Today is the first day of Lent, and as discussed in my previous post The “I AM” Lenten Reader During This Season of Lent, I will be going through our Lenten Reader here on my blog each day. You can click the image above for the full page as shown in the reader, and if you would like the full pdf download please go to my writing section and download the file from the bottom of the page (we also have them for sale at Cornerstone if you haven’t picked up the paper copy yet).
Today’s reading comes from the 1979 edition of “Ash Wednesday” Book of Common Prayer, specifically from the section entitled “Proper Liturgies for Special Days” (not the entire book). The Book of Common Prayer isn’t something that I was all that familiar with growing up, or even now, but this is a liturgical guide for an Ash Wednesday service of prayer and reflection. The text, in part, look like this (full pdf is above):
Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
and the liturgy is concluded by the following prayer
If ashes are to be imposed, the Celebrant says the following prayer
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen.
There is of course nothing that says this is THE way to observe Ash Wednesday. Doctorates have been written on the importance or legalistic manner of the liturgy. Today, I welcome words and appreciate their deeper meaning for God’s people.
A few verses above struck a chord with me as I read through them. Isaiah 58:6-7, all of Psalm 103 is always incredible, and Matthew 6:1-6.
Isaiah 58:6 “Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked, to cover him, and not to hide yourself from your own flesh?
Contemplation Over Day 1
I love these verse above, especially Psalm 103. Psalm 103 is one of those writings you can find comfort and peace with throughout life, but then they move to Matthew 6:1-6, especially Matthew 6:1.
“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.
This is something I try to guard my heart against every day. Ultimately we as people want to be patted on the back or given the approval by men, and that is something that not only Matthew speaks about here, but Jesus addresses throughout scripture. It is why he called out the Pharisees and others who were more interested in the praise of men than in the Glory of God. The existence of this blog itself is always a battle for me, as it was with my photography, seminary, and a host of other earthly endeavors. I know my purpose and reasons for writing, many are not that deep, but in the end, it is my hope that they will Glorify God, not for the praise of man, and not to become the legalistic “religious” person of our society today.
Social networking was basically born of this purpose and has thrived throughout the world today for the very “look at me” functionality of the technology. There are of course all kinds or fantastic uses for Facebook, Twitter, and all the others, but those too can find their way into our heart to become a narcissistic compulsion. I struggle with this continually, but I also know some of the unbelievable relationships that God has developed for me through (mainly Twitter) social networking. For now, if I were to abandon those healthy relationships for the sake of the technology, I would miss out on many blessings from fellow brothers. I pray my use of these technologies never becomes the answer to Matthew 6:1.