“Your ashes are smeared today. There is no beauty in them. The world cannot see anything in them but an ugly smudge of dirt and death. But for those with the eyes of faith, they are in the form of a cross, that most lovely and dear of all symbols, that emblem of our hope.
“We set our faces toward Jerusalem today. We turn our backs on sin. We look through the gallows on Golgotha and see the glory of the cross enlightening the empty tomb. He has been lifted up from the earth to draw us to Him, to drain the Law’s accusing power, to empty hell’s claim, to crush the devil’s head, to bestow peace upon the meek.
“You are a holy people, anointed with ashes. You belong to the Lord. His mark and name are upon you. This is what it is to be sanctified, to be holy. You are forgiven, to be sure, but there is more than that. You are not only forgiven, or just made even with God, as though you never did anything wrong, and that is that. There is more. For not only has your debt been wiped out, but there is a credit to your account. You aren’t just even; you are holy. You belong to Him. You have the superabundance of His good works counting as your own, and the earth, indeed all of the universe, if your inheritance.
“So remember that you are dust and that you will return to dust. But remember also that God is a man, dust like you, joined to your temptations and sorrow, welded to your death, who was roasted to death in the Father’s wrath, reduced to ashes, and laid to rest in God’s good acre as a ransom, a whole burnt offering. That man is risen again from the dead and has come forth from the earth like a plant in the spring, that He would be your God. Turn your back on sin. Turn toward the Lord and His mercy. For here is peace and joy. Here is hope and faith.”