Prayer for Ash Wednesday

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission
and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ash Wednesday

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12 • Psalm 51:1-17 • 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10 • Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21

Matthew 6:1-6 New Living Translation (NLT)

“Watch out! Don’t do your good deeds publicly, to be admired by others, for you will lose the reward from your Father in heaven. When you give to someone in need, don’t do as the hypocrites do—blowing trumpets in the synagogues and streets to call attention to their acts of charity! I tell you the truth, they have received all the reward they will ever get. But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

“When you pray, don’t be like the hypocrites who love to pray publicly on street corners and in the synagogues where everyone can see them. I tell you the truth, that is all the reward they will ever get. But when you pray, go away by yourself, shut the door behind you, and pray to your Father in private. Then your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

Matthew 6:16-21 New Living Translation (NLT)

16 “And when you fast, don’t make it obvious, as the hypocrites do, for they try to look miserable and disheveled so people will admire them for their fasting. I tell you the truth, that is the only reward they will ever get. 17 But when you fast, comb your hair and wash your face. 18 Then no one will notice that you are fasting, except your Father, who knows what you do in private. And your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.

19 “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, where moths eat them and rust destroys them, and where thieves break in and steal. 20 Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. 21 Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.

Today is Ash Wednesday. It marks the beginning of 40 days of prayer and fasting. Our gospel reading today reminds us of the importance of prayer and fasting. It’s a reading that reminds us of the humility that is needed in being a Christ-follower. It’s hard not to want to blow our own horn. Jesus reminds us in the first part of today’s reading that humility is needed when giving to others. We don’t need to broadcast it all over the place. Interestingly enough, in chapter 5 which is also part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us that we are the light of the world and in the same way that a lamp shines out its light, we are to let our good deeds shine out for all to see…Wait…that almost sounds like a contradiction of sorts. First, Jesus tells us let our good deeds shine…then he says, “Do your good deeds in private.” What’s going on here?

Part of our answer can be found in verse 21 of Matthew 6: “Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be.” What should be the purpose of doing good deeds? So that everybody knows what a great Christian I am? Of course not! We do our good deeds to glorify our heavenly Father…We do our good deeds so that everyone will praise God. There are far too many Christ-followers who do good so they can put the attention on themselves. That is what Jesus is warning us against. We don’t need to get the glory. If we get the glory here on Earth…that will be the only reward we will receive. Again, it’s all about our humility…it’s all about our heart.

What is your heart’s attitude toward God today? Is it about making yourself known – or is it about making God known.

Paul said: For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified.

1 Corinthians 2:2

The heart cry of Paul, should be the heart cry of all of us as we enter this season of Lent – a time when we remember the price that Jesus paid for us.

Katherine Johnson died yesterday and was crucial to the NASA’s Apollo missions – making crucial calculations and enduring racism and sexism in the process.

Sunday Night Thoughts

Oh, deer! As I type a family of deer are hanging out in our back yard. I would share a picture except the battery in my camera died while taking some pictures of it. I’ll share it a little later.

Oh, dear! It feels like I have neglected my blog over the last couple weeks. To say it has been rough would be putting it mildly. About the only content I have put up was either the Sunday Collect or my Friday devotional. Hopefully, we will get back to some more regular content this week.

I am looking forward to leading our church through an Ash Wednesday Service on Wednesday night. It is a night that reminds us of our humanity – it reminds us of our sin – that we were made of dust and to dust we will return. It can make us uncomfortable to think about our mortality, but it is exactly the reason we should remember Ash Wednesday as we kick of 40 days of prayer and fasting.

As I mentioned above, it’s been a crazy few weeks. Two Sunday nights ago, we were at our district minister and spouses retreat. We had a great time at Holiday Valley in Ellicottville, NY. If was a wonderful time of retreat and relaxation, despite the fact that I had a cold.

Last weekend, we once again headed north to see the baptism of our newest grand daughter. It was a beautiful service. We did spend some time sight-seeing in Ottawa following the service on a relatively warm February day for the region.

Other than that I am getting ready to once again lead a community choir for a Palm Sunday Concert. We are doing a program called, Is He Worthy? The title song is the Andrew Peterson anthem of the same name. It is a beautiful worship song. The program mixes traditional hymns with contemporary classics along with a narrative that allows us to journey to the cross. We will be rehearsing on Sunday afternoons.

The last two Sundays at McCrae Brook – at least the ones we have attended have had a wonderful spirit of worship, for which I am very thankful. This morning we did an older worship tune “Come Now Is the Time to Worship” and “Living Hope.” The congregation really seems to enjoy this newer song. I completed a two-part series on the Beatitudes and in case you’ve never done it, very difficult to do in two sermons.

Pam and I have had inflow of kids on our van. Two weeks ago we were transporting 3 kids and now we are transporting 10. But, we consider what we are doing a ministry to these kids. We’ve had some interesting trips, especially in the morning – in the snow. Hopefully, spring will soon be here.

That’s about all I have for this week, catching us up on three weeks. Have a great week!

Prayer for the Week

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Seeing Only Jesus

Transfiguration Sunday | February 23, 2020

Exodus 24:12-18 • Psalm 2 • 2 Peter 1:16-21 • Matthew 17:1-9

17 Six days later Jesus took Peter and the two brothers, James and John, and led them up a high mountain to be alone. As the men watched, Jesus’ appearance was transformed so that his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as light. Suddenly, Moses and Elijah appeared and began talking with Jesus.

Peter exclaimed, “Lord, it’s wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I’ll make three shelters as memorials—one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”

But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him.” The disciples were terrified and fell face down on the ground.

Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” And when they looked up, Moses and Elijah were gone, and they saw only Jesus.

As they went back down the mountain, Jesus commanded them, “Don’t tell anyone what you have seen until the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.”

Matthew 17:1-9 New Living Translation (NLT)

Yesterday, we had a meeting in Buffalo. It is a monthly meeting of pastors from the Western New York District of the Wesleyan Church. It is always a wonderful time of inspiration and yesterday was no exception. On the way home, I got to thinking about today’s post and had Anna look up this week’s texts – thinking that they were some Sunday in Epiphany. Somehow she mentioned the last Sunday before Lent and I said, “Oh, it’s Transfiguration Sunday.” And so it is.

Over the last few weeks, we have been looking at the teachings of Jesus. We have been looking at Jesus as the Light of the World. What was the mission of Jesus? In these scriptures over the last few weeks, we have barely scratched the surface and now we being preparing for Lent in the Feast of the Transfiguration.

The creators of the lectionary give us two parallel readings of sorts. The Old Testament reading gives us the account of Moses going up Mt. Sinai to meet with God. The mountain is covered by a cloud indicating the glory of God.

Jesus takes Peter, James, and John up to a mountain. Jesus face and appearance is transformed – as bright as the sun. Pam and I have been reading a devotional Finding Your Way by Jane Rubieta. It is a devotional that focuses on Adam through Noah. In one of her daily devotionals in the book she talks about Adam and Eve being blinded by the glory of God. She suggests that when Adam and Eve partake of the forbidden fruit – the eyes being opened meant that suddenly their eyes were not blinded by the glory of God and they noticed their sinfulness and their nakedness. Perhaps before the fall, Adam and Eve were surrounded by the glory of God and didn’t even know it.

Moses remained on the mountain for 40 days and 40 nights – interestingly enough, this 40 days is the same amount of days that it rained during the flood and the number of days that Jesus spent in the wilderness.

Peter, James, and John see Jesus transformed – into what way we don’t really know, but it was quite powerful. Peter immediately suggests that they should set up some memorials.

As soon as Peter speaks, the cloud of God descends on the mountain – much like the glory of God on Mount Sinai. Out of the cloud, the voice of God speaks, “This is my dearly loved son. Listen to Him!” Immediately the disciple fall prostrate on the ground and worship – probably out of fear. Jesus comes over and says, “Get up. Don’t be afraid.” I can’t even imagine what an experience that must have been. Immediately the image of the law and prophets disappear – perhaps again meaning that Jesus came to fulfill the law and prophets. The disciples see only Jesus.

As I think about this…The disciples saw only Jesus – not the law – not the prophets – but only Jesus. This Wednesday is Ash Wednesday and begin the season of Lent – a season of preparation that focuses on Jesus. It is my prayer that as we move into this season, we would see Jesus and only Jesus.