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...
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
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!