Posted on Thu, Mar 6, 2014
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
March 5, 2014
Gospel Text: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
‘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. 2 ‘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. 3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
5 ‘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. 6 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.
16 ‘And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
19 ‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The Holy Season of Lent begins with the serious message that reminds us that we are human. From dust we have come, and it is to dust we shall return. We often speak about God living in us, or within us, and this imagery is okay as long as the imagery doesn't tell us that we are God. God is our source of all life and joy, so therefore we have to remember that we are not God. To say that we can become godlike would be rather disappointing considering how small we are and all that our Living God has in store for us. In order for us to understand the joy of Easter, we need to understand that we are dust, and it is an amazing God who has, through a breath, created Life out of dust.
We are amazed by the grandeur of the Cosmos. Planets and galaxies that spin and careen through space and we are held at attention amazed by the simple size and magnitude of these monstrous formations also created by our God. But our attentiveness to the grandeur of the cosmos must also be attentive to the truth that evil, brutality and death still occurs in the midst of this amazing cosmos. In the midst of this grandeur the fragile force of life is danced each day on a little blue ball called, Earth. But it is the Creator who is one whom we should stand in awe, wonder, amazement and most importantly gratitude.
When we look at the Creator from the point of view as the created and the object of the Creator’s love, the conclusion of our attentiveness and understanding is not found in a scientific formulation, or an intellectual conclusion, or even a technical certainty but to a lyrical self-abandonment which finally leads to wonder and gratitude.
Our journey in Lent should lead us in a journey from just looking at the world with ourselves in the center, to a place that looks at the Creator as the source of all life, creation, sovereignty and gratitude. What else can we do when our hearts are open to faith and we see ourselves standing before the Creator God, not with an identity of insignificance, but of love, mercy and compassion as the objects of God’s love full of meaning and significance? When we look at our God with humble eyes and hearts of faith, we can only be thankful and sing or dance.
However, today we are reminded that we are fragile humans, dust created from the loving word of our God; therefore, Lent must become a journey we must travel on, just like Jesus was forced into the wilderness to prepare him for his mission for forty days. Our journey is a journey of repentance with the goal of finding wisdom born of faith.
This journey of humbling ourselves and allowing God to pick us up, is a journey we read of the way our faithful God constantly picked up an arrogant and stubborn (stiff-necked), forgave them and led them even when they kept turning inward and away from our faithful God. They did not “fear God” in the biblical sense, and therefore they couldn’t see their God in all of God’s grandeur, grace and power.
In the Biblical translations, we often hear that believing persons are to learn to “fear God.” The phrase “fear God,” is often taught that the meaning is closer to “trusting God.” This is true enough for the confirmation student, but as we continue our journey, we begin to understand the awesomeness of God yet the nearness of God. This awesome God is beyond comprehension, yet is as loving as a child, and therefore is deserving of our reverence and worship.
The Bible translators retain the phrase “fear God” because this means we are to take God with the utmost seriousness as the premise (basis) and perspective from which life is to be discerned and lived.
20 Moses said to the people, ‘Do not fear, for God has come to prove to you, and that the fear of Him may be before your eyes, that you may not sin.’
This text is placed immediately after the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai, and the sentence is certainly a summons to obedience to the commandments they have just received directly from God. It is important to note that Moses begins his summons with, “Do not fear!” when he is calling Israel to fear, but not a fear born in terror or dread, but in a positive response to God’s Will for us. The scripture tells us that Israel’s life, our life, is to be lived in a faithful response to God’s Will that is given in the Commandments.
The Commandments are given so that we many live a life in relationship with each other in peace and prosperity, but it is also given so that we can evaluate to ourselves thinking, “are we living to know whether we indeed love the Lord our God with all our heart and soul. 4The Lord your God you shall follow, him alone you shall fear, his commandments you shall keep, his voice you shall obey, him you shall serve, and to him you shall hold fast.” As is recorded in Deuteronomy 13:3-4?
Through the Lenten season, are we living according to these commandments, so that we can live the life God has meant for us?
This is part of the purpose of our Lenten Journey, is to take time to ask ourselves if we are living according to the Law that was given to Moses, or the affirmation of the Greatest Commandment that was reiterated by Jesus in helping us understand that we are the dust that God has given life through God’s simple breath and Word, or have we made ourselves the center of the universe our own God that we strive to serve and delight. According to Jesus, the lesson we are to evaluate our faith life upon is, found in Matthew 22:37b – 40: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.’
During our Lenten journey we are to humble ourselves so that we can see God AS GOD, and we as the created; redeemed and sanctified through the Cross of Christ.
We are to allow ourselves to “fear” God, by looking at the stories of God’s faithfulness throughout the Old Testament, and at the same time all ourselves to see God looking at all of creation the object of God’s full love and mercy. When we allow ourselves to see each other as the object of God’s purpose and love the seeds of faith are planted in our heart. Through this wisdom faith sprouts from our heart and our lives begin to bear fruit. Fruit of joy, love, trust, gratitude, humility; meaning our lives move from fear and loneliness to a song of doxology.
People look upon Lent as a “down time;” a time we talk about what we must “give up” something like “chocolate,” as if it is like some sort of penance or self-inflicted martyrdom. When in fact it is just the opposite, Lent is a time to give up all those things that cause us to not see God as our Creator and Savior. Lent is a time to humble ourselves and see God as the Creator we are the Created. Lent is a time of shedding off the old and gaining a new life of faith, joy and meaning. Amen.
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