Sixth in a series of clips from the 2000 Jesus Christ Superstar film. With Glenn Carter as Jesus and Frederick B Owens as Caiaphas. Buy tickets for your near…
Just thinking about Ash Wednesday service yesterday, for those not familiar with Anglican/Churchy stuff, what happens is on Palm Sunday people get given palm cross, we remember that when Jesus came into Jerusalem the crowd went bonkers and waved palm branches at him as a way of marking their excitement to see him…Today Jesus would be greeted by the flash of mobile phones with people scrambling for a selfie.
Palms branches being waved were a sign of celebrity, popularity and praise.
Yet less than a week later the fickle nature of people had the crowd that shouted “Hosanna” were shouting “Crucify” as Jesus was nailed to a wooden cross.
So to turn a palm into a cross is talking of taking our desire for adulation, praise, ego, honour, celebrity and celebration and say that as a Christian I am not living for peoples praise and affirmation, I am living for my crucified and risen Saviour. It is an act of defiance against a shallow celebrity obsessed world saying that (to quote one of my heroes St. Francis of Assisi) “the world has been crucified to me”…
Jesus talked of two ways to walk, wide and broad -which leads to destruction- and narrow and crooked the way to life.
The Narrow way is not the path of popularity, celebrity and stardom but of picking up your cross and following Christ, after-all “Jesus said ‘if anyone wants to be my disciple me they must forget self and carry their cross and following me”.
Ultimately the Christian faith asks us one simple question, who are you living for, for Christ or yourself, the way of celebrity of the way of the cross?
Yet the imagery of Ash Wednesday isn’t simply digging out the Old Palm Crosses but to burn them and turning them to ash, fire is a symbol of judgement (the idea that our works will be judged in the fire where wood and straw burn up but what remains is Gold, Silver and Costly Stones), and Ash is a symbol of mortality and repentance.
The idea that without Christ we are nothing, is something our pride rails against, our mortality is scary to know that one day we will be no more and we will have to stand and give an account for ourselves, it is a sobering reflection when we realize afresh our total dependence on God.
I spoke last night we sung a line from an old Hymn which reminded us that “nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling”, I reminded the people that when we come to Communion we come with empty hands, but are kneeling before a loving and generous God.
Ash Wednesday is a reminder of the bad news of our sinfulness, our fallenness and our inability to save ourselves, but as we draw the sign of the cross on peoples heads we are proclaiming forgiveness of our sinfulness, resurrection that restores our fallenness and Grace that gave us what we could not earn Salvation, eternal life with Christ.
I’ll end with a wonderful quote from the Martyred Missionary Jim Elliott who famously once said: “He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep (i.e his life) to gain what he cannot loose (eternity with Christ).”