Oakdale United Methodist Church
Thursday, January 27, 2022
Praise God, Love Others, Grow Spiritually, and Share Jesus!

From the Pastor

Dear Friends,


The story is told that when, during World War I, the Emperor of Austria-Hungary died after ruling for more than 60 years, he was carried as his forbearers before him to the crypt of the church of the Capuchins in Vienna. When the escort knocked at the gate, a voice from inside offered the traditional challenge: “Who is there?” The reply, “His serene majesty, the Emperor of Austria.” The graveside liturgist responded, “I know him not. Who is there?” Again the answer, “The Apostolic King of Hungary.” But once more the voice inside responded, “I know him not. Who is there?” The escort this time declared: “Our brother, Franz Joseph, a sinner.” At those words, the gate opened.


On Ash Wednesday, as we reflect on our own sinfulness, we also remember our own finitude and mortality. We hear the voice of one saying, “Remember, thou art dust and to dust thou shall return.” And so it is fitting on Ash Wednesday to be marked with dust, with ashes of the past. The leaves from last year’s palm branches have been reduced to cold black ashes. The live green branches we once waved welcoming the King of Kings into Jerusalem, welcoming this solitary figure into our lives, now will crumble in our fingers on Ash Wednesday representing the darkness of death. “Who is there?” the voice cries out. “It is I, a sinner.” “Remember thou art dust and to dust thou shall return.”


As we are marked on Ash Wednesday, marked for the journey, let us remember that these ashes represent those things in us that are not good, those things in us that need to die. By accepting a cross of ashes on Ash Wednesday, we do indeed identify ourselves as sinners, but sinners determined to travel onward in life, to grow into better persons. And we keep in mind that the destination of our journey is new life just as Jesus experienced new life in his resurrection at Easter. But in order to share in new life, we must die to the old. We must stare into the face of our own sinfulness, into the face of our own mortality. For then and only then will the gate be opened so that we may come in. As you are marked for the journey this year, remember that you and I join Jesus in his ministry, in his death, and in his resurrection.