Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Ash Wednesday

Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 51
2 Corinthians 5:20-6:10
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

During Lent we Christians often reinforce the solemnity of the season by reciting the sacrifices we make in our effort to join Christ in the forty days of fasting he underwent prior to beginning his ministry.  Concealing any discomfort may seem to be one of the greatest challenges of our time, but we see from the scriptures leading us into Lent that whining has been with people for all time. Today’s scriptures guide us in putting our actions in perspective and gaining the most from our active involvement in God’s kingdom.

Isaiah challenges us to consider why we do the things we do. The prophet addresses the people who publicly make a show of their fast. Are they doing it to argue over who is doing a better job at being miserable – rising in the hierarchy of humility? Instead of giving up comfort to magnify their misery, the prophet reminds them that it is not what they are giving up, but what they share that matters.

Just as the prophet of Isaiah called the public behavior of the people into question, Jesus challenges the public worship of the people. We leave God out whenever our piety, generosity, or verbosity becomes the focus of the worship. The next six weeks give us the opportunity to practice putting God in focus through quiet sacrifice – and quiet service.

The fast is about stopping and starting. Stop sinning and start serving.

Lent is about giving-up and taking-up. Give up a comfort and take up a cause.

Above all, Lent is making God the focus of our actions.