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Matthew 6:1-6 “Be careful not to do your ‘acts of righteousness’ in front of others, to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven. So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. Dear St. Luke's family. Welcome to the season of Lent. Today is Ash Wednesday, the official beginning of the 40-day period of spiritual renewal and preparation leading to Easter. Tonight we will have an Ash Wednesday Service at 7:00 in the Sanctuary. I will begin our Lent series The God You Can Know based on the "I Am" sayings of Jesus in the Gospel of John. The service will also include the traditional imposition of ashes on our foreheads. I hope to see you tonight. This email is the first of a daily series you will receive during Lent to aid in your spiritual preparation. I will explain more this evening about the meaning and history of Lent. It began as an observance of Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. It was a way of reminding people that we can't celebrate resurrection without recognizing death. This season is to be set aside as a time for intentionally focusing upon Jesus, his sacrifice for us, and what it means to live as his followers. We are encouraged to keep special spiritual practices during this time like: prayer, fasting and giving. The above passage from Matthew are Jesus' words on the matter. Religious leaders practiced these disciplines in his day but it was usually for show. Ever known anyone like that? I remember a worship class in my first semester in seminary. When people were called to lead a prayer, the professor would shock us sometimes by interrupting the prayer and asking the person, "What are you doing?" The person would reply, "What you asked. I'm praying for our class!" Then the professor would point out to us all--as we each were guilty at times--that our voices changed when we prayed, our language changed (he one time asked, "When does anyone say "thee?"), and our appearance even changed to a sometimes somber, very serious look. His point was to help us quit doing what we thought we were "supposed to do" and just talk to God! I believe that is what Jesus is recommending. These practices are not meant to be religious. They are meant to be real. Okay, so those shouldn't have to be opposed to each other, but we can lose what is real in an attempt to be religious. To paraphrase Jesus in the RSV (Rob's Standard Version), Jesus said, "Look, praying, fasting, and giving are good things. You bet you should do them. But don't get all religious about it. Just keep it real. Talk with God. Just tell God what is going on. Start small. Go sit in your closet at home and just tell God what's on your heart. Fast! Give up something. Otherwise our world will convince you that you've got to have everything. Don't buy it! You need God more than stuff.

So try going without some stuff as a way of making room for God. And to help with this, give a little extra this season. You'll be amazed how intentional generosity leads to effortless grace. And don't make a big deal about it. The point is not to show but to grow." So tonight, I invite you to begin this season with me in worship. I'll share some important background on our series and a little more about these practices. May this be a good day for you as you seek to be aware of God's presence and gifts to you. Prayer: Today I begin this journey to the cross. I know that is not where the journey ends, but I can't get to the hope if I avoid the hardship. Thank you for the motivation you give me to practice some new habits that will draw me closer to you and your power. In Christ’s name, Amen. (Written by Rev. Rob Fuquay, St. Luke’s Senior Pastor.)

Ash Wednesday Devotional  
Ash Wednesday Devotional  

2013 Lenten Deviotionsl