Wednesday Words
February 14, 2024
Be Intentional
Hector Mendoza

On this Ash Wednesday, God asks us to be righteous not so that others can see us. He asks us to not make a show of ourselves as we go about our lives. He wants us to take time and make doing his work personal. There are basic human needs or wants at play when we make a spectacle of ourselves. We want to feel seen; we want to know that the things we do matter. In the Gospel reading for today, Jesus tells us that God sees us even when we do our works in private. He is saying, I see you, and what you do is appreciated. This is the love and grace that the Lord imparts to every one of us. The Lord was intentional when he sent Jesus to be among us.  This is specific, this is intentional, this is personal. 

If we do the right thing, but for selfish reasons, God tells us in the text that it doesn’t bring us any closer to the kingdom of God. Intent matters. It is easy to go through the motions to do things without considering why I am doing or saying the things that I am. I am guilty of this. I often recite the Lord's prayer without truly having forgiveness for others in my heart. I have given to charities, when asked, without thinking only to find out later that almost none of the money goes to the people that need it most.  Intent matters.

Our congregation has big hearts. When we found there was a need in the community for those that have food insecurity, we set up the blessing box to help. Anyone in the community is welcome, and we want everyone to feel free to take what they need. We live in a diverse, multi- cultural community, and for many, English is not their first language. Many would ask if they were allowed to take items; we made signs in a few different languages so that our community would know that we very specifically want them to feel welcome. Intentional, thoughtful, and clear messages were sent, and our community appreciated that. Intent matters. 

The Sanctuary project had many goals. One important part of that project was the access ramp to the altar area. We can speak of being a welcoming and inclusive congregation, but someone with difficulty walking sees that we have set out a way for them to come up and speak from our altar. We prove that we mean what we say.  These things might not seem important to you, but to the people that are the intended recipients, these details mean everything. They are specific and personal. Intent matters.

We started adding preferred pronouns to our nametags. I am sure for many of us, what pronouns we are called and what is our preference is something we never really have to think about. It seems trivial, but to someone who is misidentified or wants to be addressed in a specific way, it means so much. Intent matters. 

On this Ash Wednesday, as we think about Lent and what Jesus is asking from us, we should take time to be intentional with our words and actions. We show that we care by having genuine empathy and respect for our family, friends, and neighbors. This demonstrates how they matter to us. Just like the Lord does for us, we need to show others that they are seen and that they matter. God intentionally sent Jesus to be with us and save us, and we are all included in his love and grace.  Inclusion is intentional, and intent matters.