Originally published in the March 2016 Monthly Explorer
In preparing a service for Ash Wednesday, I became aware of an apparent expectation of us by Jesus in His use of the word “when” (NIV) or “whenever” (NRSV) in Matthew 6:1-6 and 16- 21. It reads when you give, when you pray and when you fast. We are expected to practice our righteousness or piety by giving, praying and fasting. It clearly is not a question of if but when this is done. Jesus gives much instruction on how not and how to give, pray and fast. I believe this has been the emphasis in most studies and sermons.
I would like for us to look closer at our commitment to practice piety or righteousness as defined and expected by the One whose Resurrection we celebrate. How one gives, prays and fasts, as well as how a person defines it, is between the individual and God. Jesus makes that very clear that this is to be done secretly, and in such a manner that one hand doesn’t know what the other is doing. Give, pray and fast unnoticeably, even to yourself that it might become an instinct or automatic action that takes no thought or practice. Like Jesus said in Matthew 25: 37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
It is my hope and prayer for all of us that we will connect with God in such a way that the hope, love, peace and joy we know through Jesus Christ cannot be contained but will burst forth.
In the bond of Jesus Christ,