March 6 – Ash Wed.

Ash Wednesday                  March 6, 2019

Today’s Focus          A perspective on our Lenten Journey

 Scripture Reading for the Day        Isaiah 58

“Shout with the voice of a trumpet blast.
Shout aloud! Don’t be timid.
Tell my people Israel[a] of their sins!
    Yet they act so pious!
They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.
Even while you fast,
you keep oppressing your workers.
What good is fasting
when you keep on fighting and quarreling?
This kind of fasting
will never get you anywhere with me.
You humble yourselves
by going through the motions of penance,
bowing your heads
like reeds bending in the wind.
You dress in burlap
and cover yourselves with ashes.
Is this what you call fasting?
Do you really think this will please the Lord?
“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.
“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.
“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.
13 “Keep the Sabbath day holy.
Don’t pursue your own interests on that day,
but enjoy the Sabbath
and speak of it with delight as the Lord’s holy day.
Honor the Sabbath in everything you do on that day,
and don’t follow your own desires or talk idly.
14 Then the Lord will be your delight.
I will give you great honor
and satisfy you with the inheritance I promised to your ancestor Jacob.
I, the Lord, have spoken!”

Pastor’s Reflection for the day

An acquaintance of mine is currently facing many financial challenges in his life!  Recently he had lost income as a result of recovering from a car accident and as a result fell behind in paying some of his bills.  This friend of mine seems to be dwelling in a dark land right now.  He is faced with the possibility of foreclosure and losing a very strong credit rating through no fault of his own.  The problem seems to consume my friend in his waking moments.  It seems to hang around his neck like a heavy noose during the day.  His evening thoughts are consumed by the guilt and shame that he feels over his current situation in life.  Even in his dreaming he finds very little relief from the pressures and burdens he faces.  In the morning he wakes only to once again greet the new day with the pressures that he is carrying on his shoulders.

Sometimes I worry about my friend.  He can become so consumed with his current problem that he doesn’t seem to recognize that he, his wife, and his daughter live a very happy life!  While this problem is very real, to date it has not threatened his relationship with his wife or child.  This problem has not taken food away from the family dinner table or created additional debt.  In short this problem has created an incredible amount of anxiety in his life about worldly things… but the most precious things my friend has in life are still intact.

As I thought and prayed about my friend’s problem I couldn’t help but feel that he was missing out on how grateful he should be that his health was restored.  I couldn’t help but feel that he was missing out on how wonderful it was that he has a wife and a daughter who adore him.  I wanted to help my friend come to grips with his problem but then I realized that there is one huge element in my life that is not present in my friend’s life; my relationship with God!

As we begin this season of Lent I am reminded of one of the greatest assets of being a Christian! Hope!  In the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the Christian heart is given hope!  Hope that in moments of great darkness, we will eventually walk in the light of God!  Hope that even though we know we lead lives that are filled with sin, there is hope of forgiveness through the cross!  Hope that in the midst of great trials and suffering, we will one day rejoice in the light!  And finally, hope that even in the midst of death we will find new life in God!

Sometimes during our life we encounter problems that may seem as if they are meant to consume us!  Our bills may be too high for our income.  Our body may have become susceptible to a chronic illness or disease.  A relationship that we greatly valued has run its course and come to an end.  However, our hearts and our faith share with us that there is hope found in our relationship with God!

In Holy Scripture we will once again be reminded that with God all things are made possible!  We are reminded that the reality in which you and I live can be altered and changed if we allow ourselves to trust in God’s power!  We are reminded that sometimes in life things happen that we may not understand or feel prepared to come to grips with; however, through our relationship with Christ, we can find light at the end of a tunnel!

It seems to me that the world itself would do well being reminded that our trust and our faith should not be placed in the places of this world which are fallible and insecure.  Rather, our trust and our faith should be placed in the hands of an Almighty God Who loves us very much!

As you continue to pray and mediate this week, I ask you to be a child of God who has hope!  Hope that your life will reflect God’s will for the world.  Hope that people around you would realize how precious life truly is!  Hope that God’s desires for the world would have greater prominence in the world!  Hope that our God would help relieve your burdens and revive your soul!

 Some Questions for Reflection

  • Why do you suppose God is very concerned about the following?

They come to the Temple every day
and seem delighted to learn all about me.
They act like a righteous nation
that would never abandon the laws of its God.
They ask me to take action on their behalf,
pretending they want to be near me.
‘We have fasted before you!’ they say.
‘Why aren’t you impressed?
We have been very hard on ourselves,
and you don’t even notice it!’
“I will tell you why!” I respond.
“It’s because you are fasting to please yourselves.

  • According to Isaiah, how does God desire us to live?
  • Do you think this passage is still relevant in 2019? Why or Why not?

Today’s Pilgrimage Challenge

  • After reflecting on today’s Scripture passage, think about a spiritual discipline that you could easily engage in each day of Lent. Remember you don’t have to “give something up,” it can be doing things for others or anything that deepens your relationship with God. Share this with your friends and ask them to help hold you accountable to this activity.

Today’s Prayer

Almighty and ever-living God, you hate nothing you have made, and you forgive the sins of all who are penitent. Create in us new and honest hearts, so that, truly repenting of our sins, we may receive from you, the God of all mercy, full pardon and forgiveness through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen

6 thoughts on “March 6 – Ash Wed.

  1. Keith Ricks

    Okay, Wow, one could come up with a dissertation on Your “Reflection Questions”… however keeping it simple and explored, here is my thesis.. Ha! got You! Firstly, I do not believe God is concerned about Us in the least bit. That is nonsense. God is an excellent parent and being so, setting aside the “All-Knowing-God-Thingy”, as a parent has a greater perspective of “The Children” than the children. Therefore, a greater Faith in Them (US). Secondly, the temple situation, I believe, You, my Dear Friend and Pastor, as so many have done before You is being diluted away from its true beauty,… Jesus as a Relatable Fallible Human Being in which God bent down to us mere mortal beings in a display of Love so Great and although we can not grasp it in its entirety Jesus believers, non-believers and atheist have not ceased carrying on about it for thousands of Years,… more so than anything in all of Human History to this date… pant… pant… gasp… to be fair I did start off saying something about a dissertation and a thesis… oh Yeah, I may need You to sign off on this for school…. grin…
    Anyway… So, for You Pastor Jerry, in brief… those Humans, excluding Jesus, were most likely; “Oh dude, look! It’s Jesus! He’s Gods Kid! How do I look? Wait, I don’t have any bread crumbs on me or anything do I? He’s so Cool! I hope he likes me.” and Jesus, … the son of God, but at that moment, unknown to those Truly Human Humans, having a really, lets say only 49% God and 51% Human moment… Hmmm? is Keith Okay here… not going to Destroy the Church or anything with this? Maybe only 2 or 3 members need a Bissell… ;} I’m just Kidding, everybody knows Bissell vacuums don’t pick up Faith bits!
    So it goes down… Through the Face of Human Jesus God shows Truly Human Humans that He gets it…. You want Attention… From Me, From God…
    Okay, Now… I didn’t hear anything in this saying this was bad. Nor that the natural human need for attention in itself is bad and this is not the place to post that conversation… I have created a blog for side conversations if any of You feel the need to have a conversation with me… see the end of any of my post… And Yes, I know there is much left out of this Reading, oppressed workers, fighting… but that is no different that what goes on before and after Church and between Good deeds here and now… thus our military, Oh and just watch Any news Channel… or contact me and say… “Keith, I have no prejudices towards anyone or anything… I will be glad to clear my schedule and talk Trees and Worms…”
    Also, Jesus does not say that Any of the Things they have done were Wrong… because, if You take note, they are in fact what would be the Right thing to do in that time. It is the “Reason Words” that are in play. And the fact Jesus is griping as the listed words show:
    P and S: I know this is not a Conversation between Jesus and God, It’s Just some lines have that Overtone, like when Your speaking Outloud but Your also Praying or Talking in Your head to God or to Someone Specific in the Crowd…. You know what I mean…
    P.S. P AND S: SO YOU KNOW IT IS NOT AN OFFENSE, A “BITCH-SLAP” IS A PHRASE THAT MEANS “Reality or Truth of a given situation has been Realized in an Abrupt or Shocking Reflective Manner.”

    “seem delighted” – JESUS-TO-DADDY
    “They act like” – JESUS-TO-DADDY
    — SUPER GOOD ONE ONLY AN EMOTIONAL HUMAN WOULD USE THIS NEXT LINE TO HIS DADDY!–
    “pretending they want to be near me” – JESUS-TO-DADDY
    “‘Why aren’t you impressed?” – TRULY HUMAN HUMANS
    “you don’t even notice” – TRULY HUMAN HUMANS
    “you are fasting to please yourselves. – JESUS-TO – TRULY HUMAN HUMANS
    AND I KNOW THESE TWO WERE NOT IN THIS PART BUT ARE WORTHY….
    “going through the motions” – JESUS – B-SLAP-TRULY HUMAN HUMANS
    “bowing your heads – like reeds bending in the wind.” – WHOO!

    I would be one of these Truly Human Humans being Bitch-Slapped by Jesus. And even though I wish I would not be a Truly Human Human,… without the knowledge, life skills and manners that We All have today because God did bend down to Our level so long ago, I would be one of those men being Bitch-Slapped by a probably Tired, Hungry, Hot, Grumpy Jesus who knows better and Unfortunately, sometimes Knowing better surrounded by a bunch of Truly Human Human Children 24 hours a Day is Enough to Just make You Occasionally go Wack-a-doodle! So my observations with My family Members joe that Have children joe and I wont joe mention who joe they bleier are because I don’t want joe bleier You to think they are a Wack-a-Doodle joe.
    In conclusion, Finally Right?, I think the whole beauty of the passage is Jesus’ Humanness shinning through. He is Griping and complaining and being less “Holier than Thou” and I feel that I can trust Him with what he wants of me going forward a bit more. As for the Truly Human Humans… Well, they are basically no different than any of Us Truly Human Humans Today so I see no reason to go about them. Yes it is still relevant, we have a great responsibility to Our Brothers and Sisters, more so than ever, reminding by example a better way of living. I truly believe the Way of Faith in the World is Undergoing a Great Change from the Preaching and Listening method to the Displaying and Watching and Learning Method… We as Gods Children are entering a New “Physical Age” a Parent might say in looking at there kids… we are Growing Up and Behaving and Misbehaving in Different ways… We are More Social and Watching and Learning behaviors from Each-other More than Ever in History. Get on The Ball and Use Every Means of Displaying how A Christian Lives! It is Now or Never! Peach Love and Blessings {PBaL} KEITH
    https://thedottypragmatist.home.blog/ will be online shortly

    Reply
    1. Pastor Jerry

      Hey Brother,
      You really did “go to town” on this. Love your thoughts, please be careful with word selection for future posts as we would like this to “young believer friendly.” I really value and appreciate your comment “Yes it is still relevant, we have a great responsibility to our brothers and sisters, more so than ever, reminding by example a better way of living.” I often reflect on how people move through their days without having a deep relationship with God, I feel for my sisters and brothers who aren’t able to experience the power and the love of God in a daily functional kind of way and pray fervently that all eyes and hearts would be open to see what God is up to in this world.
      I also love your thoughts about learning behaviors, really great stuff here. Looking forward to your continued reflections.
      Peace, blessings, and love
      PJ

      Reply
  2. Pastor Jerry

    I often think that we sometimes not only “put on” veils to protect our true selves from others, we put on these veils to protect ourselves from our own heart in the presence of God. I believe that God already knows what’s in our hearts, so if we are trying to be someone or something other than who we are we are only lying to ourselves. God desires us to see the beauty of life, the beauty of our relationship with God, the beauty of our relationships with others in this very moment!
    I’m looking forward to sharing this time with all of you! I’m hoping to be able to check this blog each night before I head off to bed.
    Peace and blessings to you all!

    Reply
  3. Mel Olenwine

    Here are my thoughts….responding to the reflection questions.
    I can sit down every day and read my Bible because of some self-imposed effort to become closer to or more in touch with God. God isn’t buying it. He “knows my heart” and he knows when something is bothering me (which is usually when I sit down to reflect on Bible passages or my devotions”. I DO read daily devotions, and many of them speak directly to me and life situations at the moment, which can really freak me out, but on mornings when i’m rushed, I’ve learned not to sit down and speed-read through ten minutes of a devotion just so I can say “I’ve finished.” Then remembering absolutely nothing, nor getting anything out of it. I’d rather sit down when I CAN devote the appropriate time to reading and digesting the lesson. “Pretending to want to be near me” is what you do when you just go through the motions as it were. Or going to church, or thinking because of things you do, you are surely to have people think of you a certain way. Look at you as a certain person. Are we living that life? Or are we acting the life? Why isn’t He impressed? We have failed to impress Him. It really got to me the “they ask me to take action on their behalf…” Don’t I often do that? God I want this, God I need that. God can you do this? Yes, I am fasting to please myself at times. Guilty ! How does God desire us to live? I think he wants us to strive to learn more every day…more about him, more about his teachings, more about how we can incorporate any and all of it into today’s present situations. Times change, people do not. Is this passage relevant today? It absolutely is.

    Reply
    1. Pastor Jerry

      Awesomeness! I really appreciate your thoughts about “strive to learn more every day…” If this is true, which I from the bottom of my heart believe it is…. then it must be that the daily journey, with all its joys, celebrations, trials, sufferings and tribulations must in and of themselves provide “holy opportunities” for us to bear witness to the splendor of God. I often try to think in these kinds of terms when dealing with stressful situations and pray that my eyes would be open to see how God is working! Great beginning to our journey together.
      Peace, blessings, and love,
      PJ

      Reply
  4. Pastor Jerry

    As I prepare for sleep, I am ever so thankful to God for the beautiful day that has been shared. So many of our sisters and brothers in Christ shared in today’s worship services. The Spirit was definitely working among us and through us. I am ever so thankful to Keith and Mel who have shared their thoughts on our first entry to our blog. I am so thankful to Rev. Tom Keener, who is serving as the facilitator for this “blog” site. I am constantly amazed, perplexed, and astounded how wonderful and powerful our God is in daily living.
    I also wanted to share with you that I will be attempting to share “random acts of kindness” during this Lenten season. Today, the person behind me in line at the Dunkin Donuts received a coffee “on God!” So enjoy being able to see the expression on the face of the recipient, it’s a great way to make someone else’s day just a little bit brighter!
    Peace, blessings, and love,
    PJ

    Reply

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