Summary: If we were to summarize the advice the advice Jesus that gives to us in these verses, then we would have to conclude that Jesus wants us to remember that prayer is a matter of the heart. This sermon is about the need to rend our hearts.
AN ASH WEDNESDAY HEART
Text: Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Matthew 6:1-6, 16 - 21 "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. (2) "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. (3) But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, (4) so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (5) "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. (6) 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. ………… (16) "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. (17) But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, (18) so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (19) "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; (20) but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. (21) For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (NRSV).
“A heavily booked commercial flight out of Denver was canceled, and a single agent was re-booking a long line of inconvenienced travelers. Suddenly an angry passenger pushed his way to the front and slapped his ticket gown on the counter.
“I have to be on this flight and it has to be first class!” he insisted. “I’m sorry sir”, the agent replied.
“I’ll be happy to help you, but I have to take care of these folks first.” The passenger was unimpressed.
“Do you have any idea who I am?” he demanded in a loud enough voice for the passengers behind him to hear.
Without hesitating, the gate agent smiled and picked up her public address microphone. “May I have your attention, please? She broadcast throughout the terminal. “We have a passenger here at the gate who does not know who he is. If anyone can help him find his identity, please come to the gate.” As the man in the terminal retreated, the people on the terminal burst into applause.” (Steve May. The Story File. Peabody, Massachusetts: Hendrickson Publishing, 2000, p. 246). If you were in that long line, wouldn’t you have clapped also? I would have.
Is it it possible that the Pharisees had to remind God---an all-knowing God of who they were? Although airplanes did mot exist back then, we can safely assume that if this story happened back in the day of Jesus’s earthly ministry, that the demanding passenger would have been a Pharisee.
If we were to summarize the advice the advice Jesus that gives to us in these verses, then we would have to conclude that Jesus wants us to remember that prayer is a matter of the heart. Jesus talks about praise and treasures reminding us that where our treasures are our hearts will be also (Matthew 6:21).
THE HEART’S FOCUS
How many people in the world do we see focusing on worldly praise? 1) The Praise of men: How many of them want the praise of men and women around them? That is something that can turn into an “idol that would keep us”! (From the hymn Jesus Calls Us).
2) Celebrities: How many times do we hear people speak of celebrities as icons or idols? How many of those celebrities live for the praise of their fans? How many award shows are there where there are celebrities whose only goal is to win the accolades of their peers and fans?
3) Soapbox: How many of those celebs us their success as a soapbox to preach to their fans about what they think is best? Most celebrities these days act like secular Pharisees!
What does the word prayer suggest about how it out to be a sincere matter of the heart? Remember Mel Gibson’s movie, The Passion of Christ?” If you saw that movie you had to read the dialogue of the movie at the bottom of the screen because Jim Cavizel who played the role of Jesus Christ spoke Aramaic.