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Sunday, September 20, 2015

Today’s Reading | Matthew 6:1–6

“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, 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.” (NRSV)

A few days ago, my boyfriend and I went out for a typical Sunday morning brunch. While most people might discuss the workweek or upcoming plans with friends, our conversation quickly turned to one of spiritual beliefs and living out our faith. We practice different denominations of Christianity, but despite the different doctrines we follow, we continue to find common ground in a similar truth.

Our time here on earth as Christians should be devoted to good works and increasing the presence of God through the intentional love we share with our neighbors, known and unknown. We often hear today’s scripture during the Lenten season, yet its message is at the cornerstone of our Christian faith.

Lent reminds us about the pillars of our faith: prayer, almsgiving, and fasting. However, why do we so often “save up” these acts for Lent and overexert our efforts in extravagant ways? First we leave our ashes untouched. Then we tell everyone what we’re fasting from: sugar, alcohol, shopping. We ultimately make it about us. All the while, we forget about the person in need right beside us: our friend, relative, or stranger in need of a human connection.

But making these connections can be tiring. Emotionally exhausting. How do we find the energy to do this day in and day out with sometimes no visible reward? This is when we return to Jesus in our private rooms and pray for peace and grace to continue doing God’s work and to live our lives as humble disciples of Jesus. Those who seek rewards and treasures for good deeds will only fill themselves with pride, rather than fill their communities with love. Let us instead remember to remain humbly in God’s service of one another.

God, keep our hearts meek yet strong when we encounter those in need. Let us turn to you for unending grace and full spirits ready to give. Amen.

Written by Jackie Lorens
Director, Chicago Lights Elam Davies Social Service Center

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