Ash Wednesday 2020 Message Notes

I have a friend for many years 

– I know hard to believe right! 

 

Well, one day we were walking into a building, 

he was ahead of me by like twenty feet, 

but he still held the door open for me that whole time.  

 

I said that was nice, 

but seemed a little ostentatious to me.  

He said, ostentatious? 

Well I think your ostentatious 

for using the word ostentatious. 

 

So really, we were both trying to show off in a way perhaps.  

And maybe we were both hiding deeper insecurities...  

 

It’s so difficult because 

even when we try to do good in the world, 

our motives can be questionable, 

and we can actually cause more harm than healing 

For others and ourselves 

even when we think it should be beneficial.   

 

How is this possible?  

Because however much we would like to think 

of ourselves as altruistic – 

there is always some motive there for doing what we do 

 

Maybe we are covering up past bad deeds 

trying to do good ones 

We may be feeling guilty  

Maybe we are still doing bad things on the regular 

and want to hide it behind a facade  

 

Maybe we just think others will like us more 

if we do good things 

 

Martin Luther called this incorvatus en se 

or being turned in on oneself  

 

In today’s language, 

we might say we have our head up our... 

rear end... 

what did you think I was going to say?? 

 

Take for instance, part of my own story  

I of course grew up in the church 

(my mom is a pastor – 

many of you know pastor Terry Allen)  

Always was involved in all the church activities 

through confirmation and into the high school group.   

 

When I was entering high school 

I went to a place where I didn’t really have any good friends 

And let me tell you this was not a good thing at that time 

I was super super introverted  

Shy, and awkward socially 

(admittedly I am still pretty awkward 

though not nearly as bad) 

 

I ended up getting bullied in that school 

by some of the other teenagers, 

to the point that I didn’t want to go to school anymore.   

 

I did well in my classes 

and just kept focusing on reading and studying  

I would tell myself, that 

this was just high school, 

that these same people who made fun of me 

weren’t going to do anything with their lives, 

but I was going to be somebody! 

 

I didn’t have any idea 

that I would become a pastor at the time.  

I was thinking a lawyer or maybe even a writer or teacher  

 

I was really just covering up my insecurities  

Telling myself this 

Trying to put others down even if in my own head  

So that I could feel superior 

 

But it didn’t really take away the shame  

Or the feelings of insecurities  

And I was trying to give myself meaning 

through these actions 

 

What I learned much later (fully) 

Is that my value  

My worth didn’t depend on those kids 

And it didn’t depend on what I would become or do 

It depended on God’s grace alone  

 

I thought they were the ones who needed forgiveness  

And I didn’t realize 

that I was also so desperately in need 

of God’s forgiveness and love  

My prideful thoughts were damaging me 

just as much if not more than the painful taunts  

 

Similarly, 

When I ostentatiously go about the spiritual practices – 

Often, I think it is actually to hide a deeper insecurity – 

still trying to fulfill my identity 

by looking like a good person – 

even if my heart is not really in it. 

 

Yes, we add extra spiritual practices in Lent 

Giving more, fasting more, praying more 

 

Somehow those good things can become twisted 

If it is not done from the heart 

And based always in God’s grace for me and for the world. 

 

That is why Ash Wednesday is so important! 

Reminds us of our humble beginnings 

Dust of the earth, 

how we are constantly dependent on God’s love and grace. 

And what Jesus Christ did for us on the cross.

 

Please pray with me:

Thank you God, for sending Jesus the Christ to us. 

To show us the true way to be in relationship with you. 

With humble hearts we ask for your forgiveness for all the evil and sin within us. 

Renew us by your grace and love, to go forth and act as your people,

always from hearts filled with gratitude and mercy.  In Jesus name we pray, Amen!

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