Ash Wednesday – St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Why are 3 sitting senators and 3 sitting governors, as well as a former senator and a former governor, as well as a billionaire businessman and a retired doctor all running for President?
Why do you leave your house each morning, and return each evening? Why do most graduation speeches refer to ‘the real world’?
Why do people strive for higher positions at work, or for more land and cattle? Why do people constantly desire to be recognized for the work they do?
If you answered because they are not content with where they are and believe greatness is just around the corner; you would be correct.
Although we also would have accepted the answer that they are sinful human beings.
Such is the world we live in, where nothing is ever enough. Not enough stuff; not enough money; not enough time; not enough recognition; not enough being content.
It is the oldest trick in the book; literally. Satan comes to Eve and tells her that if she eats of the fruit, she will be like God.
Never mind that Adam and Eve lived a pretty good life where they were in the Garden of Eden; they were not exactly suffering any want or need. The devil came and offered something that looked better, so first Eve and then Adam ate of the fruit; thinking that if they did, they would become like God, that they would become great; that somehow the perfect life they now lived would get even better.
Adam and Eve were wrong of course, their lives did change, but not for the better; in fact they never had it so good ever again; and by relation, neither do we.
And yet, despite the ample evidence to the contrary, we still believe the oldest lie in the book; the devil comes again and again and tells us that whatever we are doing now is not good enough, that we can do better; that we must do better; and so we eat of the apple, whether that apple is a promotion, or more work, or more stuff, or even more education. The promise is there that it will all change; and it does. But not always for the better.
And so when you picked up your copy of the February newsletter, or when you were reminded of tonight’s service in the Sunday bulletin, you may have found our series for this year to be rather unusual.
After all, this is not the typical characters of the Passion, or places of the Passion, or some other Passion of our Lord related topic. Although that is what gathers us, and we will certainly focus on that as well part of our services.
Nor is this a series that slams the outside world at every turn for multiple transgressions, although the outside world will certainly interfere with many aspects of the Table of Duties.
Nor is this even a series that attempts to lay the groundwork for a firmer defense of the faith going forward; although be assured, that will happen as well.
No, this series is actually centered on the not so dramatic Table of Duties, as found in Luther’s Small Catechism.
And upon reading that newsletter, or being reminded of it in the bulletin, you may have gone searching for your Small Catechism and looked up the Table of Duties, and said to yourself ‘well, that’s boring.’
After all, what is the Table of Duties, but nothing more than a series of Bible verses applied to various roles that we find ourselves in on a regular basis?
Where is the excitement in coming and being reminded of what it means to be a husband or wife? Where is the greatness in being a parent or child? What superiority do you get out of being a citizen under the government?
The Table of Duties seems content to leave us where we are in the seeming doldrums of life; which happen to be the same doldrums that Satan is trying to lure us out of with his promises of bigger and better things, whether they be here or somewhere else.
So why gather to reflect on the Table of Duties? Why gather and reflect on that which we are so often un-content with?
Because our Father in heaven has declared these thing to be holy. Yes, someone needs to be the President, but someone also needs to be the law abiding citizen. Yes, someone needs to be the Hollywood star that makes a commercial telling you to brush your teeth; but someone also needs to be the parent in the home making sure that teeth are actually brushed. Yes, someone needs to be on the radio or on youtube passionately speaking the Gospel of the Lord, but someone also needs to be in the local pulpit, baptizing and teaching. Yes, someone does need to establish a business that makes billions and employs thousands, but someone also needs to be in the offices and on the assembly line making sure the work gets done.
Our Father in heaven has declared that it is a good holy thing to be content with where He has placed you in life. That may mean being on television every night, or it may mean sitting in front of the television after a long day in the fields. That may mean you have an office in a high rise building with lots of elevators; or it may mean you live in a town where the tallest building is the elevator. That may mean that you make decisions that influence world events, or it may mean you are a law abiding citizen who is a good neighbor.
The Table of Duties is not about taking over the world; rather it is about looking at the world and realizing that this is where God has called you to be His holy and beloved child.
This Lent, and every Lent, we reflect on the consequences that have resulted from the oldest sin in the book, where we are told that what you have is not enough; but this Lent and every Lent, we are also told the oldest promise in the book, that when you fall prey to that sin, there is a Savior who has come to bring you back from the doldrums of hell, and restore you to your rightful place in the kingdom of God.