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When you fast

Matthew 6:16-21

Pastor David Ernst

Ash Wednesday
Epiphany Lutheran Mission of La Caramuca  
Barinas, Venezuela

Play MP3 of this sermon

Wed, Mar 5, 2014 

Grace and peace in our Lord and Savior , Jesus Christ.

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew , the Lord speaks of worship, alms , and in this chapter we find the Our Father, the prayer the Lord taught His disciples. Many of you know the Our Father, Our Father, who art in heaven , hallowed be Thy name ...

But in our text for today, Jesus speaks of the practice of fasting. What is fasting? When you do not eat or drink anything. Another question: What is the meaning or purpose of Carnaval ? In the history of the church, Lent, a season of fasting, prayer and repentance, always begins on Ash Wednesday , more or less 40 days before Easter. So some people have the idea that a few days before Ash Wednesday , we will eat, drink and dance once more before the 40 days of fasting and repentance. This idea came from Spain , I think.

But for us , indeed, Ash Wednesday and the entire Lenten season is something more serious than in these people's minds. It is not just a time for outward acts, but a time to reflect, to think about the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ, to change our thoughts , our inner mind . Many people say , oh , I'll stop drinking beer or eating meat, but most do not think beyond that to the meaning of Lent. But in truth, this kind of thing, like fasting, alms, all piety, is not commanded by the Lord to gain salvation, because we have salvation in baptism. We have the promise of eternal life in Christ, so we should not make of these things a show for others.

Because this is of what our Lord speaks in our text. At the time of Jesus, the Jews had the custom of fasting to focus their minds not on the things of this world, but on the things of God . But many people wanted to present a show for others. No thought of God or the Word of God, but the admiration of people around them . Look, he's a spiritual man ! So not only did they fast, also stopped cleaning their faces, or washing themselves , to present an image of suffering, pain and repentance. Look, how his hair is messy , his face is disfigured , how he suffers because of his faith! What a holy man !

But the Lord tells us this is false spirituality . It's not what God wants. This is what God wants , as our Psalm (Psalm 51 ) says , a broken spirit , a contrite and humble heart. So away with this show , this spectacle of repentance and suffering and pain. Wash your face and do not do this anymore.

But for us, as creatures of the five senses , the repentance and spiritual life is not entirely within us. It is useful for us to make gestures to express our repentance and pain because of our sins. So , there are useful rites to help us achieve this goal, as the imposition of ashes on our foreheads in the shape of the cross. It is not a rite commanded by the Lord , but it is useful to help us reflect and think about our sins. Because when we receive ashes on our foreheads , we hear the words " You are dust , to dust shalt thou return " (Genesis 3:19) . It is a reminder of our mortality , our sinful nature .

Therefore, it is useful to observe this ceremony. It is not necessary for salvation, but it is very good and beneficial for us. At all times, we may think of our sins, repent and receive the Lord's forgiveness . But this season of Lent is a very special opportunity to prepare for the day of complete joy , the Sunday of the Resurrection, when we hear the good news of the Resurrection of Christ. Because Christ died on the cross paid the price for our sins , so we have complete forgiveness of sins and the promise of eternal life . Because of Christ's death and also because of His glorious resurrection.

For a while , we do not focus on the glory of Christ, but in His humiliation on the cross. This is the purpose of this Lenten season . This is the purpose of the imposition of ashes . If any of you want to come forward to receive the sign of the cross on your foreheads , I invite you to do so as we begin the reflection and repentance of the season of Lent.

May the peace that passes all understanding be with each of you forever. Amen .

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