"Secret" sermon for Ash Wednesday, February 13, 2013 - Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

posted Feb 13, 2013, 2:57 PM by Kirk Moore   [ updated Feb 14, 2013, 10:52 AM ]

The text of Rev. Kirk Moore's sermon for Ash Wednesday, February 113, 2013 at St. Paul's United Church of Christ in Downers Grove, IL



This morning's Bible reading is from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Lent is a season of self-examination, prayer, fasting, and works of love.

The word "Lent" comes most recently from the German word “Lenz” and the Dutch word lente – both mean “Spring.” At least in the northern part of the globe – the season of lent corresponds with Spring.

In Latin, the word is Quadragesima – more closely related to the religious aspect of lent -- Quadragesima means “fortieth day” before Easter.

I wonder what Lent would be called in the southern hemisphere if the word grew in popularity from there? In the southern hemisphere Lent occurs during Autumn– a season of harvest but also a season where creation begins to die. The words often said during the imposition of ashes, "Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return," have a much closer connection to the seasonal experience of Lent in the southern hemisphere than in the northern hemisphere.

In Swahili, spoken in South Africa and other countries in the southern hemisphere, Vuli means fall – or more literally 'shade'.  However, that word is probably a much newer addition to the language. In Swahili there wasn’t a real word for “autumn,” but the season where the leaves fall was and is known as “majira ya majani kupukukika” That’s season of leaves.  However, the last word in the phrase, kupukukika, has an indefinable meaning.  It relates to the leaves falling.  That would have been a great word to express the experience of Lent in the southern hemisphere.  kupukukika – 40 days of it.
  • 40 days Jesus spent in the wilderness.
  • 40 years Israel wandered in the wilderness.
  • 40 days – as they lengthen – as life begins to show over all creation.
  • 40 days – as they become shorter – as death becomes evident over all creation

Lent.

Lent is a season of self-examination, prayer, fasting, and works of love.

Lent -- when so many folks “give something up.”

Tonight’s Bible reading has a little to say about that.
  • Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them.
  • But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.
  • 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.
  • And whenever you fast, do not look dismal . . . but put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others.
  • Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven.

  • These verses aren’t anti-religious. They’re anti-“look at how holy I am.”
  • They aren’t anti-generosity. They’re anti-“pat me on the back because I helped the poor.”
  • They aren’t anti-prayer. They’re anti-“look at how excellent I can pray.”
  • They aren’t anti-fasting. They’re anti- “look how cool I am because I’m fasting”
  • They aren’t even anti-wealth. They’re anti-“gimme more, and more, and more!”

These verses give us great perspective about getting ready for Easter. They give us great perspective about giving things up for Lent.

Lent is a season of self-examination, prayer, fasting, and works of love.

Self-examination – not for all to see and notice – but for each of us to take an honest look at our lives and to think about how we can grow closer to God.
Prayer – not for all to see and notice – but for each of us to spend time talking to God and listening for what God has to say to us.
Fasting -- not for all to see and notice – but for each of us to better understand relying on God for strength.
Works of love – not for the recognition – but for each of us, and for all of us in community, to heed the words of the prophet Isaiah:

  • To break the chains of injustice.
  • To get rid of exploitation in the workplace.
  • To free the oppressed.
  • To cancel debts.
  • To share our food with the hungry.
  • To invite the homeless poor into our homes.
  • To put clothes on the shivering ill-clad.
  • To be available to our families. (From Isaiah 58:6-7 – The Message)

And not to do any of it for any recognition, reward, or fame – but to do it because it is what God desires.

That’s no secret.

May our Lenten journey be one of self-examination, prayer, fasting, and works of love.

Amen.

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