by Jennifer DiFrancesco
O God, help me to feel Your presence everywhere I go today.
To see You in everyone I meet today.
To sense You in all I hear today.
To reflect You in all I do today.
To pray to and trust You in all I experience today.
To struggle to be like You in all I am today.
To speak of and for You in all I say today.
To thank You for everything every day. Amen.
~Marian Wright Edelman, “Guide My Feet”
Scripture: Matthew 6:1-5
“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.”
“Remember, you are dust, and unto dust you shall return.” (Genesis 3:19)
Reality TV. I totally feel old when I think back to watching “Real World” on MTV. Who knew that those shows would become all the rage; that is, shows that throw together a bunch of strangers – each different, each with their own flaws — in close quarters, give them some tasks to accomplish and instruct them to try to get along?
Meanwhile, cameras and microphones record EVERYTHING. Of course stress and conflict erupts as the willing participants try to cope with difficult situations, knowing that their every move is seen by the producers and soon the public.
We all do things that we hope nobody witnesses (insert your own unmentionable here), but sometimes we DO hope that we are being watched. We hope someone notices how wonderful we are, all the time we volunteering in our communities, around the church and for the church, the donations we make to charity, our close relationship with God or our spiritual maturity.
In today’s lectionary reading, Jesus’ words empathize with our human struggle. Some two thousand years have passed since Christ spoke these words, and the struggle continues, whether it is “being seen” or putting your time and talent where God desires.
I once read that Lent gives us an excuse to be better. With Ash Wednesday happening this week, I pray that those ashes smeared on my forehead will also go to my heart. I pray that I will transform this excuse into a foundation, as I re-examine the how and whys of my relationship with God. As Christ tells us, it is the inner being that God sees. And God, who is ever-watching, is the one who most matters.
Questions to Spark Conversation
~ Are there times that you wanted to be seen doing something good? If so, share a time like that and why you wanted to be noticed.
~ Spend a few moments thinking about behaviors or things that separate or take your attention away from God. Share as you feel comfortable.
~ During this season of Lent, what do you want to do (take up or give up) to be better or strengthen your relationship with God?
Most likely, the ashes that are placed on our foreheads on Ash Wednesday are made from palm branches from a previous Palm Sunday. There is also the tradition of writing on slips of papers and then burning those things that separate or draw you away from God.
Children and adults like to watch things burn.
1) On slips of paper, write down the behaviors/things that you and your family named or thought about in question two. (Those things that separate/take your attention away from God.)
2) Put your written on slips of paper in a metal pot or coffee can, then use a match to light the papers.
3) As you watch the papers burn, be reminded these things cannot separate us from the love of God.