Hello everyone! Can you believe it is Lent already? Which means it is time for the daily devotional blog! You are on this list because you either let me know via facebook that you would like to be on it or because you have been on the list in the past and made an indication that when this happened again, you would appreciate being on it. If you know of others that would like to be added, let me know. This season will be like others in that I will be picking a scripture each day of our journey together and doing something with that scripture. This year I will also be asking for guest bloggers for different perspective and hopefully will be doing some new things on the blog. Should be fun. If you miss a day or would like to send a link to others these will also appear on my blog http://www.pastorcourt.wordpress.com.
Today’s scripture: Matthew 6:1-6,
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. “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. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “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. 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.
Today is Ash Wednesday. A day to reflect on what it means to be human, to repent or turn around, and what it means for us to refocus our energy into living for God. We will have a service tonight and people will hear, “You are dust and to dust you will return,” or something along those lines. Many people give something up for Lent. I have seen facebook posts this morning about people leaving facebook for 40 days, giving up M&Ms for 40 days or other such treats. In other news, this morning I was reading articles about how people can receive Ash…through drive thrus in churches in Ohio, out on the street from churches in Chicago and San Francisco, in noontime services all over the world, etc.
Why do we do this and if Matthew is telling us to keep that quiet how has it become yet another competition for ash?
Mark, Sandi and I have been talking a lot about what Lent means for us. What does that ash on our forehead mean for us? In this season, we are not so concerned about giving up the delights in order to refocus to God but we have become more concerned about what overloads us and takes us away from God. In fact, the language we are using this season is pruning away during this forty days. When we say this, we are talking about making choices in our daily lives to refocus our energies. Some of the things we need to prune are actually lovely things but create too much chaos in our lives. In this crazy culture, we need to make choices even when the choices are all healthy. And this makes more sense to me than giving up dessert or alcohol or even M&Ms although those things may get pruned on occasion. I think we have to look at the bigger picture this season. When the ash appears on your forehead or you figure out what you are doing for Lent, how does that allow you to get closer to God?
Because this is the entire reason for receiving the ashes and giving something up or taking something on for Lent. This moment is to remember just how human and limited you are. This moment is a moment to commune with God in a way that a drive thru may not allow you to do. So go home and be with God, pray in secret as Matthew puts it. And if giving up dessert this season is the way to go…awesome…how will that allow you to put on a God moment in time?
This season I will be blogging each day in relating back to scripture. This is an important part of the season and it is a choice on how I spend part of my morning. I will also be doing more internal work of what I am pruning…this may mean stuff, this may mean more intentional moments and this may mean some difficult choices. I hope you will join me in that. See you tonight!
Prayer: O God, our creator, remind us that we are created limited humans who are made of dust and shall one day return. Help us during these forty days to return to you in whatever way we can. Amen.
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Ten years ago I was involved in a youth outreach at a juvenile detention center in the LA area for young men 13-18 years old. Most were fathers, most were gang members. Our group always went on Wednesday so we were there on Ash Wednesday. Wendy (a ministry student), suggested a love offering. She burned a paper napkin, anointed the guys foreheads with ash. Each was given a small white board and markers to write the things they wanted forgiveness for. I didn’t know what they would write and I walked around the group. They wanted forgiveness for heavy issues, violence, drugs, and family relationships. When they were through writing, we prayed and they came and put their white boards in a bucket of water and watched as the letters slowly vanished in the water. Many with tears in their eyes said, “I’m forgiven.” I am still humbled.