February 17, 2021: Ash Wednesday

Let us pray: Lord, tonight we come before You with heavy hearts.  Our many sins weigh upon us.  Our lack of true repentance troubles our conscience. So, we come before You to plead for mercy and to be given Your forgiveness for all sins—past, present, and future.  Amen


TEXT:  Luke 18: 9-14

Dearly Beloved By Christ: 

          46 days.  It is now 46 days until Easter.  Since the great Christian council of Nicea in 321 Christians have been celebrating, marking, the season of Lent which begins tonight on Ash Wednesday.  Over the centuries many customs have arisen to capture our attention and focus better on what Lent means.  It is all about preparing your heart, one-on-one, to meet God.  It is about getting rid of sin and evil by repenting.  Lent is a fine custom of the church.  It is an assist to making our faith real.  The austerity of the spirit in focusing on how to avoid sin and expunge it from our lives is made more “real” through Lent.

          Many believers and even some unbelievers practice the showier sides of Lent.  People like drama.  They like outward indications of God’s blessing upon them—especially if they can feel, experience and have a hand in it all.  Even to the unbeliever this becomes a way of: “hedging their bets” when it comes to God. So, some take great comfort from wearing ashes on their foreheads.  Others abstain from certain foods—giving up a supposed “vice”  for God during Lent.  Even in over-weight America, abstaining from various foods, has become popular.  In a sense, these outward manifestations of Lent have overshadowed the real, core meaning of it all.  For Lent is about repentance.  Saying “No” to sin and “Yes” to Christ.


          There is probably no better text on this subject than the one before us.  It is a parable, and earthly story with a heavenly meaning, yet, we can easily imagine it being played out before our very eyes on any given Sunday.  Notice how Luke begins it all: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told them this parable.”  Has that attitude ever infected you?  If you say: No, then you especially need to take His words to heart.  For “pride goes before the fall.”

          Pharisees were all about: smells, bells, appearances, and looking pious.  This Pharisee thought very highly of himself and self-magnified his faith.  He was into the comparison game.  “God, I thank you that I am not like all other men—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this (thieving) tax collector.  I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.”

          This man is so filled with spiritual blindness, born of pride,  that he doesn’t believe he really has any sins to repent of!  The old Texas expression of: all hat and no cattle, fits him to a “T”.  He came to church to show off.  He came to justify himself before God and especially all others.  He fails the repentance test.


          Then there is the other fellow, a tax collector (who were notorious thieves).  He doesn’t stand front and center.  He hides in the back.  He believes he is not worthy to come before God.  His conscience troubles him.  His sins weigh heavy upon him.  He has nothing holy to offer God.  All he can do is beat his breast and quietly murmur: “God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”  And he’s right!  That’s all of us.  For “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” 

          Lent and Ash Wednesday are not about engaging in externals.  They are internal.  They are about the internal attitude of the heart.  For if your hands are full of human good intentions they cannot be filled with Godly ones.  Full hands cannot grasp hold of Godly forgiveness.  Christ says as much here: “I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

          Tonight that humbling process begins anew.  And the joy over the simple Godly fullness that results will become apparent in your lives—especially 46 days from now so that when Easter dawns you can once more exclaim from the depths  of your soul: He is Risen!  He is risen, indeed!  Amen

THE peace of God which…..

Pastor Thomas H. Fox 

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