Monday, February 4, 2008

Ash Wednesday Treasures in the Heart Matthew 6:1-6 & 16-21

Ash Wednesday is a solemn day in many churches. The human made traditions of Lent begin with a day of remembrance and awe. We come to church clean and leave smudged with ash. We hear words as the ash is placed on our heads or hands, "Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return."

Our very public display of piety on Ash Wednesday stands in immediate tension with Jesus own words about prayer, hypocrisy, and our true treasure as God Fearing people not being on this but in heaven.

The traditional Ash Wednesday readings from Matthew's Gospel are two small parts of the sermon on the mount. Jesus was teaching a crowd who came out to hear him. He stood up on top of a high point and spoke to them boldly.

In Matthew 5 Jesus spoke God's blessings in the great reversal of what the world sees. He called for his hearers to be salt and light in the world. He spoke about sin and about the power of love, even love for the enemy.

In Matthew 6 Jesus taught prayer and offered a model of how to pray. He was concerned not only the with words but with nature of our prayer. He said we ought to search for quiet private places to pray and fast instead of making a show through public prayer and fasting as the hypocrites do making a show of their piety. Jesus said that we should pray to our father in secret. He boldly spoke about the difference between treasure that is stored up in heaven and treasure that we have only on this earth.

In Matthew 7 Jesus spoke about wisdom and foolishness. He said that the wise build their lives on what's firm living right with God; but the fool build their lives on what's week living for today as if God and God's word were of no importance. Matthew concludes this sermon telling us that Jesus words were part of sermon that many heard with amazement and awe because he spoke with such clear authority.

The tension of Ash Wednesday is real. We seek to live out our faith in community; yet Jesus reminds us that our motives even in the best community of believers are always suspect. We seek to worship and praise God in the world; yet Jesus reminds us that what is in our hearts always matters more than our actions.

No comments: