Joyce Meyer lost her brother a few years back. He was a Marine Corps veteran whose life was ruined through drug abuse. He went missing for thirty days before being found dead in an abandoned building. How did she take it? She went to a conference of prominent church leaders and used his tragic death as sermon illustration fodder. Her text was John 5, the story of the paralytic lying beside the pool who had been there for thirty-eight years. She made it into a story of all the blessings and rewards you can get from God through diligence, faith, and good old American pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps resourcefulness and ingenuity. She drew frequent and stark contrasts between her brother and his life of self-pity, and her own determination, despite all the hardships of her growing-up years, to choose the right path and make something positive of herself.
I am going to keep on coming back to this because I want us to see the contrast between this and what Lent is all about.
Those of you who attended Ash Wednesday services this week had the opportunity to receive ashes on your forehead. These ashes are a visual reminder that we are dust and we shall someday return to dust. As such we have no capacity to save ourselves. No capacity to lift ourselves up out of our present condition as sinners deserving of death. No hope whatsoever, but that Jesus came and took our sin and the death which we so richly deserved upon Himself.