Today is Ash Wednesday. I’ve begun my Journey to draw closer to God. I am no expert, but I humbly offer my feelings and interpretations of the current study. The Lectionary readings for today are: Isaiah 58:1-12, Psalm 51:1-17, 2nd Corinthians 5:20-6:10, and Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21.
Isaiah speaks to looking for the spirit of religious practice instead of simply following the “traditional” forms. For me, this hit a political note. It’s how I feel whenever someone says, “Make America Great Again,” while striking at the foundations of the things that have made us great, like freedom of the press, free speech, support for the poor, and equal rights.
In my opinion, America is still great. Those “good old days” weren’t really all that good. We just hid all the problems behind closed minds. The results of this election may be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps we were becoming too complacent. We thought all those bad old prejudices had been overcome. Now we see they were just being hidden behind “political correctness.” Apparently, a large percentage of our citizenry still held to those hateful ways of thought and feeling, they were just afraid to speak out because it was unpopular. The festering boils of their bigotry, anger, and hatred needed to be lanced and drained. Hopefully, this will lead to a healthier America.
The Psalm passage is about the need for God’s forgiveness, the necessity of cleansing ourselves of sinful ways so that we can be forgiven. This also touched home since we, as a nation, obviously need to cleanse ourselves of prejudice and selfishness.
2nd Corinthians tells us that we, as Christians, are to be Ambassadors for God. That it is our job to set examples wherever we go as to the way Jesus taught us we should live. America has always set an example of equality and opportunity for the world. We were a symbol of hope. Lately, we seem to be the opposite. We need to once again exemplify the words on the Statue of Liberty: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
Matthew tells us not to perform acts of charity or worship in the hope of public acclamation. Christ said, if we go about seeking praise from mankind for how religious we are, then we’ve gotten our reward in this life and have none in the life to come. He urges us to pray in private and to keep our charitable contributions to ourselves so that we “lay up treasures in heaven.” We are to be humble and serve the Lord, not bragging about what we do for others.
I’m sure there are deeper philosophical meanings buried in the text. I know that I am not adequately prepared to understand the full meanings. I still feel the sting of Literature classes that dug symbolism and allegory out of what seemed to me to be simple stories. This is one of the reasons I am embarking on this journey. I need to make an effort to more fully understand the scripture. I still intend to go back to school and finish my religious studies degree but, that will have to wait until all my grandchildren are all old enough for school. In the meantime, I will struggle along on my own. I have many resource books. I’ve been collecting them for the past four years. It’s time to stop collecting and start studying.