Lent, Ash Wednesday, and the bike

I’ve been riding the bike to work. And I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from doing so. “What’s up with riding a bike to work? [Read my last post for the explanation] Oh, I like it!” “I’m proud of you.” “That’s awesome.”

While it’s encouraging to hear these responses, I’m reminded of the message from our Ash Wednesday Service (which also addresses the definition of Lent).

Pastor Al’s Ash Wednesday Message
If you missed the message, you can listen to it by clicking here. It’s only 12 minutes and 27 seconds long. Do it. Here are a few quotes and paraphrases from it (also, read Matt 6:1-6, 16-21 for the context).

“Jesus tells us to be careful. Not about the dangers of the world, but the danger that lurks within. It’s tempting to seek the praise of others – to be good, to be right, or to be powerful. He isn’t warning us not to break the 10 commandments, he’s warning us to the temptation of doing good. Acts of charity, fasting, prayer – things we associate with the season of Lent; holy activities.”

I’m being warned about…charity, fasting, and prayer? If you read the passage in Matt 6 Jesus basically says not to do these things so others notice you doing them, thus praising you for your good work. Rather, do them in private and God will see your good works. Hmm, kinda makes blogging about what I’m doing for Lent look like a bad idea.

Don’t judge me.

The message continues, “Jesus wants to look beyond the actions, to the heart of the act.”

“Rather than to judge others, this is a time to do self-examination. Charity, fasting, prayer – a means to dive into our soul. Push aside the things that distract us. We come a little bit closer to the heart of God.”

“Not out of duty or obligation, or to prove to others our faith. Jesus comes to us with compassion because he understands just how much we want others to see us doing good. And he offers us these words so that by engaging in these actions, we’ll come to know our soul and have a window into the heart of God. We’ll see the face of God in those who are with us in this journey.”

What does this all mean?
If Lent isn’t about certain actions, but rather about the heart, then how does giving up chocolate for Lent become more about my heart than the act? Or how does riding a bike instead of driving my car encourage me to dive into my soul? How does any of that help me grow close to the heart of God? Am I doing these things just to look good to others (“Dave, it’s awesome that you’re riding a bike to work”)? Am I doing them because I’m a Lutheran and it’s what I’m supposed to do during Lent? Or is it pushing aside the distractions, allowing me to honestly examine my soul? Do I really take time to do this in my life?

Sorry, just a lot of questions here. I’m still trying to figure out the answers.

More on that, soon.

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