Shrove Tuesday: Cutting Away All the Fat

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Mmmmmmm…..pancakes /drool

Today is one of my favourite feasts in the Church Year. Reason a) We get to have breakfast food for dinner…..always a plus! and b) It is a chance to reflect on where we have been, where we are, and where we are going as we head in to Lent.

The verb to shrive means to cleave, or to cut off. Traditionally, Fat Tuesday was the last opportunity to enjoy meat, eggs, and dairy products before the period of fasting 40 days before Easter.

The idea of getting rid of all decadence from one’s food, also came–in time– to apply to the soul as well.

Sin–that is, the times when we “miss the mark” and seperate ourselves from God– has been understood (especially by medieval theologians) as adding weight to one’s immortal self.

Any time we indulge in pleasure, like gluttony, lust, and pride…it was thought to shield the heart from God’s presence…covering it instead with a weight of guilt and shame, dragging it slowly to Hell……

Actually, if you think back to a certain Christmas story we see this idea still prevalent in English literature and theology:

Jacob Marley’s ghost, weighed down by his greed confronts Scrooge

So….if we fast to clean out our bodies, what can we do for our souls???? The answer lies in the ancient practice of Confession.

In Anglican services, the Sacrament of letting all our past sins go is usually a general affair, and is an integral part of almost every liturgy we celebrate. Sometimes though, something a little more personal is needed.

1:1 Confession is not a grocery list of sins, and saying a multitude of prayers to make up for our mistakes. At it’s best, the Sacrament of Reconciliation not only allows us to drop the chains which keep us tied down to worry, anxiety, and hopeless consumption, but to receive Spiritual Direction and healing.

In offering counsel to the penitent, the priest aims not to instill piety, but to guide each individual in such a way that helps avoid future chains. It also offers hope that even though we have fallen, we ALWAYS get another chance.

If there is anything which has you down, I would encourage you to try out Confession with a priest you are comfortable with, and would ask that as we walk with Christ together, you might pray for me, a sinner. +

A Prayer of Confession…….

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I have recently finished a book on prayer that put a special emphasis on monasticism and making room for silence in order to hear God’s call.

In light of that material I have decided to forego the regular pace of this blog tonight….. and spend some time reading and listening rather than the usual talking and commenting on the Scriptures.

However, I don’t want to leave my readers hanging in terms of content for reflection…So I share with you a prayer of Confession that we used for Back to Church Sunday.

As someone who struggles daily against laziness and sloth I think I’m going to integrate it into my spiritual practice and definitely think it is worth sharing with others :).

Eternal God,
you asked for our hands, that we might use them for your purpose;
but we gave them for a moment, then withdrew them…
for the work was hard.

You asked for our mouths to speak out against injustice;
But we gave you whispers….
That we might not be accused.

You asked for our eyes to see the pain of poverty;
But we closed them….
For we did not want to see.

You asked for our lives, that you might work through us;
But we gave you a small part….
That we might not get too involved.

Lord… forgive our calculated efforts to serve you only when it is convenient to do so
When we serve you only in those places where it is safe to do so
And only ministering to those who make it easy to do so.

Forgive us,
Renew us,
And send us out as your instruments
That we may take seriously the meaning of our new life in you. Amen.

Lord Jesus Christ
Son of the Living God
Have mercy on us sinners.
At the prayers of the most Holy Mother of God
O Saviour, save us! +

Morning Prayer: September 2nd

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Psalm: 31
Old Testament: 1 Kings 11:26-43
New Testament: James 4:13-5:6

Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin. (James 4:17)

While hearing this Scripture read at the Cathedral this morning I was immediately reminded of the 2nd Murder’s speech from Shakespeare’s Richard III:

Skip ahead to 6:35 ff. to hear the speech and subsequent dialogue

When debating whether to kill the Duke of Clarence and collect their fee from Richard, the assassin proclaims that he won’t meddle with conscience because it only leads to guilt, trouble and inability to do what we wish.

If only turning off that still small voice was so easy.  Our conscience is what helps us to determine the will of God and the road of sin.  Without it, there can be no living in holiness…nor is there anything  to keep us from living in chaos.

I would love to be able to be fun and fancy free…..and yet….I am entirely too human…and conscience indeed comes into play…especially if I do something bad.

The warning from James–although directed to the rich who squander wealth–speaks to us all.  As much as a guilty conscience can convict us, a clear conscience can enable us to live with joy and peace.

I pray that this day we find peace in our souls…..and if we are restless….that the Spirit will move us to repent and be healed by the Great Physician which heals all malady and makes hearts of cold stone into beating hearts of flesh with the power to love +

Evening Prayer: July 23rd

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Psalm: 138, 139
Gospel: Mark 6:1-13
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from the 2nd Letter to the Corinthians by St. John Chrysostom

[The disciples] went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them (Mark 6:12-13)

I always find it interesting that the commissioning of the disciples is so simple. 🙂

Notice that Jesus doesn’t ask the 12 to go around asking people if they had accepted Christ as their own personal Lord and Saviour. In fact, that approach to evangelism is nowhere to be found.

Instead, the instructions are to travel light and to accept hospitality. The content of the disciples preaching was not on doctrine, but on a call to repentance and a conversion of the heart.

I wonder if churches today–for all their focus on social justice and communicating the love that God has for all creation– are as eager to preach this message of radical change as the early followers of Jesus.

You see….repentance is not a popular message…..we like absolution, Grace, and forgiveness….but repentance not so much.

I suspect that part of the reason for this is that when we confront all our sins and wrong-doing, we are faced with the reality that we are not living our lives the way we ought.

Although it might not seem like it….this attitude is extremely counter-cultural. We live in a world that emphasizes over and over that our short-comings are due to a lack of self-confidence, that we are all good moral beings, with no need for God and simply in need of embracing our own system of ethics.

Tomorrow morning, I have the joy of leading the Liturgy of the Word at our regular Eucharist. As part of that ministry, I have the privilege of inviting people to confess their sins……inviting them to confront the ugliness of their lives…..and to earnestly seek God’s guidance and assurance that even though we are not perfect, God will use us to reflect his glory and be living icons to the world.

The apostles call to repentance is not to make us feel bad about ourselves…but so that we can claim Grace and forgiveness as our own. A chance to make the abstract personal…and that the Perfect Physician will heal us completely in body, mind and spirit. +

Morning Prayer: June 9th

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Psalm: 105:1-22
Old Testament: Ezekiel 18:1-4;19-32
New Testament: Hebrews 7:18-28

‘Why should not the son suffer for the iniquity of the father?’ When the son has done what is lawful and right, and has been careful to observe all my statutes, he shall surely live. The person who sins shall die. A child shall not suffer for the iniquity of a parent, nor a parent suffer for the iniquity of a child; the righteousness of the righteous shall be his own, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be his own. (Ezekiel 18:19-20)

It may not seem like it on first read….but this prophetic shift in Ezekiel is HUGE . When the law of YHWH was revealed at Sinai, it was made explicitly clear that sin is a generational burden.. Of course the opposite was true as well……righteousness also extended to children…but the idea was that everyone was responsible for the whole well-being of the community.

Now…God declares through Ezekiel that the old ways are gone. God has now decided that each individual is only responsible for him or herself.

In an amazing declaration, God declares that the wicked who repent will no longer have their sins remembered….that they will be washed clean indeed. Through the power of Grace and Love, there is no point where we are beyond redemption. Alleluia! Alleluia!

If you get a chance in the next little bit, why not gather with a priest and celebrate the Sacrament of Reconciliation? It gives us a chance to confess to God our sins…those times when we have missed the mark, and to gain encouragement from a fellow brother or sister in Christ to continue striving to live fully in the Lord.

More than that, we are given absolution. reminded that Jesus came to save us, and rejoices over one sinner who returns than 100 righteous ones. I for one, place hope in that promise. 🙂

Each day, we are given the chance to embrace our hearts of flesh…..and to remember that through Christ….all sins are forgiven, and we are loved beyond all telling.

My dear readers…..my brothers and sisters…go in peace and pray for me, a sinner + ❤

Morning Prayer: Maundy Thursday

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Psalm: 102
Old Testament: Jeremiah 20:7-11
New Testament: 1 Corinthians 10:14-17; 11:27-32

Ever wonder why we say the General Confession before receiving the bread and the wine of the Eucharist??? We get that idea from Paul’s warning to the Corinthians this morning:

Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be answerable for the body and blood of the Lord. Examine yourselves, and only then eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For all who eat and drink* without discerning the body,* eat and drink judgement against themselves. (1 Cor 10:27-29)

In confessing our sins to God, and by sharing the sign of peace with our brothers and sisters we are forgiven and reconciled. In those liturgical actions, any restraint from receiving Christ’s Body and Blood are shattered and broken.

Of course, it is not always necessary that the exact prayer of Confession be said…..but there is a real sense that one who approaches the altar should know what they are getting themselves into.

On the flip side, we must keep in mind that Jesus feasted with tax collectors and sinners…he never put any conditions on his hospitality. He simply welcomed them with loving arms. Asking that we–in turn–accept his love and free gift of grace. 🙂

In receiving Christ’s very Self and making it a part of our own bodies, we cannot help but be changed. We cannot help but receive the gifts of the Spirit and be given perfect remission of our faults and failings. For Christ died once for all. No matter how heinous your sins, they are both forgiven and forgotten in the name of Jesus.

By using ordinary things, God takes the fruits of the earth and makes them into something extraordinary. We too are made extraordinary by that spiritual food and drink…refashioned into a new creation that brings life, healing, and wholeness to the world.

So….as we celebrate this most Holy Thursday:

Come all you who love God and want to love God more.
Come, you who have tried to follow Jesus, and you who have failed.
Come, you who have been here many times, and you who have never been before.
Come, because it is Christ who invites you here.

Thanks be to God!+

Morning Prayer: Ash Wednesday (March 9th)

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Psalms: 32, 143
Old Testament: Jonah 3:1-4:11
New Testament: Hebrews 12:1-14

I must admit….whenever the big Holy Days in the calendar arrive, I always feel myself pulled in a million different directions. Should I talk strictly about the readings appointed for the day? Should I explain the rationale behind the observance of Ash Wednesday and Lent? Should I talk about the major themes associated with the liturgical season??? Oi vay! So many decisions to make. :S

I suppose I want to start by saying that Lent is important. Beginning with Ash Wednesday……we are confronted by this basic fact: “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

Today, we are asked not only to contemplate our own mortality……and to face what is perhaps the even bigger question of “what do I do now???”

I wish that the Anglican Church would add the follow-up phrase to the imposition of ashes that I grew up with in the Roman Catholic church……”Remember, that you are dust, and to dust you shall return; Repent and believe in the Good News

Ash Wednesday is not just about turning away from the things that separate us from God, but to embrace the remedy for the defilement of our sins…to look to the Great Physician who binds up our wounds, soothes our pain, and heals our broken hearts. ❤

The first step in this process is repentance. To recognize and turn away those things which cause us to hurt others, and which lead us away from God; Those times when we live as though we are worthless sinners who cannot be redeemed; forgetting our true heritage as people who have been blessed, cleansed, and purified in the waters of baptism.

Ash Wednesday serves as the wake-up call for this awareness…… to begin the process of returning to the Father, and to remember our true calling: To worship God in Spirit and truth; to bring reconciliation and peace to all.

This is all very easy to write in a blog post…theologizing from a distance…..but this year, it is my hope that Lent could turn into something deeper. I want it to be more than simply an intellectual exercise.

May we all my have the courage to be intentional about getting to know Christ in these 40 days and together, observe a Holy Lent.

I confess to Almighty God
and to you my brothers and sisters
that I have sinned through my own fault.
In my thoughts and in my words;
in what I have done and what I have failed to do.
So I ask blessed Mary, ever Virgin, all the angels and saints,
and to you my brothers and sisters to pray for me to the LORD our God.

+

Morning Prayer: Jan. 22nd

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Psalms: 30, 32
Old Testament: Isaiah 46:1-13
New Testament: Ephesians 6:10-24

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;
I will counsel you with my eye upon you.
9 Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,
whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,
else it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8-9)

Psalm 32 is a penitential Psalm, asking forgiveness for sinning against God. In tandem with Psalm 51, it forms the basis for sacramental Confession.

Growing up Catholic, confession meant going and confessing to a priest 1:1, a practice that I very rarely engaged in. When I did (in high school) it usually served as a way to get out of class for 20 minutes, and chat with the priest for a bit.

Now that I’ve grown up a little (emphasis on “little”) I’ve come to understand the Sacrament of Confession differently.

Whether most Anglicans know it or not, it’s a sacrament we celebrate communally before the sharing of the Peace, and the celebration of the Eucharist.

Confession is not about giving the grocery list of sins to be washed away. Nor is it a way to make us feel bad about ourselves and diminish our sense of self-worth.

Acknowledging those times when we falter in following Christ is all about rededicating our life to following Him. It’s about having that bridle being removed and being given freedom once more.

God wants us to confess, not because he needs us to…..but because in confessing we become honest with ourselves. We become aware of the things in our life which are frustrating to us…..which are stretching us too far…..and which we feel bad for not being able to accomplish.

More than that though, the sacrament of Confession serves as a reminder that we do nothing alone…..that our transgressions are indeed forgotten, and our sin is put away. It reminds us that though there are things in which we fail….God lifts us up anyway out of sheer love. +

P.S. The Anglican Church also has a form of auricular confession, but I will touch more on that when Lent starts.

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