Day 1 - Feb 26
|WTS Associate Professor of Preaching
Real Deal Piety ~ Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Most days I give the impression that living toward a God-centered harmonious existence is as common to human life as breathing, eating, or sleeping. I teach and preach about the radical possibility of a world defined by health, wholeness, and prosperity. I write about Hope as that which fuels or capacity to imagine this world and talk with family, friends, and colleagues about the social, political, economic, and ecclesial implications of such imaginings. Then Ash Wednesday arrives, reminding us that living toward such harmonious existence requires faith unambiguously oriented toward God.
Ash Wednesday ruptures our visions of consonance with the stark yet grace-filled reminder, “remember, you are dust and to dust you shall return!” (Gen. 3:19b). Stark because it reminds us of our fallibility and tendency toward idolatry. Yet grace-filled because resonating just beneath fallibility are echoes of our identity asimago Dei—beings purposefully created to love as God loves.
Today’s Gospel reading brings us face-to-face with our dustness—fallibility and immense potential. It reminds us that though we desire to please God, we often become distracted or enamored with the appearance of faith rather than the actuality of it. Jesus cautions against ostentatious appearances of faith—give to the relief of the poor in secret, pray for each other and the world in secret, fast in secret—reminding us that God who sees in secret will sufficiently reward.
Today, many will receive the imposition of ashes. May Jesus’ words guard our hearts against confusing the appearance of piety with its actuality.