For the last several weeks, Mount Vernon Place has been undergoing a serious type of surgery. Like cancer that has overtaken an individuals body, our two buildings that are about to be demolished are filled with asbestos. There is asbestos in the floors, in the walls, in the ceilings and around the pipes. In fact, there is enough asbestos to fill an entire trailer when it is all removed.
I have learned a lot about asbestos in the last several months. I now know that it was used as a way of fireproofing parts of the building, as an absorber of sound in other parts of the building, and as a form of insulation. It appears that asbestos was a rather useful product. Like polybutylene pipes, asbestos was once believed to be a great thing. While polybutylene pipes could wind and bend around a house, they are now the reason why many houses have experienced devastation as a result of their leaks. While asbestos was once an inexpensive solution to many building issues, it is now the cause of the most expensive litigation in history, involving over 6000 defendants and 600,000 claimants because breathing the substance can cause significant health problems.
As a result of the asbestos in our buildings, we cannot simply demolish them and move forward. Instead, the asbestos must be carefully removed before a demolition permit can be received. As a result, the church is spending tens of thousands of dollars to have the asbestos completely removed. The asbestos must be removed before something new can emerge. The asbestos must be taken care of before the project can move forward. The asbestos is an impediment to progress.
Today is Ash Wednesday. On this day, we are reminded that from dust we came and from dust we shall return. This day marks the beginning of the season of Lent -- the season in which we journey towards the cross of Good Friday and the empty tomb of Easter morning. It is also a day on which we begin to search ourselves, asking God to help us see the places of decay within each one of us.
The words of David found in Psalm 51 are often read on Ash Wednesday: "Have mercy on me, O God, according to your steadfast love; according to your abundant mercy blot out my transgressions. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin" (verses 1,2).
Verse 10 continues, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me."
I started my day today asking God to show me the places in my life where I need a new and right spirit. What are the things in my life that need to be removed? Where are the places of sin and decay?
Like asbestos, we do not always know the aspects of ourselves that are more harmful than they are helpful. There are some things in our life or aspects of our personality that we have grown to simply accept -- believing that the things are not that bad. We try to keep these things hidden, pretending that they do not exist. However, we cannot grow into the individuals God has called us to be until we address the problem. We must be cleansed. We must remove the sin.
The process of removing the sin in our life was paid for long ago -- not with the tens of thousands of dollars used to pay for asbestos abatement, but with Christ's death on a cross. We receive the forgiveness of sins not through a long process of removal, but with a few words, "Have mercy on me, Jesus, a sinner," and accepting the freedom Christ gives us to live a changed life.