Today’s Scriptures: Lectionary selections from the Revised Common Lectionary Year C
2 Corinthians 5:20 – 6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
(Originally written for and based on the scriptures for Ash Wednesday, 2013. Due to the deaths of a family member and a co-worker that interrupted timely posting, I have adapted it as an overview of Lent 2013)
Growing up in a church that never mentioned the liturgical calendar, I was always fascinated by my friends’ talk of what they had to give up for Lent. (I also liked that we had fish in the school cafeteria every Friday.) It seemed like a very depressing time with all the pleasures taken from life. As I learned more about the purpose of the Lenten season, I learned to use it as a time of personal reflection and growth. It is about as adding on as much as it is about giving up.
Just as the Lenten season is shaped by Christ’s fast in the dessert which was a time for him to draw closer to God, we have the opportunity to draw closer to God as we refine our spiritual practices. The passages today help us see the way to grow in fellowship with God. All the passages unite in guiding us toward the right behavior in public and private worship.
My friends, in their childhood understanding of sacrifice in Lent got it entirely wrong. There is an either-or to rewards for our actions. The passages concur in that message: we can either have our rewards now through public recognition of our pious behavior (by bragging about all that we are doing without) or we can have our rewards for eternity by exercising our faith in a way that only strengthens our relationship with God and brings glory to him (sacrificing in quiet with a smile on our face in public). Isaiah, Psalms, and Matthew state as clearly as possible that we are to worship in a way that builds up the relationship without drawing any attention to ourselves.
During Lent we give up excess(es) in our life in order to take up a spiritual activity that helps us grow our relationship with God. It is not about bragging that I am going without chocolate until I break out the chocolate bunnies on Easter morning. Lent is our time in the wilderness developing our spiritual practices not our six weeks of misery developing our frown. Let’s smile as we celebrate (privately) our growing connection to God.
Revised Common Lectionary Daily Readings, copyright © 2005 Consultation on Common Texts. www.commontexts.org