Lent Wednesday week 1 Isaiah 44:1-5, Mark 1:9-15
There is a Lutheran pastor in Denver, CO with a unique ministry. The worshiping community is called House for All, Sinners and Saints. Pastor Nadia is a very unique person herself for several reasons not the least of which are her long, slender arms covered in tattoos. These beautiful and colorful images are of icons of Christ, stained glass windows, and other illustrations from classical Christian art. All of them portray the life of Christ; the life of the Christian. She has written the story of faith on her very skin. She has written on her body in clear images, ‘I belong to God’.
In the text we heard from Isaiah, God speaks about the kinds of things his people do to show that they belong to God. God says that some will speak the words ‘I am the Lord’s’ and some will do other things. Some will write on their hands, ‘the Lord’s’, or better translated it says that one might write on their hands the words ‘Belonging to God’.
Actually God talks a lot about writing down things like this. At a later place in the book of Isaiah God says that he writes on his hand, too. Look, God tells us, I have engraved your name in the palm of my hand. I will never forget you. (Isaiah 49:16)
This time last week we observed Ash Wednesday and during that service we received ashes on our foreheads. Not just a sprinkling or a smudge of ash but a charcoal dark mark made in a specific way for a specific reason. For that one day out of the year we are all marked, written upon, in a visible way for all the world to see. Like the faithful in Isaiah who writes on his hand to show to whom he belongs, that is the night that our bodies are marked with the cross saying ‘this one belongs to God’.
In our baptism, we are marked with a cross as well. After the waters have been poured over the head, after the gifts of the Holy Spirit have been spoken, we hear these words: Child of God, you have been sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.
An indelible mark more permanent than any tattoo.
Even if, when you were baptized, no one marked a cross of oil on your forehead as we do here, it is no less present. It is placed there by God. God’s signature on you saying, ‘this one belongs to me.’
At the beginning of Lent we are reminded of many difficult things. We are reminded that we are broken right along with the rest of the world. We are reminded that we are in need of God’s mercy and grace every single moment of our lives. We are reminded that our faith lives benefit from tending and from discipline. But we are also reminded of the One to whom we belong. The One who has claimed us and marked us with his cross.
After leaving worship last week I ran into someone who was a guest at our worship service. He is not Lutheran and his tradition does not observe Ash Wednesday, but he proudly bore the big black cross across his forehead. It said ‘this one belongs to God.’
A little later on, I looked at myself in the mirror and saw the cross on my own face. Over the hours since Tara had marked the cross on me, it had shifted around due to just normal movement and it was, remarkably, transformed into the shape of a heart.
We are not marked with God’s signature and claimed by him for any reason other than the fact that he loves us. Loves us with all of his heart. Loves us enough to send us his Son and loves us enough to die for us. Loves us enough to keep coming back over and over again to be with us, to guide us, to fill us and to use us to share his love with the world.
What if we wore that cross all the time? What if everyone in the world could see that mark that shows God says, ‘this one is mine’? Since we begin Lent with a visible reminder of that mark, let us keep that image in our minds as we continue on this journey to the cross. Imagine everywhere you go, with everything you do, there is a mark on you that says ‘this one belongs to God.’ In truth, there is, it simply is not visible to everyone all the time. But for this Lent, imagine that it is. As we walk together through these 40 days to Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection, let us live every day with the knowledge that we are marked by a God who says, ‘this one belongs to me.’