“Be careful that you don’t practice your religion in front of people to draw their attention. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. “Whenever you give to the poor, don’t blow your trumpet as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets so that they may get praise from people. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you give to the poor, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing so that you may give to the poor in secret. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you. “When you pray, don’t be like hypocrites. They love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners so that people will see them. I assure you, that’s the only reward they’ll get. But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees what you do in secret will reward you.
“And when you fast, don’t put on a sad face like the hypocrites. They distort their faces so people will know they are fasting. I assure you that they have their reward. When you fast, brush your hair and wash your face. Then you won’t look like you are fasting to people, but only to your Father who is present in that secret place. Your Father who sees in secret will reward you. “Stop collecting treasures for your own benefit on earth, where moth and rust eat them and where thieves break in and steal them. Instead, collect treasures for yourselves in heaven, where moth and rust don’t eat them and where thieves don’t break in and steal them. Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21, CEB)
Most of us will gather this day to receive the imposition of ashes on our foreheads. We do this as a symbol of remembering we are created from the dust of the earth.
This is the traditional start to Lent where we journey for 40 days (plus 7 Sundays) to the great three days and to Easter. We prepare our hearts and minds this day to remind ourselves over the season of Lent of the lengths God went through Jesus to teach us to love. The sacrifices that Jesus made for us and the lengths God is willing to go to help us understand the depth of love God has for all of creation.
This text tells us it doesn’t matter how we look to others or what we think we have here. None of this matters in the grand scheme of things. We need to focus on God.
So this season of Lent, I invite you to focus on God. Don’t worry about giving something up, or taking something on. Just spend time focusing on God and where God is leading you. Let go of the things of this world. Let go of the things you think others are thinking about you. Let go of everything and focus on God.
Loving People. Loving God.