Tuesday in the First Week of Lent: Feast of Bishop Quintard

“The Lenten season is especially a season of prayer”
The Rt. Rev. Charles T. Quintard

Bishop Quintard’s words are particularly poignant as the Lord’s Prayer appears in today’s reading from the Gospel of Matthew. In fact, all three of our readings today encourage us to pray–the prophet Isaiah exhorts us to “Seek the Lord while he may be found, call upon him while he is near;” and the Psalmist reminds us that “his ears are open to their cry.”

Clearly God wants to hear from us, but how do we do it? Prayer is hard. Talking to the Creator of the Universe seems like a challenge. Is there some secret formula? Can we pray for what we want, or just what we need? Should we pray only for ourselves, or for others? Do we have to stand, or kneel, or bow our heads? Thankfully, Scripture gives us some guidance, and it seems quite simple. The first step, as Former ABC Rowan Williams said, is to boldly assert that God is our Father.

In seventy-two words, Jesus teaches his disciples how to pray, but he also gives us what N.T. Wright calls “the means by which the church celebrates what has been accomplished already in Christ and strains forward for what lies ahead.” As Episcopalians, the Lord’s Prayer forms a central part of our liturgy as it appears in almost every service from Morning and Evening Prayer to the Holy Eucharist to Baptism. The Lord’s Prayer gives us the template for our individualized prayers and gives us something to fall back on when we don’t know exactly what to say.

Having this immediate familial access to God gives us comfort and hope in times of suffering. It can be the only solace when a family member is sick or dying. It can give us the strength to persevere in the most adverse of circumstances because we know God is with us.

As we continue to journey through Lent, let’s remember Archbishop Welby’s call to just pray.

Matthew Taylor

Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 55:6-11, Psalm 34:15-22, Matthew 6:7-15

This reflection also appears on the Pathways through Lent blog sponsored by St. John’s Episcopal Church – Lafayette Square.

February 14

Today’s Gospel reading confuses me.

I don’t understand how a human can live 40 days without food.

 

well, that’s all.

First Friday of Lent: Ezekiel and the Sins

It took an entire day for me to forget about my newest Lenten Discipline–writing reflections on the day’s text. To be fair, I had the bus ride from… hell… on the way back from Baltimore and it took me a while to recover.

So, here we are on the First Friday of Lent. Ash Wednesday is over–now we’re just beginning to see if we can keep up with the disciplines we started two days ago.

As a recent convert to the liturgical religions, a Southerner, and an omnivore, not eating meat on Wednesday was a real struggle. I managed breakfast because there was no meat available. A PB&J lunch got me through until a Mediterranean dinner. I’ve decided that I can go full-Veggie on Good Friday, but until then, Fridays will be no-red-meat. A compromise I think I can live with.

Oh, back to the reflection.

Today’s reading from the Old Testament comes from Ezekiel. The BCP says to read Ezekiel 18:1-4 and 25-32, but Mission St. Clare included the in-between text–and wow. That’s a lot of sin to worry about.

Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Thankfully, the lectionary reading emphasizes the most important part: We’re only responsible for our own sins. Not those of our parents or grandparents or our children. God only holds us responsible for our own iniquities.

if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period, 7 does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8 does not take advance or accrued interest, withholds his hand from iniquity, executes true justice between contending parties, 9 follows my statutes, and is careful to observe my ordinances, acting faithfully such a one is righteous; he shall surely live, says the Lord GOD.

I’m still confused why we decided it was okay to charge interest.

 

Ash Wednesday: Remember You are Dust, and to Dust You Shall Return

Since deciding to join a liturgical church, I’ve been struck by the Gospel Reading for the Holy Eucharist Today:

And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.

But at the same time, the prophet Daniel tells us:

Then I turned to the Lord God, to seek an answer by prayer and supplication with fasting and sackcloth and ashes.

and the prophet Isaiah says:

Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the Lord?

So, today, I washed my face, showered, packed a lunch (with no meat), and received the imposition of ashes.

The imposition of ashes and all of the other traditions associated with Ash Wednesday are beautiful. They remind us that we truly are “stardust.” Despite our stress, our desires, and our deeds, we are merely specks of dust in the universe.

Thankfully, despite our insignificance, God gave his only son Jesus Christ that we might attain Salvation.

As this is the first day of Lent, I’ve been trying to decide what my Fast or Rule will entail over these next 40 days.

To begin, I’m going to give up alcohol with an ABV over 20%. I should also try to fast from beer, but… maybe next year?

I’m going to try to conform with the Catholic practice of no meat on Fridays or other fast days. So, my lunch today is a PB&J.

I’m going to try to brew my own coffee and pack my own lunch. We’ll see how this goes.

I’m also going to try to remember to say the Noonday Office each weekday.

So, therefore, I wish you all a Holy Lent. May we each find true repentance through Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord.

 

Shrove Tuesday/Mardi Gras/Pancake Day

2 Surely I am too stupid to be human;
I do not have human understanding.
3 I have not learned wisdom,
nor have I knowledge of the holy ones.

Proverbs 30:1-33

How often have we felt the same way Agur the Oracle felt? After a bad grade? A failed job interview? Another ghosted date?

Immediately following the passage from the book of Proverbs in today’s office are an important reminder:

Surely, it is God who saves me; *
I will trust in him and not be afraid.

For the Lord is my stronghold and my sure defense, *
and he will be my Savior.

Despite all our human limitations, God is there for us.

Happy Mardi Gras, y’all!

Lent Reflections: Shrove Monday? Lundi Gras?

The new thing among Millennial Liturgical Christians (MLCseems to be taking on a new spiritual discipline during Lent instead of fasting from a “vice.” We also tend to blog a lot. So, I’m combining those two things by writing a brief reflection on each day’s Daily Office readings. I know Lent doesn’t begin until Wednesday, but I’m decided to get a head start because of today’s readings.

While daily prayer has its roots in the ancient church, the modern Daily Office was codified during the English Reformation as one of “Structural Supports” of Anglicanism. We have Morning, Noonday, and Evening Prayer, and Compline. The Offices are rich in ancient texts and contain prayers passed down through the centuries.

They also follow a cycle. On Sundays, we hear from the Revised Common Lectionary on its three year cycle (for reference, we’re on Year 3, which focuses on the Gospel according to Saint Luke). For the Daily Office, there’s only a two year cycle, which can be found beginning on page 934 of the 1979 Prayer Book or at one of these other resourcesWe’re currently in Year 2 of the  Office Lectionary.

This morning, we read from  Psalms 25, Proverbs 27:1-6, 10-12, Philippians 2:1-13, and John 18:15-18, 25-27.

Peter’s actions in today’s Gospel readings are some of the most comforting words in Scripture. I think they can really help us through our doubts and failings. Peter, who had just been with Jesus in the garden, denies that he was one of Jesus’ followers three times!

Living as an MLC™, I think we frequently have moments where we want to deny our Christianity. It may not be as explicit as Peter, but we also don’t want all the baggage that comes along with being Christian.

I’ve caught myself talking about church and then quickly following up with “but we’re not like those other Christians.”

Which I should stop.

The Gospel message is that Christ came to save Sinners. He came because he loves us, and has always loved us, and will always love us.

Lord, help me to remember to not be ashamed of the Gospel.

That they may all be one

‘I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us,* so that the world may believe that you have sent me.

I want to be Catholic.

There I said it. I admitted it.

I want to be part of One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church.

I want to be part of the worldwide Communion of believers.

Jesus of Nazareth calls us to follow him. He wants us to remain one body.

We believe in One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.

But it seems that from the moment Christ ascended into heaven, the Church has been doing everything it can to avoid that mission of universality and ecumenicism.

In the book of Acts, in the very beginning of the Jesus Movement, a debate arose over circumcision. Soon debates arose over whether eating food sacrificed to idols was acceptable.

10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters,* by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you should be in agreement and that there should be no divisions among you, but that you should be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.*12 What I mean is that each of you says, ‘I belong to Paul’, or ‘I belong to Apollos’, or ‘I belong to Cephas’, or ‘I belong to Christ.’ 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14I thank God* that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16(I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. 1 Cor 1:10-17 NRSV

Today, the Church is so fragmented that there are 40,000 denominations in the United States alone. We clearly do not know the *perfect* dogma, and perhaps we never will. In Canterbury today, the Primates of the Anglican Communion have gathered. It’s widely seen as the final meeting of the Communion. And now, instead of food sacrificed to idols, we are divided over our treatment of our homosexual brothers and sisters.

Love should guide our path, not dogma.

The Anglican Communion has always been more defined by what we do than what we believe. Lex orandi, lex credendi. We pray what we believe. What holds us together as Anglicans is our Common Prayer. The English Church brought us the Holy Scriptures and the Mass in our own tongues.

We can disagree. We can bicker. But we must remember that we are all members of the same family. One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism.