Momento Mori

This year, because of the ice storm, we were unable to gather for our annual Ash Wednesday service to receive the sign of the cross in ashes on our foreheads and hear the words “remember you are dust and to dust you shall return.” Each year we begin the Lenten Season with the ashen cross and those ancient words to remind us that, because of sin and its consequences, each of us must face the reality of death. The Latin phrase, momento mori, carries the same meaning: “remember that you must die.”

This may seem a morbid thought and, for some, it confirms that Christianity is an oppressive downer of a religion. In fact, however, this yearly ritual of grief over sin and the sober reminder of our mortality is ultimately intended to communicate just the opposite. It is intended to put us in a mindset of anticipation for Easter Sunday, and the joyous celebration of Jesus’ triumphant victory over both sin and the grave. The good news of the cross’s cure for the human predicament is meaningless without the bad news of the disease from which we all suffer; and it is essential that we be made aware of the disease if the cure is to do us any good. As Jesus said, “Those who are well [or mistakenly believe themselves to be well] have no need of a physician, but those who are sick” (Mark 2:17).

It is against the dark backdrop of Ash Wednesday, then, that the radiance of Easter Sunday stands in sharp relief —and it is Good Friday, which lies between the two and makes all the difference. Together, these three days declare to us the life-giving truth that Paul declared in his letter to the church in Rome: “God shows his love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). What that means is that, though each one of us has rejected him, he has not rejected us; and though by rejecting him we have cut ourselves off from his life, he was not willing that our sin should be the last word. Instead, Jesus willingly surrendered his life so that God could make us an offer of reconciliation, providing forgiveness for sin and the possibility of a repaired relationship with him by which the life we forfeited might be returned to us again; a life over which the grave itself has no hold. And he did all this while we were still entrenched in our rebellion against him! I can think of no greater cause for rejoicing than this! I can think of no greater expression of love than this!

So, though we could not have it placed on our foreheads this year, let us wear the ashen cross on our hearts; and let us heed those ancient words reminding us that we all must die. And let us do so with the confidence that, just as Jesus emerged from the dust of death victorious, all who entrust themselves to him will also emerge from the grave with all the saints to an indestructible life. And may these truths stir in our souls again the joyous song redemption song: “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found, was blind but now I see!”

Pastor Jon Enright

April 1, 2023

Troy Christian Chapel
400 E. Long Lake Road
Troy, MI 48085

Phone: (248) 689-2046

Sunday School - 9:00 a.m.
Worship Service - 10:30 a.m.

Worship & Bible Study - 7:00 p.m.