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Ash Wednesday Sermon

February 13, 2013

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Ash Wednesday                                                                   

13 February 2013

 

+Jesu Juva +

 

St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

 

“Have you seen what I’ve been up to?  I’ve been putting in my spiritual overtime regarding “acts of righteousness”!  Extra super spiritual time and effort!  Above and beyond the call of duty!  What an advertisement I am!  For all to see!  Many people sure are impressed!  And God certainly must be too! With the staggering amount of my donations, my prayers, and the lack of chow for days!

 

What’s that?  You haven’t heard?  Well, let me fill you in! 

 

Check out all the deductions from my tax return!  Don’t even try to demonize them as “loopholes”!  My gifts are legit!  And generous!  Look at them!  All that I gave away to the various and sundry charities!  To the poor!  To the church!  All my giving is out in the open!  On Facebook!  Twitter!  I’ve developed a special mobile app so I can send you updates on all that I contribute! 

 

Like I said:  people have taken notice!  I’ve been invited on The View!  Barbara Walters is just amazed!  I’ll guest host for Jay Leno next week!  The President has requested that I attend a White House party with Jay-Z, Psy, Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Warren Buffet!     

 

A&E wants to do a reality TV show of my larger than life existence!  The governor and my district president trumpet my philanthropy wherever they give speeches!  Both have come to visit me in my home, have their picture taken with me, have been tagged on Facebook with me, and then they beg me for more cash for their pet projects!  I’ve heard a rumor from a reliable, but anonymous source, that the district office is going to pony up and reward me with a well endowed, all expenses paid, lifetime “stewardship” post! Wow!  It doesn’t get any better than that!  Living large people!    

 

No doubt you’ve seen me at prayer too!  I’ll just stop what I’m doing – no matter what the time or where I am.  I might be at browsing around at Dillard’s in the mall, wolfing down a burger at Applebees, or enjoying a high school basketball game – and I’ll out-Tebow Tim Tebow!  Sometimes the Tebowing can go on for more than five minutes at a time!  And if I think of some other important issue, I’ll Tebow again!  As much as it takes!  It’s awesome!  It’s such a great witness!  Somebody’s got to do it!  It is OK to pray you know!  Even though I suspect the Supreme Court will eventually try to outlaw praying in the public square by people like me!    

 

My discipleship is so intense, isn’t it?  People need to know it and see it!  Got to let my light shine!  That’s why I fast too!  And not just any kind of fasting!  Good grief, this is no Lenten Lutheran Lite Diet folks!  Like going without a Coke, chocolate, or hard candy!  I am an Über Faster!  Totally serious!  Hardcore!  It disfigures my face!  All gaunt all the time!  What a walking witness! 

 

My life is living proof of how to do “acts of righteousness.”  I know:  the “Wow” factor is off the charts!  I could write the book on the How-to’s of getting noticed through the three spiritual overtime acts of charity, prayer, and abstinence!  I’m on Cloud Nine!  I’m so off the charts when it comes to this stuff!”    

 

Then Jesus comes along.  He shouts a “Watch out!” 

 

A “watch out” warning shot across your bow!  Throws a wet blanket on all your three of your “acts of righteousness” by which you are desperately trying “store up for yourselves treasures on earth – the praise of people.”   

 

Leave it to Jesus to do something like that!  An acts-of-righteousness spoilsport!

 

You know, Jesus is right to warn you.  After all, you are giving, praying and fasting for the wrong reason – “to be seen by others!”  In other words, you are putting on a show!  To gain recognition by what you accomplish!  To set yourself above others!  Puff yourself up!  To impress!  To justify yourself!  To prove yourself!  It’s all about you!  Your life is on a one-track perpetual rewards and benefits program for all you do!  A 24-7-365 justifiable existence!

 

Do you know what kind of life that is?  Do I dare say it?  Yes, I will!  It is a life of bondage!  A slavery!  Of always having to justify who you are and what you do before others and yourself!   

 

“Watch out!” Jesus warns!  And rightly so!  “You receive your reward from people – loads of recognition, positive judgments, and kudos!  But my Father – He doesn’t take notice!”   

 

Listen to Jesus who died for you and reconciled you to His Father so that He is also your Father.  He would set you free from the self-imposed, incessant, unbearable and oppressive need to be recognized – or justifying yourself!  

 

“When you give to the needy do not put on a show!  Knock off all the PR stunts!  Don’t let you left hand know what your right hand is doing.  Why?  Here’s why!  So that your charitable giving is done IN SECRET!” 

 

Give anonymously?  So that no one knows?  “Yes,” Jesus announces.  “It’s not about you.  It about helping the needy!  They need your love!  Your help!”   

 

Do you suppose that Jesus is going to blow the lid off of how you pray?  You bet He is!  Listen.

 

Jesus says:  “And when you pray don’t do it to be seen by people!  Again, it’s not about you!  Prayer is for the sake of others who need help.  The world, your family, your nation, your church, the sick, the poor, the dying, the persecution, etc. need your prayers.  Knock off all the Tebowing in public like you’re putting on some kind of theatrical performance.  And don’t spin it as some kind of great witness or evangelism work!  Good grief!  Give me a break!  But when you pray, (are you listening?) go into your room, shut the door and have a conversation with my Father who is unseen!  Do your Tebowing there!” 

 

And there’s more!  Jesus goes after how you fast too!  “What’s with this?” He asks.  “What’s with all the disfigured and gaunt face?  So somber!  Solemn!  Grave!  So that everyone will pay attention to you and take notice.  I’ve got news for you – it’s not about you!  So clean up your act!  Quit being a phony!  Wash your face and freshen up.  Go ahead and fast but no body needs to know about it.  Be normal!”          

 

A disciple of Jesus lives differently!  A life that trusts in Jesus who is the one and only “treasure in heaven” and then service to your neighbor!  You must die to living only for recognition from others in order to set yourself above them!  You need to repent of always trying to justify your curved in on yourself existence! 

 

Such a curved in on yourself life for the sake of impressing others doesn’t last.  Such an investment of a lifetime will fail.  Go bankrupt!  Moth eaten! Rusted!  Easily stolen!  Robbed! Earthly fame is fickle.  Last Monday’s financial hero is next month’s villain.  One day’s praise is the next day’s harsh criticism!         

 

You, the died-for and redeemed-by-Jesus disciples are to serve – not to be served!  You are to put yourself – not above others – but below them!  So when you donate, pray and fast, do it for the sake of others just because they need it, that’s all!  Deeds of love that naturally flow from faith in “treasure in heaven” Jesus!      

 

This is God-pleasing!  And your Father, the very Father of Jesus Himself, will “see what you do in secret” and “reward” you.

 

Not a salvation “reward.”  Good grief, no!   Salvation’s already been given to you freely only for the sake of It-Is-Finished-Jesus who died for you!  Who buried you into His all-atoning-for-your-sin death through Baptism!  “Reward” not because you’ve earned it but simply because the Father is so giving.  So generous!  Always giving!   Whatever He gives as rewards is His business.  We’ll leave that up to the Lord and His generous giving in the various ways He does it.

 

Now, let’s get ready for more of His generosity.  His Body and Blood given into death for your salvation for you to eat and drink.  To bestow His Good Friday forgiveness, to strengthen your faith in Him and to increase your love for others in your giving, your praying, fasting or whatever you do.

You are forgiven.  The Father of Jesus is also your dear Father.  You belong to Him.    

 

In the Name of Jesus.    

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