Ash Wednesday, February 22, 2012.
Treasures in Heaven
21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
PRAYER: Lord, give us a hearing heart.
Friends, we have been praying to the Spirit of Christ to give us all a hearing heart. This is the only place I to start our journey together. This is because “faith comes from hearing his Word. When our heart is open to his voice, Jesus promises to give us faith and with that faith – love, the greatest God pleasing way we can be and do.
But listening for the Christian is not only a passive thing. Listening to his voice for our life is also active; active in the sense that we can engage in some things that help us to hear; things that Jesus himself has given us.
So, as we begin this Lenten journey of listening to Him, reflection, repentance, faith and “taking stock” of who we are and where we are in terms of our relationship with the Lord – both as individuals and as a community of faith at Sat Petri, I believe it would be very good for us to practice the four great streams of the Christian life that Jesus first revealed that day beside the Sea with thousands in earshot on the grassy slope.
We heard these things in the gospel reading. Jesus speaks of Giving, Praying and Fasting. All these come from the listening, or are done with that listening heart. So, the four great streams – or really three that come from listening and are focussed on listening are Giving, praying and fasting. Since the church began Christians in monasteries, homes and workplaces have practices these three disciplines of faith in Jesus. Many of you would have memories of these things in your families because these things have been a strong part of our heritage as Lutherans. Many of us here would have stories to tell about these three disciplines of faithful living.
All three are concerned with the heart. All three are concerned about not giving too much of ourselves to “things” and “self” but rather, the things of God and our life in God – “treasures in heaven”, Mathew calls them.
So, this Lent, would we dare to commit ourselves to active listening of Jesus? Would we practice the discipline of Giving, Praying and Fasting – all in the posture of listening to his Word for us now – both as an individual child of God called to fulfil our many stations in life (partner, parent, colleague, friend, public servant, farmer, business owner, worker, student….) and as a member of St Petri?
Giving: Jesus speaks of giving to others (especially those in need) without any great show for others to see – but only for our Father in heaven to see. Giving can be giving of money, giving on time, giving of our attention and focus for someone or something to do with furthering God’s kingdom where we work or live.
So, could we deliberately, as an act of listening to and serving the Lord give more time to a friend in need each week of Lent?
Could we give more money to the church in Lent?
Could we give more help or food or goods to a person or community or family through Lent?
Could we take on a small project for LCC or St Petri or ALWS as active of active listen to God and giving to those in need in Lent?
Praying: Could we engage in this prayer Jesus gives every day in Lent in private, morning, noon or night? Could we deliberately give 5 minutes of our day to praying for those we love by name and for anything that comes to us from Sunday worship or the groups many of us are part of? 5 minutes to talk to the Lord and seek his help and direction for ourselves and for this church community?
To make this more tangible – let’s make a commitment to set aside 5 minutes at midday – wherever we are – to either pray to Lord’s prayer or speak to the Lord about things – and again, with no great show – only so that He knows.
Midday prayer: that’s our Lent prayer time as a church. Every midday – a prayer – His prayer or ours or both?
Fasting: there is something about our human makeup that links our listening to fasting from taking in food. Somehow, denying our very basic needs (food and drink) for some period of time, with the intention to listen to the Lord and give this act of denial to him in faith and love, heightens our ability to hear. Just ask the Monks, or the spiritual directors or any other person who practices some kind of self-denial in an act of attention and love for the Lord.
Fasting does not have to be onerous. We can fast of one thing for 40 days. We can fast for one meal per week, or per day, or on Sundays. We can leave out one thing that we like – not to beat ourselves up or try and win God’s favour. We already have his favour. We are his free loved children. We don’t fast to gain God’s favour. We fast to listen to him in a clearer way. We fast to follow Jesus’ example in faith.
I wonder whether we can make Wednesday our fasting day – a meal, a thing we like, even an activity we like (TV, for example).
So Lent at St Petri is about “Taking Stock” of ourselves and how we are with the Lord at this time.
The Lord is calling us to give – anything from random acts of giving and kindness, to giving money, to giving time, to giving our skills.
The Lord is calling us to Pray – Midday for 5 mins and then other times as we can fit them in – for ourselves, for others, our church, God’s leading, the poor we know,…..
The Lord is calling us to Fast – Wednesday is fasting day – a meal, a loved thing, all day, giving up something for Him – not to earn anything but to seek and hear and receive good things from him.
In all of these things we are listening to Him. We are hearing his Word and there is a daily schedule of short readings of his Word to make our own every day. We read his word most days – maybe combine it with our midday prayer or at some other time of the day. Find a chair in a corner somewhere and go there for 2 minutes to read the text….
Friends, begin these 40 days with hope – hope in Jesus and his love on display as we re-tell the story of his walk down the way of suffering. Begin with hope in God’s word – he will speak as we pay attention in these three streams of the Christian life.
Listen by giving, praying and fasting. He will help us Take stock of who we are and where we are going and we will get to that great Easter Day and be full of joy in a new way!
A blessed Lent to you.