Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Tuesday of the Second Week of Lent

Isaiah 1:10, 16-20
Psalm 50
Matthew 23:1-12


When is the last time you examined your motivations for faith?

In our readings today, we are presented with two stark reminders of the ways that our faith can be motivated, and an indictment of our human nature, which stands in need of faith.

In our reading from Matthew’s Gospel today, we are presented with a powerful reminder of the wrong reasons for faith. We should not be believers for the external show, the power, or the prestige of being a believer. The religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew their scriptures well, and paraded their knowledge widely, but their righteousness was highly questionable, because their motivations were compromised. Their goal was self-justification… something less than God.

The prophet Isaiah, however, reminds us that listening to God’s law and following it righteously requires the intervention of God. He does not say “Though your sins are like scarlet, you can make them white as snow.” God reserves to himself the authority to cleanse of sin and to fill with the Spirit, a Spirit that produces righteousness as its fruit.

There is a component, of course, for us… we must be response to the Spirit’s work, firmly debasing ourselves of any idea that we, in and of ourselves, can wipe our own slates clean. When we listen to the voice of God, when we follow his commands, when we seek to live righteously, we are empowered to do so by the Spirit, not by ourselves. A righteous life is continually nurtured by the refreshing power of the Holy Spirit.

And so, our God approaches us daily… moment by moment. He is present in each and every aspect of our lives. Why bother to claim his name, or to walk in outward fidelity to him if we have no intent to foster the covenant relationship in Christ Jesus? We must accept the Father’s claim on us, secured by Christ’s blood, and nurtured by the presence of the Spirit… or else all our sacrifices, all our prayers, all our outward fidelity will be as nothing in the sight of Yahweh… for he beholds the heart, not the outward appearances. 

And, when our heart is right with him, and our faith’s motivations rest in our knowledge of our fallen-ness and our need for his presence in our lives, well… in those moments, all things are possible, and eternal joy stands squarely in our sight.

Don’t live, my friends, in false righteousness. Don’t seek the world’s approval. And don’t follow those who do. Walk in faithfulness to the Creator… and he will set you free to serve him with a power that knows no limit!


That each of us would take stock of our relationship with God,
and would honestly seek to understand our reasons, motivations, and practices of faith,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those in positions of leadership in the Church
would seek to minister in humility and love,
not seeking their own glory,
but always preaching the truth, 
whatever the cost, 
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who have walked away from their faith
on account of the fallen-ness of other believers
may find the courage to encounter Christ again 
and renew their relationship with him on his terms,
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That those who, today, are dying
may divest themselves of all self-reliance,
and entrust their spirits to the one 
who is able to do abundantly more than we can ask
or imagine, 
let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.

That the needs of our hearts, 
and of those we love, 
would be known by God 
and ministered to through his faithful love…

(silence for personal prayer)

…let us pray to the Lord:
Lord, hear our prayer.