Joel 2:1-2, 12-17
2nd Corinthians 5:20b-6:10
St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Prayer of the Day:
Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
[Jesus said,] 6.1 “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 2 So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 5 And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
16 “And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. 19 Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21New Revised Version Bible (C)1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America.
Jesus Said Beware…
“Jesus said beware…” So begins the Gospel lesson I read every single year at Ash Wednesday worship. It seems a fitting beginning for this particular teaching section from Jesus about piety, discipleship, humility and true faithfulness. It seems a fitting beginning for the season of Lent — this time of honest, forthright self-evaluation. It seems a fitting opener for our Ash Wednesday conversation about the role these disciplines need to play in our lives and in our faithfulness.
So let’s start with the most obvious question: What is Jesus so worried about that he warns us to beware? In a phrase: the dangers of practicing our faith. This is familiar territory for Lutherans. In the 16th Century, Martin Luther cautioned us against any notion that somehow our faithfulness is what causes us to receive God’s grace. He would say, today, that we can’t earn our way into heaven. There is nothing we can do that causes God to love us any more or any less. We are, in the words of the Apostle Paul, saved by God’s grace, and nothing else. (more…)