ASH WEDNESDAY – FEB 18, 2015
MATT.6:1-6; 16-21; 2 PETER 1:2-11; JOEL 2:12-19
REPENT WITH ALL YOUR HEART!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord:


Your need for this is so very great!  Your need for this is so very constant!  More than you need a college degree;  more than you need healing from physical illness; more than you need relief from ongoing pain;  more that you need financial security; more than you need length of life and peace of mind; more than you need any human relationship; more than you need a change of circumstances;  you need this!


The prophet Joel flagged it as so vital it should postpone a wedding or even the consummation of a marriage that has taken place.  “Blow the trumpet in Zion…Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.”  The prophet Joel marked it as so crucial that tears among the clergy were called for.  “Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord…”  Jesus proclaimed that without it all the treasures we store up for ourselves - and all our acts of charity - and all our acts of religious devotion - are worthless (Matthew 6).


What is it that God commands of all people everywhere (Acts 17:30) and yet Scripture clearly reveals is a gift of God (Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18)?  What is it that is not known to persons who are secure in themselves – who see no need to be different than they are now – who see no need to act differently than they are now acting (Smalcald Articles III, III, 3)?  What is it that involves both terrors of conscience through the knowledge of sin - and faith that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven (AC, XII)?  What is it that is nothing other than a return and approach to and a walking in Baptism (LC, IV, 75-59)?  What is it that is a total change of heart, a new reality that daily adjusts our perception to see as God sees?

ASH WEDNESDAY – FEB 18, 2015
MATT.6:1-6; 16-21; 2 PETER 1:2-11; JOEL 2:12-19
REPENT WITH ALL YOUR HEART!
Rev. Kenneth W. Wieting


Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord:


Your need for this is so very great!  Your need for this is so very constant!  More than you need a college degree;  more than you need healing from physical illness; more than you need relief from ongoing pain;  more that you need financial security; more than you need length of life and peace of mind; more than you need any human relationship; more than you need a change of circumstances;  you need this!


The prophet Joel flagged it as so vital it should postpone a wedding or even the consummation of a marriage that has taken place.  “Blow the trumpet in Zion…Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber.”  The prophet Joel marked it as so crucial that tears among the clergy were called for.  “Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the Lord, weep and say, “Spare your people, O Lord…”  Jesus proclaimed that without it all the treasures we store up for ourselves - and all our acts of charity - and all our acts of religious devotion - are worthless (Matthew 6).


What is it that God commands of all people everywhere (Acts 17:30) and yet Scripture clearly reveals is a gift of God (Acts 5:31; Acts 11:18)?  What is it that is not known to persons who are secure in themselves – who see no need to be different than they are now – who see no need to act differently than they are now acting (Smalcald Articles III, III, 3)?  What is it that involves both terrors of conscience through the knowledge of sin - and faith that for Christ’s sake, sins are forgiven (AC, XII)?  What is it that is nothing other than a return and approach to and a walking in Baptism (LC, IV, 75-59)?  What is it that is a total change of heart, a new reality that daily adjusts our perception to see as God sees?


The answer of course is REPENTANCE!  That is what God spoke through the Prophet Joel when He said, “return to Me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning.”  That is what Jesus identified when He spoke of religious folk pleased with their prayers and charity and sacrifice in the church - wanting others to notice.  This total change of heart, this new way of thinking, this fresh perception of reality that God demands is REPENTANCE!


The Hebrew: “return to me with all your heart…” is equally rendered, “repent with all your heart.”  It is a turning away from our natural thinking and deeds and turning toward God’s holy will.  It is God-demanded and God-given.  It is thought that flows into action.  It is REPENTANCE!  Without it, you have all the reward you are ever going to receive from God the Father.


REPENTANCE is what Luther Memorial Chapel and University Student Center - what pastor and hearers need more than anything else.  “Blow the trumpet in Zion…gather the people; Consecrate the congregation…let the…ministers of the Lord, weep and say, ‘Spare your people, O Lord…”  Joel’s demand for repentance was for the whole lot of them in deeds and motives.  So also for Jesus!


Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven…when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you…do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.  And when you pray, you must not…love…to be seen by others…go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.   And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites…that their fasting may be seen by others…but…anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who…sees in secret…(who) will reward you.  Acts of mercy are to be done – but not to be noticed.  Daily prayer is God’s will – but not to be seen.  Fasting is assumed by Jesus - but not in order to be observed.


God does not want you to do good things with one eye on the good things!  You are not to try to get others to notice that you are the salt of the earth.  You are not to broadcast that you are letting your light shine – for then it is your light that is blazing and not the light of Christ.  Jesus wants you to be good at keeping good secrets about yourself. 


Like the black of Ash Wednesday and the blunt talk of dust and death, Jesus’ words are a bit unsettling.  We do wrestle with concerns of self-awareness and self-promotion.  We are made to want to be noticed.  Little ones are quick to say, “look at me, mommy”, “watch this daddy.”  As the years mount the requests to be the center of attention are not so candid, but the desire doesn’t simply melt away.  We want to matter.  We want to know that our value is known by others.  The desire to be noticed is part of being created in the image of God.  We were made to notice and to be noticed by the Holy Trinity – in His image – His statues on earth.


As with all other desires, however, sin now poisons this desire that was created good.  “You will be like God” tempted Satan – and since Adam’s sin, fallen human hearts notice themselves too much!   Self-centered concern is so considerable and so constant that Scripture uses it as the basis for dealing with our neighbor.  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Satan tempts us to long for approval – compromising with a decaying society if needed – avoiding the hard issues of our day – the life of the unborn – God’s gift of marriage between a man and a woman – martyrdom of Christians - false teaching - false worship.  We don’t want others to think poorly of us.  In attempting to avoid persecution - love for self easily twists that which is seen as loving for others - into that which is approved and applauded by others.  In other words – we do not want God to look at what we are but at what we do that makes us feel good and acceptable in our surroundings.  But sin is not this item or that item for us to score on a checklist.  Sin is our heart gone wrong and in rebellion against God!  Sin says no to God.  Sin is our brokenness and the peace we make with it!  Repent!  Return to me with all your heart (says the Lord.)

 

The craving to have our good deeds acknowledged by others relates directly to another most serious reason to rend our hearts.  That reason is the constant inclination to try to justify ourselves before God!  Our hearts do not by nature trust God to give us our standing and our worth as pure gift through the blood of Christ.  Even in spiritual matters we compare and rate ourselves and jockey for position before God.  Pastors do it.  Students do it.  Congregational members do it.  We want our consciences to be quiet because we’re doing enough!  See how active the Holy Spirit is in my charity, my sacrifice, my praying!  Surely I measure up! 


Dr. Luther once commented on this matter in an unusual way.  He said, May God in His mercy save me from a Christian Church where there are none but saints.  I want to be with that little company, and in the Church where there are faint-hearted and weak people, the sick and those aware of their sin, misery, and wretchedness and who feel it, and who cry to God without ceasing and sigh unto Him for comfort and help.  (Day by Day we Magnify Thee, p. 226).


On Ash Wednesday God calls you to REPENTANCE both by way of outward actions and inner motives!  “Return to me with all your heart” (declares the Lord) “rend your hearts and not your garments.”    You are to give first to Him from His gifts to you – for the Gospel’s proclamation – from a heart burning in love for Him!  See the weak misery!  REPENT!  You are to give mercy – alms to those in need with intensive love for your neighbor.  Yet, in your giving you are not to let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.  See the depths of woe!  REPENT!  You are to cry out to God daily in prayer - praying first for the holiness of His name – never for the recognition of your name.  You are not to announce to others or display to others that you are such a fine pray-er.  REPENT!  In faith - you are to make every effort to grow with virtue – knowledge - self-control – steadfastness - godliness – brotherly affection - and love.   See the wretchedness!  In the battle with your sinful nature, fasting and bodily preparation are fine outward training.  However, such is not to be done with outward display of your efforts.  REPENT!


Beloved – in God’s gift of repentance - all your secrecy in charity – your shyness in displaying prayer – your calm quietness in fasting and self-discipline in no way means that it is not noticed!  Recall how Jesus ended each exhortation about giving and praying and fasting.  Each time after sharp warning against hypocritical actions He said, “Your Father who sees in secret will reward you…” 


Dear Christian, the Holy Trinity does not crush your desire to be noticed!  He elevates it!  Your heavenly Father who sees in secret wants you to have so much more than the fleeting recognition of those who are dust and who shall return to dust.  Your loving Father sets you free from futile efforts to manipulate the opinion of others with your goodness and to stroke your own ego.  Your loving Father sets you free from those chains - free to love others from the place He gives you. 


Your Father sees in secret!  He is impressed by the unimpressive!  He has noticed you in the past and He notices you now!  Under the law you are of no account – lost – condemned – unable to stand!  There is nothing you can do to change your record. 


But now your loving Father notices you washed in rebirth – clothed in the righteousness of His beloved Son.  There is no need for phoniness before Him – no need to live life for the right look.  Your Father sees in secret and He has you covered!  He esteems you in love for Jesus’ sake!


Even as Jesus was speaking His Sermon on the Mount, He was anticipating the reward the Father’s love would give Him!  In His great and glorious and loving act of giving to the needy, Jesus’ left hand did know what His right hand was doing – for both were spiked to the cross in order to lay you up as His treasure for heaven.  When He prayed to His Father on that day he could not do so in an inner room in secret.  Rather in naked shame and public display He prayed – Father forgive them for they know not what they do.  See how He was laying you up as His treasure in heaven even as He suffered the punishment of the damned in hell in your stead.  He who fasted 40 days when tempted in the wilderness was on a forced fast on this day.  He couldn’t, however, anoint His head and wash His face as His head was crowned with thorns and the blood on His face was to wash your heart – to create it new. See how He was laying you up as His treasure in heaven!  Return to me with all your heart – He invites you – with His holy and perfect heart turned in mercy and love toward you. 


He knows your sinful mess!  On Black Friday He blotted it out with His own blood.  Now He acts to keep you from forgetting that you are cleansed from former sins – all of them.  Now He comes into your midst to leave a blessing behind Him – forgiveness, life and salvation.  He is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.  He comes to grant to you His precious and very great promises.  He richly provides for you an entrance into His eternal kingdom because He treasures you.  REPENTANCE is your greatest need and His great gift to you.  Not only is your heart rent asunder by your struggle with your sorry, sinful self – but your heart is also healed and made new and clean and honest and good by your wondrous, loving Savior. 


Your Father who is in a secret place has His eye on you right now.  He sees your struggles and joys – your strengths and weaknesses - your regrets and hopes.  He sees your hope in Christ.  Your Father who is in a secret place hears your prayers and the intercession of the Ascended Christ on your behalf.  For His sake, your Father who sees in secret will reward you.


Therefore, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  In the Name of Jesus, Amen.

Luther Memorial Chapel & University Student Center | 3833 N Maryland Ave | Shorewood, WI  53211
(414) 332-5732 |lmcusc@lmcusc.org

Divine Service: Sundays - 9:00a Mondays - 7:00p Bible Study & Sunday School: Sundays - 10:45a