This is a special edition of the Faith@Home newsletter—it is a combination of Ash Wednesday and Lent 1 (with Shrove Tuesday thrown in).
For Shrove Tuesday
Also known as Mardi Gras and Carnivale. SSSJers have pancake supper at 6 pm on Tuesday, February 25 (tomorrow). Excellent pancakes, sausage, bacon, and syrup! YUM!
For Ash Wednesday: Matthew 6:1-6,16-21
Jesus said, “Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; . . . do not sound a trumpet before you, . . . whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door . . . when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face . . . store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Collect: Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Reflection: In some traditions, Christians are urged to “give up something for Lent.” Others decide to “take on” something for Lent—a new spiritual practice, a special form of service to others, or a goal of reading Scripture daily. The readings from Isaiah and Matthew particularly invite us to “take on” something—justice, service to others, prayer, fasting, etc. What might you take on for Lent as a way of deepening your faithfulness before God?
[This is a repeat from last year, but worthy.]
“From dust you were made and to dust you will return” we are told on Ash Wednesday. That all sounds very gloomy and transactional. Can we think a bit differently?
Every particle and scrap of energy was created by the Big Bang about 14Bn years ago, in a moment when matter and spirit were joined for the first time in a grand and ongoing outpouring of divine love. So that means that all the dust that we have been created from is as old as the universe itself. It is the same dust that at some point could have been part of a star or sun or planet. It also means that at the end of our lives the dust that we are made of returns to the universe to be reused over and over again.
So doesn’t that mean we are participating in a continuous act of creation and resurrection? “At the heart of matter is the heart of God” as Teilhard de Chardin eloquently put.
Lent is therefore a time to comprehend our place in this ever-unfolding universe of love and action, created by a God waiting to be in a direct relationship with us.
We were chosen in Christ before the world was made. Ephesians 1:4
Maybe it would be better to say that from stardust we are made and to stardust we will return.
For Lent 1: Matthew 4:1-11
Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. . . . The tempter . . . said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “. . . ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil . . . saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ . . ..’” Jesus said to him, “. . . ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil . . . said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
sermons4kids: “The devil even tried to get Jesus to do things that were wrong. Do you know what Jesus did? Jesus answered him with Scripture. That’s a good way to defeat the devil, isn’t it? Just read the Bible and do what it tells you to do — not what the devil tells you to do!”
Collect: Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Reflection: How might you grow in faith and draw near to Jesus through the forty days of Lent? Let Jesus’ three responses to the devil be your guide: (1) study Scripture (live by the Word of God; Matt. 4:4); (2) seek reconciliation with God and others (do not put God to the test; Matt. 4:7); and (3) be active and intentional about participating in the worship of your congregation (worship the Lord your God; Matt. 4:10).
Eye Candy: “The temptation of Jesus”, a page of images across time.
Ear Worm: “40 days“, melancholy hymn by Eric Becker; “Jesus walked that lonesome valley“, a jazzy interpretation by Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Carl Perkins, and Johnny Cash; and the same song by John Hurt.
Image “Jesus tempted in the desert” (1890) by James Tissot.
What temptations do you face in your daily life? Jesus was tempted at his weakest points with the most needful and wonderful things–bread, power, invincibility. What Jesus knew was that he didn’t need these things. God already has all that is needed or can be desired. Through Jesus’ example and faithful leading, we learn that we have all that we need in Christ Jesus. Our daily bread and our living bread are both found in Jesus who provides for our daily needs and strengthens us in the Eucharist. Our power comes in our weakness when we follow Jesus and trust his leading. Our invincibility comes in the reality that Jesus has already conquered death so that we can anticipate life eternal. God is not to be tested, yet the powers of evil and the evil one still seeks to distract and destroy us when we are at our weakest. How can the story of Jesus’ temptation in the desert can give you strength to withstand what the world throws at you?
For Ash Wednesday: The church’s liturgy on Ash Wednesday invites us “to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” This first day of Lent sets the pattern for our Lenten observance: one which leads directly to our recognition that we are mortal, we will die and, indeed, are in the process of dying all the time. Our sin is not the primary focus of our attention. Instead, our recognition that we are sinful moves us to an awareness of our need to change and be changed. Our repentance becomes not an end in itself but a renewed relationship of children to God opening us to accept God’s love, mercy, and peace.
As a result, prayer, fasting, and self-denial are saved from being mere good works for our own benefit, and instead free us and our time and our resources to a new and deeper scope of ministry to others.
Finally, in the scriptures we recover once again the story of God’s mighty acts of salvation for the entire human race: we discover once again that we are part of a vast company of believers in every age on pilgrimage into God’s kingdom.
When we receive the ashes on the first day of Lent, we do so within the Body of Christ. Here, in the company of our fellow sinners, we are not in danger of taking pride in our penitence because we are all alike in our sinfulness. We should consider carefully, however, the words Christ addresses to us in the Gospel reading on this day, asking ourselves, “Can I wear these ashes into the world without feeling a kind of self-righteousness about them? Should I heed the Lord’s word and wash my face before going out from the Body into the world?”
On the Sundays in Lent, much of the festive nature of the liturgy is missing. Music is restrained, and the Great Litany may be used in the entrance rite. The decoration of the building and the use of color is reduced and restrained. Many use the old English custom of the Lenten Array: unbleached linen vestments, unbleached material covering the crosses and pictures, and only simple symbols stenciled in black on the vestments and veils. The word Alleluia is missing from the liturgy. But above all, the Word of God read in the liturgies has a different focus. It is the reading from the Old Testament which sets the theme rather than the reading from the Gospel.
These readings present us with a short course in the history of salvation: definitive moments in the past in which God’s intention to save the human race is revealed. Each year the Old Testament readings are as follows:
- Lent I: A story of the origin of the human race or the origin of the Hebrew people.
From The Rite Light: Reflections on the Sunday Readings and Seasons of the Church Year. Copyright © 2007 by Michael W. Merriman. Church Publishing Incorporated, New York.