure arrogance! But in Chapter 38, God speaks and speak he does. He sets Job free of his arrogance. Who does Job think he is, says God. Did Job know how to keep the waters from covering the whole earth? Does Job know how to get a day started, the dawn to appear?
Listen to this again from Job 38:12 and 13. “Have you commanded the morning since your days began, and caused the dawn to know its place, so that it might take hold of the skirts of the earth, and the wicked be shaken out of it?
“The dawn shakes the evil from the new day,” I think God is saying. The evil is shaken away at the start of each new day! We can start each new day with the breath of dawn!
God finally lets Job speak. Uh-oh, God had spoken these words to Job. “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?” So when Job gets to speak it appears that the first confession that Job makes is this: “ ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore, I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know.”
Let us ask ourselves, “How often have we spoken with self-assurance when we really did not know the subject matter and the truth.” Have you come to realize that we are very much like Job?” We falsely tell ourselves and try to convince others that we have the story straight or that our version of the weather is the very version that is going to happen right down to the 1/8 of an inch. Or that the stain remover we use will work for everyone, or that God favors a certain politician. Or that the little white lie we told or the money we kept from our income tax form will not hurt our record with God. Or that how we think about scripture is exactly how the scribes got it from God.
We are full of dust and ashes. Purify us, God! Let us say with Job as he confesses further something like this. “Now things are clear to me. I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”
We are here today somewhere in the season of Lent. We are here in a repentant spirit. It is good to admit our need for repentance. But let us not quit there! No, no. There is life in the ashes! The Spirit is still in us! The Spirit will breathe on the little tiny spot of life and bring it into full life. In the precious verses in John 3, we find Nicodemus walking away from the new life. If he ever declared Jesus as Lord of his life, we don’t know. I find myself praying for Nicodemus.
But John 3:16 is not just for Nicodemus. It is for us who are Job-like creatures. We do not need to walk away. We can accept John 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 15:49 which is, “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we will also bear the image of the man of heaven.” We can eagerly await the eternal life which is waiting for us. Job says in Job 19:25, “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last he will stand upon the earth . . .” Verse 3 of the hymn “In the Bulb There Is a Flower” reads, “In our end is our beginning; in our time, infinity; in our doubt there is believing; in our life, eternity. In our death, a resurrection; at the last, a victory, unrevealed until its season, something God alone can see.”