Ash Wednesday - Gospel Meditations and Prayers for Lent
Wednesday March 5th, 2014
Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
"Beware of practising your piety before others in
order to be seen by them; for then you have no
reward from your Father in heaven."
The command of the Lord is clear: we are not to use religious observance for our own purposes, for the aggrandizement of our egos. And we will inevitably do so, so that a battle within us between the legitimate and illegitimate uses of religious practice will ensue. We shouldn't let this deter us from such practice itself- we recall the complaint of the new parishioner, 'this church is full of hypocrites,' to which the reply comes, 'don't worry there is room for one more!' God in Christ saves us as we really are, hypocritical, self-serving, though He doesn't leave us there with a shrug.
But there is another side to the matter. When we speak to the Father who hears in secret, we are also reminded that it is with God that we are dealing. We may run some mental scam or other on our neighbor, or on ourselves, but not on God. Before him everything is laid bare. God is the one who is in no way amenable to our manipulation. This is a hard thing for us to take, since this is embedded in our fallen state. In other words, praying is remembering, really being called before the living God, the real God. This is frightening, but also gracious. The realization of our failing is connected to the epiphany of who He is. Our dealings are shadows of His great light.
Father, this Lent remind me that you are the living God,
the God to whom neither the darkness nor light is distant.
Give me a grateful heart to know that you know,
my goings and comings,
how I am knit together,
my open and secret sins.
Amidst my sadness for all these,
make me glad, for they remind me of you,
bind me to you. Shield us from sin,
and yet because of your Son and his grace,
even my blame can be the occasion of joy,
in His name, Amen.
The Rev. Canon Dr. George Sumner
Principal and Helliwell Professor of World Mission
Dr. Sumner has a PhD in systematic theology from Yale University with an emphasis on missiology. He has taught courses in that subject as well as the history of mission. More recently he has offered doctoral seminars on the theology of Pannenberg and hamartiology. He has written on the relation of Christianity to other religions, the theology of ordination, and most recently a theological interpretation of the Book of Daniel.