Wednesday, March 2, 2022

Ash wed 2022 

 Sin is not a topic we speak of that often in the Episcopal Church. In fact, the joke goes that Episcopal is Catholic light. All of the liturgy and none of the guilt. Well that is not exactly true and is especially false during this season of Lent. 

 It is helpful to remember the definition of sin in our BCP.  “Sin is the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.” 

 This means that sin is not so much the specific act but the effect that the act has upon our relationships. This is a critical theological difference. For many who grew up with the concept of actions being sin in and of themselves, this is a radical thought. By the way the best explanation of this comes from one of my favorite Roman Catholic writers Richard Rohr. 

 This (Lent) is a penitential season where we are expected to reflect on our sins but do that with the definition of sin that our prayer book uses. The penitence is not about changing God’s mind about us, but to change our mind about God. Penitence is about putting ourself back into right relationship with God. Now I wonder if that makes it seem a little better. 

 This fits with an atonement theory that I have been talking about on Sundays as well as with the weekday bible and theology groups. Richard Rohr teaches an alternate view that many Franciscans hold and one that makes sense to me. An angry God that demands sacrifice is not an image of God that I believe is either helpful or accurate. What St. Francis taught was rather than the cross being a blood sacrifice to appease an angry God, Christ saves us by changing our minds and relationship with God. Fr. Rohr clearly states that we are saved not because Jesus changed God’s mind about us, but that he changed our minds about God.  

 What did Jesus do to try to change our minds about God. He loved us and asked us to love each other as he loves us. All of us, every one of us, not just those whom we want to love, but also those who are hard to love. He cared for the last and the least not the wealthy and the mighty. In fact he challenged them to do something about injustice present at the time. 

 I would suggest we consider fasting from those things that hurt people, that damage relationships with others, God and nature. I suggest we fast from indifference and buying into the belief that the world is so fractured that we cannot help. Pope Francis said, “Indifference to our neighbor and to God also represents a real temptation for us Christians. Each year during Lent we need to hear once more the voice of the prophets who cry out and trouble our conscience.”  

 During the liturgy we will read the translation of Psalm 51 from the Prayer Book because it is what the liturgy specifies. However, I would like to take a couple of minutes to look at this translation by Nan Merrill from her book Psalms for Praying. I chose this because the focus is more on what God desires for us. I hope this will help you in your list of things from which to fast. 


Psalm 511 


Have mercy on me, O Gracious One,  

according to your steadfast love; 

According to your abundant kindness  

forgive me where my thoughts and  

deeds have hurt others. 

Lead me in the paths of justice, 

guide my steps on paths of peace! 


Teach me, that I may know my weaknesses, 

the shortcomings that bind me, 

The unloving ways that separate me, 

that keep me from recognizing  

your Life in me; 

For, I keep company with fear, and 

dwell in the house of ignorance. 

Yet, I was brought forth in love, 

and love is my birthright. 


You have placed your truth in the  

inner being; 

therefore, teach me the wisdom  

of the heart. 

Forgive all that binds me in fear,  

that I might radiate love; 

cleanse me that your light might  

shine in me. 

Fill me with gladness; help me to  

transform weakness into strength. 

Look not on my past mistakes 

but on the aspirations  

of my heart. 


Create in me a clean heart, O Gracious One, 

and put a new and right spirit 

within me. 


I have also put into your bulletins a take home assignment. It is a meditation on fasting and feasting that I got from another Episcopal priest. I know that Pope Francis has also sent something like this out on Facebook. Our gospel talks about how to fast and what God desires of us. I think this is a good summary: 


Fast from judgment, Feast on compassion 

Fast from greed. Feast on Sharing 

Fast from fear. Feast on peace 

Fast from lies. Feast on truth 

Fast from gossip. Feast on praise 

Fast from anxiety. Feast on kindness 

Fast from apathy. Feast on engagement 

Fast from discontent. Feast on gratitude 

Fast from noise. Feast on silence 

Fast from discouragement. Feast on hope 

Fast from hatred. Feast on love