Be joyful in HOPE,
patient in affliction,
faithful in prayer.
Share with the Lord’s
people who are in need.
Romans 12:12-13

Ash Wednesday – 2023


Prayer: Our Father in heaven, You tenderly invite us to believe that You are our true Father and we are Your children. Help us to come to You with boldness and confidence in prayer, that is, with believing hearts, even though we sin, because we come in Jesus’ name and for His sake. Amen.

Sermon Text, Matthew 6:17-18, 26:38-44.

Dear fellow redeemed in Christ, for whose sake we are children of God:

On Ash Wednesday we come especially to confess our sins. In Psalm 51, we do this by saying, “Against You, You only, have I sinned,” and “My sin is always before me,” and “Hide Your face from my sins.” Then we come to the part where we say, “Cast me not away from Your presence.”

This takes us back to the Garden of Eden when God did cast Adam and Eve away from His presence. We can’t deny that our sins deserve for us not to be in His presence, not to be able to call Him “our Father.”

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus calls out again and again, “O My Father!” What you see of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is what sin does to us, what it really looks like. Jesus is crushed to the ground. The cup of suffering that He is struggling with, it is the suffering that our sins deserve.

Jesus carries the full burden of sin of everyone in the world. But He is also showing what eachperson’s burden of sin is like. The Law always accuses. God uses it to lead you to repent. But the devil uses the Law which accuses, to make you feel far away from God, to keep you from calling on Him.

So what does it say that Jesus says over and over, “O My Father”? He is showing you what the devil never will: that God is not only the Judge and you are not to address Him that way. He shows you that even when burdened by sin as He was burdened by your sin, even facing judgment as He was facing it, what is still true? God is your Father, as He is Jesus’ Father, and you are to address Him that way.

How do you know that God is your Father? Well, in tonight’s gospel lesson, Jesus keeps saying “your Father.” If you think your sins disqualify you from being His child, Jesus says, yes, “your Father sees in secret,” He knows it all – but Jesus says: “He will reward you openly” (NKJV). In other words, He will give you the reward of grace, His undeserved love, He will reward His own work, the reward of faith in Jesus, which is a gift.

You also know that God is your Father because Jesus directs you to say, “Our Father.” Saying “Our Father” in the Lord’s Prayer is the invocation. Invocation means to call upon, to invoke His name.

Why do we say “our” Father? First, we join Jesus Himself in saying, “O My Father.” You’re saying, “Our Father,” with Jesus! Also, all who believe are joined in prayer together, you are never alone, never away from God.

Jesus is the only one who deserves and has earned the right, by His behavior, to call God His Father. Now He has won this right for you by His suffering and death. This is the message of Lent. He takes away everything that makes you an unworthy child and gives you His worthiness, what He merits and deserves. In Christ you have no sins, and God is your Father.

So you can call Him your Father, and as the catechism says, approach Him “with all boldness and confidence, as children ask their dear father.” This is God’s “tender invitation,” as the catechism says. This is all Gospel. Even though you’ve sinned, He still tenderly invites you to come to Him.

He only does that if He has forgiven your sin. He has! So He wants you to call out to Him not like a stranger but like His child, which is what you are! When you say “our Father,” you’re also saying, “I am your child.” Without realizing it, you are proclaiming that you believe His grace and forgiveness, that’s why you call Him “Father,” even “our Father,” “my Father.”

You don’t just call upon Him for grace and forgiveness. You come to Him as children to their father. So you come to Him for everything, every big and little thing. He doesn’t get tired. There are never too many requests for Him. He sends Jesus to fill our ears with the words “your Father,” so you can fill His ears with the words “my Father,” or “our Father.” This is the work of the Holy Spirit, who

Crowns His work with blessing,

And helpeth me to cry

“My Father!” without ceasing,

To Him who dwells on high. (ELH #517 v. 7) Amen!

Catechism (spoken after the sermon)

Lord’s Prayer, Introduction

Our Father who art in heaven.

What does this mean?

God would hereby tenderly invite us to believe that He is our true Father and that we are His true children, so that we may ask Him with all boldness and confidence, as children ask their dear Father.

Collect for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, You hate nothing that You have made and You forgive the sins of all those who are penitent; create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of You, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one true God, now and forever.