Ash Wednesday 2017
Matthew 6:1-6, 19-21
Ash Wednesday 3/1/17
St. Andrew’s Arlington
The Rev. Dr. Rosemary Beales
“Here’s what I want you to do:
Find a quiet, secluded place … just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage .“
Sounds simple, this advice from Jesus, doesn’t it?
Simple, but certainly not easy.
In our crazy-busy world, setting aside some time to just BE, and to BE with God, might be the Hardest. Thing. Ever. It’s so easy to get distracted ¾ I know, because it happens to me every time I try.
But today I pledge to try again, because today we begin again the season of Lent. And Lent is all about trying again.
Jesus, who knows the human heart, knows how hard we try. And Jesus knows that trying to come close to God is full of pitfalls. Sometimes when we think we’re doing something for God, we are fooling ourselves. We’re really doing it for the good feeling we get, or for the praise of other people, or for adults, for the tax deduction.
And you know what to do when you realize that’s happened to you? You try again.
What Jesus says in today’s reading about people who do everything for show ¾ “the play-actors” who care mostly about impressing God and other people ¾ reminds me of a story I heard recently, about a cake. This cake was decorated splendidly with ribbons of icing, sugar medallions, lavish sparkles and silver stars. But only the top layer was really cake. The rest was decorated Styrofoam. Pretty on the outside, hollow within.
Jesus never heard of Styrofoam, but I think that cake is something like the people he was telling his disciples ¾ telling us ¾ not to be like.
“When you do something for other people,” he says, “don’t call attention to yourself.” So I wonder if that’s something all of us can TRY to do this Lent. At least once a day, why not do something for someone else without mentioning it to anyone? Maybe just the person you helped will know, say letting a classmate get to the water fountain first. Or maybe even the person you help won’t know, if you do something kind but invisible, like picking up something they dropped and putting it on their desk.
Such “random acts of kindness” are a good way for all of us to live this Lent. Kind acts shine like stars, silently lighting up the darkness. When we do kind acts, we come very close to God, without even trying. Amen.