“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. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 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.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
This coming Wednesday – February 10 – is “Ash Wednesday” in the Christian calendar.
Ash Wednesday is the official “kick-off” for the season of Lent, the 40 days plus six Sundays leading up to Holy Week and the celebration of Easter.
If you want to experience all the fullness of the Lent experience, taking your own personal “Road to Jerusalem;” and if you want to engage the meaning of Easter in all of its passion, tragedy, and beauty; then I’d recommend a careful reading of Reaching Toward Easter: Devotions for Lent (Upper Room Books).
There’s a study guide in the back, so you can take the journey either as an individual, or in a class or small group.
The book follows the disciple John’s telling of The Last Supper, taking an in-depth look at the “let’s go over the details one more time” conversation Jesus had with his best friends before heading to Gethsemane, arrest, “trial”, crucifixion, suffering, and death; then the garden tomb, victory, new life, and “The Second Week of Creation.”
Sermon on the Mount:
But for today, around the table in conversation with my Sunday morning discipleship class, we’ll be talking about a few verses in The Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:16-21) that I believe have a lot to say about Lent, about Holy Week, and about the new life Jesus makes possible via Resurrection, Forgiveness, Grace, and Redemption.
Lent can be a kind of a fast, a turning aside from distractions and setting our face toward the Passion of Christ. And our relationship with Jesus is a treasure that we can store up – not by setting aside but by embracing; because Jesus is a treasure that grows when we celebrate him, and new life is a miracle that multiplies when we give it away.
In both cases the critical question is this, “Where is your heart?”
I’d like to challenge each one of us to show up at our local faith community, to take communion (as we will at Wake Forest Presbyterian – you are more than welcome at our church), and to turn your heart toward the spectacular initiative of New Life that we celebrate, and that we strive to live into with creativity, with faithfulness, and with joy.
In love, and because of the Jesus initiative of grace – DEREK