Thursday, March 10, 2011

Sermon for 3/9/11 Ash Wednesday

Sermon "Days of Mourning" - Matthew 6.1-6, 16-21

Lord, purify my lips. Purify our hearts. Wash us with your word, that joy may come in the morning. Amen.

We like to show our righteousness to others, don't we? Really, sometimes we seem to think that we're wasting our obedience to God if it isn't obvious to other people. We want to be seen, we try to be seen, and we do seek a reward for our faithfulness. That's just the way we are. But we have to ask ourselves just what we are treasuring. What is our desire? Do we want to be seen by others as people of prayer? Or do we want our Father in heaven to hear our prayers and bless those other people? Do we want to have others feel sorry for us when we humble ourselves to pray? Or do we want to see God exalted through our prayers? Do we want other people to benefit through our acts of service, or do we want them to praise us? Do we want poor people to thank us for our generosity, or do we want the poor to be fed and clothed? Do we want people to see that we are holy when we engage in a fast or do we want to leave others ignorant of the fact we are fasting and praying?

Our answers to those questions show a fundamental difference in our attitudes. Do we want to please man and get the praise of man? Or do we want to please God and get the praise of God? We can't have it both ways. While our life of praise to the Lord may be noticed and receive the praise of our neighbors, at least on some levels, our life bowing down and fawning for our neighbors will never receive the praise of the Lord, though he will always notice it.

As we move into these days of mourning, the forty days of Lent, we are called to repentance. We see our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ going to the cross on our behalf. We remember the calls we have in today's readings and throughout Scripture to humble ourselves before the Lord. We see time and time again that we are not worthy to be called least in the kingdom of heaven, that we are not worthy to wash the feet of our Lord. And again and again we see that our Lord has lifted us up into the heavenly realms, has proclaimed us to be his brothers and sisters, has given his life on our behalf so we may be partakers of his righteousness. Our Father who sees us will reward us.

Do we have days of mourning? Certainly we do. We have plenty of sin to mourn about. But what does Jesus tell us to do? He tells us to wash our face, comb our hair, put on a cheerful face, and live in our community, loving and serving our neighbors, even while we fast, weep, mourn for our our sinfulness, and pray that the Lord will have mercy on us and the neighbors we are loving and serving.

In so doing, we lay up treasures in heaven. We show that we are servants of our Lord and Savior. We look to God, not to ourselves, for our provision, for our reward. And we realize that, no matter our sin, no matter our shame, no matter our unfaithfulness, he is there healing us, forgiving us our sins, and nourishing us to eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord, just as he promised us.

We have days of mourning. And in those days, let us look to the joy to be revealed. In the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Dave Spotts
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