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Thursday of the Week of Lent I

[Jesus said,] “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others. You blind guides, straining out a gnat and swallowing a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and of the plate, but inside they are full of extortion and rapacity. You blind Pharisee! First cleanse the inside of the cup and of the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but within you are full of hypocrisy and iniquity.” (Matthew 23:23-28)

Additional Daily Bible Readings: Genesis 37:13–36; Psalm 49; Matthew 23:23–36

Weekly Reading: http://bit.ly/2CMv4Lp

Most people don’t realize that in our Lutheran tradition, everything in worship has meaning. The entire service with all the responses, come directly from Scripture. The robes of the pastor also have meaning, beyond a simple “cover-up.” The white alb still worn by most pastors is to resemble our baptismal garment, “putting on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). The old black cassock and white surplice made the message even more obvious, as the black undergarment proclaimed that pastors, like everyone else, are sinful people in need of forgiveness and the righteousness of Christ, as symbolized by the white surplice. However, peeking out from beneath the surplice was always the black cassock. It is a proclamation that we are at the same time “saint and sinner.”

In this very harsh chapter, Jesus is condemning the religious leaders of his time. Again and again, the Lord says, “woe to you, scribes and Pharisees…” They were very concerned to make an outward show of their religiosity, while inwardly soiled and sinful. They focused on the most minute details, while ignoring mercy, justice and faith. They took advantage of the poor and needy. They were full of “uncleanness.” In the verse we will read tomorrow, Jesus declares, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, killing the prophets and stoning those who are sent to you…behold, your house is forsaken and desolate.”

If Lent serves any purpose, it is to convince us, again, that we are saints and sinners. Yes, we have been washed in the blood of Jesus and our sins have become white as snow (Isaiah 1:18). But we continue to sin and daily need to return to the hope and promise of our Baptism! We lie down in bed each night, aware of our disobedience, knowing we have fallen short of God’s will for us, needing the forgiveness that comes from Jesus. We awake each day, forgiven, freed, ready to begin anew! Lent provides us with the opportunity to be cleansed inside and out, daily, as we acknowledge our sin and turn again to our Savior!

Prayer: Lord Jesus, we are in bondage to sin and cannot free ourselves. Forgive me, this day also, and set me on the narrow way. Amen.

Lenten Response: Wear something black and white today to signify we are saints and sinners!

Video Devotional: From Ashes to Easter

Today’s devotion was written by the Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Assistant to the Bishop for Ministry and Ecumenism.

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