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. +

Evening Prayer: Tuesday in Holy Week

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Psalm: 94
Gospel: John 12:20-36
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from On the Holy Spirit by St. Basil

Over the last few Sundays, the Church has been reading from the Gospel of John. In each of the readings–The Wedding at Cana, Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus and the Samaritan woman, Jesus and the man born blind, and Jesus raising Lazurus–there is always mention of Jesus’ “time”.

Initially Christ is reluctant, telling his mother that the hour has not yet come. He warns Nicodemus that the time is coming when all people must be born from above. In speaking with the Samaritan woman, he states that the time is coming and is now here when all people will not worship God on mountains but rather in Spirit and in truth.

The final two miracles act as an unmistakable sign that the Kingdom of God and the reversal of the status quo has officially begun.

Now….some Greeks ask to see Jesus. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like Jesus grants their request. These are the words that come out of his mouth:

β€˜The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:23-24)

Here our Lord makes a definitive statement…..the hour has come and somehow it involves death and bearing fruit. It may not seem like it at first, but this cryptic statement actually answers the Greeks request……..if they want to see Jesus…..see him as he truly is……they need to see him like this:

Only in seeing the Lord and Friend who dies can we really come to know God. There is abundant life yes…..but first we face the shadow of the Cross. +

Morning Prayer: Tuesday in Holy Week

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Psalms: 6, 12
Old Testament: Jeremiah 15:10-21
New Testament: Philippians 3:15-21

Woe is me, my mother, that you ever bore me, a man of strife and contention to the whole land! I have not lent, nor have I borrowed, yet all of them curse me. (Jeremiah 10:15)

As I read this quote, I was immediately reminded of another infamous person who uttered the line: “I wish I’d never been born.”

In the movie It’s a Wonderful Life George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is pushed to the brink after a series of unfortunate events leads him to believe that he is worth more dead than alive, and that the suffering he causes in the world around him is too extensive. As such, he sincerely wishes that he had never been born and that his problems disappear.

In response, God grants his wish and George is given the chance to see what the world would be like without him. All his friends and family have become hard and embittered. The affordable housing he built in Bailey Park has been replaced with the expensive condos and dissolute living in Pottersville. The brother he saved as a child is dead…and the people whom he has helped are now lost in the streets.

I suspect Jeremiah’s despair was akin to George’s. He doesn’t understand why God is picking on him. He doesn’t understand why he must bear the brunt of Israel’s disregard and be held in such contempt. Here is a prophet who is at the end of his rope.

However–just like George–this persecuted messenger of God feels isolated because he cannot see the whole picture. He doesn’t fully understand teh importance of his words and actions in the context of God’s salvific plan.

What Jeremiah doesn’t know is that:

And I [God] will make you to this people
a fortified wall of bronze;
they will fight against you,
but they shall not prevail over you,
for I am with you
to save you and deliver you,

says the Lord.
I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,
and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless. (Jeremiah 15:20-21)

When God puts us in the world…or gives us a ministry…..he never fails to equip us. We may feel discouraged, persecuted and weak….but we are assured time and again that God is with us in our struggles.

As we go through this week…may we be reminded that our stumblings indeed have a direction and that our vision may not be able to see the wider view…..the view that brings us salvation, comfort and glory to God in the highest heaven. +

Evening Prayer: Shrove Tuesday (March 8th)

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Psalms: 36, 39
Gospel: John 1:18-29
Patristic Reading: N/A

For I am but a sojourner with you;
a wayfarer just as my forbears were (Psalm 39:12b)

Since the early days of the Church, the season of Lent has been paralleled with the Israelites 40 years in the desert. As a result of the sin of idolatry with the Golden Calf (along with some other major offences) God declares that the 12 tribes must take the long way around, and wait for the entire corrupt generation to die off.

In this 40 year period, the emerging Jewish people are beset by temptations, infighting, jealousy, abuses of power…every trial under the sun.

Likewise in Lent, we read about how Jesus was tempted by the devil before starting his public ministry….of his internal struggle and frustration of trying to explain to the disciples that yes….he must actually die in order for God’s plan to of salvation is carried out. He even faces outright rebellion from his own disciples…..so intense that he must declare “Get behind me Satan!”

In these 40 days and 40 nights…..we too will be stretched. We will read difficult passages, and contemplate difficult teachings. We too will be tempted to cave on our fast. To go back to our old ways because it is comfortable and convenient. We may even be tempted to walk away from God completely :(.

Whatever the case may be…..we are called to make the journey….to see where the road leads…….and what awaits us at the end. May we have the courage not to look backwards; walk forward with confidence, curiosity, and hope.

I will set my eyes on your hill
Jerusalem, my destiny!
Though I cannot see the end for me
I cannot turn away.
We have set our hearts for the way,
this journey is my destiny!
Let no one walk alone,
the journey makes us one.+

Morning Prayer: Shrove Tuesday (March 8th)

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Psalms: 26, 28
Old Testament: Deut 6:16-25
New Testament: Hebrews 2:1-10

While not an official feast-day in the liturgical calendar, Shrove Tuesday (aka Pancake Tuesday, Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday) is BY FAR one of the best celebrations of the Church.

I ❀ breakfast food…….a LOT! So anytime it can be had twice on the same day I am SO in! πŸ˜€

Shrove Tuesday is the last chance to party and celebrate before the Great Lent begins tomorrow–on Ash Wednesday. The 40 days of Lent were/are traditionally observed as a fasting period, and Mardi Gras served as a way to get rid of all the fat and sugar in one's household.

A traditional fast is still maintained by the Eastern Orthodox churches, with the eating of meat and dairy products highly discouraged.

In the West, fasting from food or drink has fallen by the wayside; but many have held on to a tradition of "giving something up" for Lent…or conversely taking something on in order to enhance their spiritual growth.

Today's Scripture for the Daily Office is particularly appropriate as we head into the six weeks leading up to Easter. When children ask "What is the meaning of the Law and statutes of God???", the Jewish people are not told to give a strictly intellectual response. Rather, they are to remember God's saving acts and to tell these stories with joy from one generation to another:

We were Pharaoh’s slaves in Egypt, but the LORD brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. The LORD displayed before our eyes great and awesome signs and wonders against Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his household. He brought us out from there in order to bring us in, to give us the land that he promised on oath to our ancestors. Then the LORD commanded us to observe all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our lasting good, so as to keep us alive, as is now the case. If we diligently observe this entire commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us, we will be in the right. (Deut 6:22-25)

The instruction here is not to give a straightforward answer……but rather to point to the traditions and stories of our faith; to contemplate them and turn them over in our minds….looking at things with a new perspective. Remembering the WHY of what we do….as opposed to just doing it out of habit.

In the next forty days, we are called to remember the story of Jesus’ temptation, his trek to Jerusalem, his betrayal, torture, death, and–finally–rising victorious from the grave.

May we not seek to give straightforward answers…but rather point to the stories of Jesus, and let those narratives guide the way through the wilderness….inviting others to join us along the way +

P.S. EP will be posted a little later than usual since the pancake supper at my parish goes ’till 7pm πŸ™‚

Evening Prayer: Tues. of Advent 4 (Dec. 21st)

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Psalm(s): 111 , 113
Gospel: Luke 1:26-38
Patristic Reading: An excerpt from a commentary on Luke’s Gospel by St. Ambrose

You too, my people, are blessed, you who have heard and who believe. Every soul that believes β€” that soul both conceives and gives birth to the Word of God and recognises his works

The reflection offered by St. Ambrose tonight is particularly beautiful. I don’t want to mess it up too much by analyzing it ;)….

Tonight, I invite you to simply meditate on the words above…..How are we–as believers–conceiving & giving birth to the Word of God? +

Morning Prayer: Tues. of Advent 4 (Dec. 21st)

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Psalm:72
Old Testament: Isaiah 28:9-22
New Testament:Revelation 21:9-22

May he defend the cause of the poor of the people,
give deliverance to the needy,
and crush the oppressor. (Psalm 72:4)

Come, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.’ And in the spirit* he carried me away to a great, high mountain and showed me the holy city Jerusalem coming down out of heaven from God. It has the glory of God and a radiance like a very rare jewel, like jasper, clear as crystal (Rev. 21:9-11)

In Advent and Christmas we hear a lot about Jesus being from the line of David. What is so important about this royal figure??? Aside from Israel’s greatest military leader, he is also portrayed as a fair ruler who was incredibly devoted to YHWH.

The story of David and the righteousness attributed to his person are more than just character traits. They point to something much more important in terms of the Biblical narrative.

The king was not only supposed to be a ruler…but was supposed to lead the nation in the worship and praise of God. That’s why we have David and Solomon presiding at major festivals and sacrifices in the two books of Kings.

The monarchy was meant to represent the strong bond of the eternal covenant between YHWH amd his chosen people. A look ahead to the time when God’s purposes and humanity’s purposes will coincide.

The earthly Temple and the earthly Jerusalem are only reflections of what God has in store for us. He wants us to be his bride. He wants us to enter not only into a contractual agreement with him…but into a loving marriage.

We don’t play up that image very often in the Church….but perhaps it’s one we ought to think about a little more. God doesn’t just want our intellectual assent and belief. He ants us to be in relationship with Him….and for us to form a bond together that shall never be broken. +

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