Ash Wednesday is always a poignant day -- a day when we admit our human weakness, willfulness and wanton disregard for other people and interests beyond our own. The tragic deaths of 14 high school students and three teachers in Parkland, Florida, amid the shooting still more, drives home how far we have fallen from the life to which God calls us -- one in which all shall ...
"sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees,
and no one shall make them afraid;
everyone can live in peace under their own vine."
Our Bishops, who went directly to the scene in Newtown upon receivling word of the school shootings at Sandy Hook, have reached out to the Episcopal bishop of Southeast Florida, to offer their prayers and assistance as colleagues who have also responded to the horror of a mass shooting at a school. They are among the founders, and Bishop Douglas is one of the co-convenors, of "Bishops United to Prevent Gun Violence," whose powerful letter Bishops Ahrens and Douglas commend to us all. You can find it here.
In their letter, Bishops United mourn the deaths of all who perished in Wednesday's shootings, and single out "... with particular sorrow Carmen Schentrup, a 16-year-old student at the school and leader in the youth group at St. Mary Magdalene Episcopal Church in Coral Springs, who died at the hands of the gunman." Later in the letter, they recall the death of Ben Whieeler, an active young parishioner of Trinity Church, Newtown (renowned for his encyclopedic knowledge of lighthouses); three years ago, Ben's father David asked us, "to look at [our] children and then ask [our]selves, "Am I doing everything I can to keep them safe? Because the answer to that question, if we all answer honestly, clearly is no." That's the sort of candor that Ash Wednesday asks of us. In return, our Ash Wednesday prayers offered the Holy Spirit's aid in changing course -- otherwise known as "repentance."
We were also challenged on Ash Wednesday by the Letter to the Episcopal Church, from the Presiding Bishop and the President of the House of Deputies, calling for a Day of Prayer on the Church's role for good and ill in the sexual exploitation and harassment by the powerful of those with less power and agency -- most often the exploitation and harassment of women by men. Presiding Bishop Curry and President Jennings recalled the biblical story of the rape of Tamar (II Samuel 13:1-22) in which " a young woman ... is stripped of the power to speak or act, her father ignores the crime, and the fate of the rapist, not the victim, is mourned. It is a Bible story devoid of justice." And it sounds amazingly current. You can find their letter here.
The poignancy of Ash Wednesday was also found in the silences, the readings, the attentiveness of worshippers, the prayers, and, at the 7 p.m. service, the Choir's beautiful anthem, and the hymns chosen by Music Director Mark Sullivan, plus his prelude and postlude. The brief child-friendly service at 5:15 p.m. was a special treat; I won't speak for the kids, but I needed to be reminded, "Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so."
Thanks to all who helped us get ready for Ash Wednesday at the Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper, especially the LaFata family, Sue Shackford, Cindy Smith and Dennis Burke, among others. Two pre-birthday cakes took me totally by surprise! Thanks for the good wishes.
On the first Tuesday in Lent, February 19, our Lenten Soup Suppers will return. We will be joining The Good Book Club's reading and discussion of the Gospel according to Luke. The Tuesday discussion's will parallel those of Sundays' Rectory Forum. We will be joining Episcopalians across the world in reading and meditating together on the Gospel according to Luke in response to Presiding Bishop Michael Curry's personal invitation -- which you can view here. On that same page, you can sign up to receive weekly updates, and/or to sign-up for daily meditations through Forward Day-by-Day here via your favorite electronic media. A few print copies remain, and clever posters with the daily readings, are still available in the church and parish office.
Lent Madness returned on "Ash Thursday" with a face-off between the saints on either side of Jesus in the window over our altar. It was a very close contest! Friday's, between Queen Margaret of Scotland and King Charles I of England seems to be heading for a very lop-sided victory (pun not intended). But I felt the winner because I learned things about both of them, and can better appreciate why they both have such ardent admirers. A few copies of "The Definitive Guide" remain available for $3 each, but you can participate totally on-line by registering in the top right column here.
The weather forecasters are doing their level-best to make us anxious about the snowfall they tell us is coming our way on Saturday night. Looks like the snow is expected to begin falling after 6 p.m. and be done by 4 a.m. I don't know how things will be in your neighborhood, but in mine, on the Green, the streets will have been plowed, and arrangements have been made for our sidewalks, driveway and steps to have been cleared, salted and sanded. So, I'm hoping that we can go ahead with our planned Mid-morning Breakfast of French toast, bacon and sausages on Sunday, February 18! Our In-Reach Committee has been making all sorts of preparations to greet us between the 8 and 10 a.m. services. Please plan to stay after or come early for the service of your choice, to enjoy a home-cooked breakfast together! In the event that my breakfast-hopes are dashed, I will send out a message early Sunday morning.
In the meantime, I look forward to continuing with you -- our Lenten prayers, reading God's Word, and holding onto God's call for us to live more fully the faith that has claimed us.
In faith, hope and love,
We feature various authors from around our parish, commenting on topics of interest to our community. Enjoy! Comment if you are so moved!