I invite you,
therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word. And, to make a right beginning of repentance, and as a mark of our mortal nature, let us now kneel before the Lord, our maker and redeemer.
By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord, Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.
—The Book of Common Prayer, 1979
Ash Wednesday, Wednesday, March 2, 2022
Joel 2:1–2, 12–17 or Isaiah 58:1–12; Psalm 103; 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10; Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21
Each Lent we find ourselves again following Jesus into the wilderness, hoping perhaps to find there the next steps on paths to grace and salvation. The Lenten journey could be like that of the ancient desert mothers and fathers who prayed that separation from the material world would bring them closer to the spiritual one. We may feel Lent gives us the opportunity to repent for guilt that has been accumulating all year. Personally, I have seen Lent as only the penitent variation of our yearlong yearning to be closer to Jesus, one colored tragic by the looming presence of the cross on the horizon.
Our culture leads us to expect or even demand resolutions to these prompts, but it was not for answers but rather testing that Christ went into the wilderness. Whatever our expectations may be, that we will cut out that bad habit, that we will pick up that piece of trash on the sidewalk, it is not our aspirations that direct our walk with Christ. Our prayer is not an exercise that we can perfect, nor is our charity just good programming for producing spiritual dividends.
As Christians we are blessed not just with Christ but one another, and we pray and work through this season together.What may be read as confusion or discord has indeed been the song of our Church for thousands of years. Find here our voices raised in praise and yearning and fear and doubt and joy and sorrow, a chorus of witnesses who by the grace of God find themselves waited on by angels.
Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 3, 2022
Deuteronomy 30:15–20; Psalm 1; Luke 9:18–25
Choices as they are framed in the Deuteronomy and Psalm readings today are straightforward and binary. There is good and there is evil; there is life and there is death; there is the Lord—and then there is everything else. When presented in this either-or fashion, it seems like an easy knee-jerk reaction to naturally choose good, to choose life, and to choose the Lord.
But of course, we know this choice is not so simple to practice in real life in the physical world, where much gray area often exists. The reading from Luke admits this path is difficult and continues the consistent biblical theme of seemingly antithetical logic. What does it practically mean for us to give up our lives in order to save it, and what does that sacrifice entail? I am left today thinking about which parts of me are integral to my personhood, and what internal or external shifts are needed to keep God centered in my life so that I do not lose myself.
Friday after Ash Wednesday, March 4, 2022
Isaiah 58:1–9a; Psalm 51:1–10; Matthew 9:10–17
You desire truth in the inward being; therefore, teach me wisdom in my secret heart and Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. —Psalm 51:6–7, 10
This week we start our journey into the wilderness during this season of Lent. Throughout this time, we will be reminded that we are in a season of penitence walking towards renewal and new relationship with God. In the readings today we are reminded of the many ways we fall short of the mark of being righteous before God, sinning by our actions and inactions.
Therefore, our journey towards Easter should be one of deep reflection, personal assessment of our shortcomings, with a humble and honest desire to be made whole, to be of clean heart with a new and right spirit.
One short and sweet prayer I say throughout the day that helps me to stand humbly before God is the Jesus Prayer. With it I am always before Jesus asking to be made clean by His saving mercy.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Saturday after Ash Wednesday, March 5, 2022
Isaiah 58: 9b–14; Psalm 86:1–11; Luke 5:27–32
Who needs Jesus?
Sinners and hagglers
The impoverished and oppressed
Those who are true and kind
The many with quiet, patient spirits
All call for you, your help, your fullness
And if we step forth with undivided hearts
Then step back as treasures
We have seen Jesus
And walked beyond the inside
Jesus is there
In the light, the stone, the pine, hushed and expectant
We see you and sing a lush song filled with wondrous, yielding love.
First Sunday in Lent, March 6, 2022
Deuteronomy 26:1–11; Romans 10:8b–13; Luke 4:1–13; Psalm 91:1–2, 9–16
Listen to this and hear it well (oh well): Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil.
Which part of this do you not understand?
The part about the devil, tempted, forty days, in the wilderness, by the Spirit, led by, Jordan, returned, full of the Holy Spirit, and Jesus?
Seems like life (these days)—full of the Holy Spirit and tempted by the devil… Seems like all of Jesus’ life is showing us this Lent that we cannot have our cake and eat it, too…Maybe the question is all about knowing what it means to be full (don’t turn stone to bread)…Maybe the question is all about worshiping only God…Maybe the question is all about not putting the Lord God or the Holy Spirit to the test…
I know you are tempted to tell Jesus that he should eat and that he should show his power and that he should test God and that he should make his life easier and that no one is watching, and that God will forgive him and that it is not all that big a deal and everybody falls (in love or out) sometimes or is tempted to ask him why he went into the wilderness in the first place.
Bob Marley says you get up and you quarrel every day, and you saying prayers to the devil.
Who in God’s name prays to the devil?
In this temptation story, salvation story—we love to tell the story of Jesus in his glory and sometimes forget his very words: One does not live by bread alone. Worship and serve only God. Do not put the Lord your God to the test.
Oh well (listen to this and hear it).
The Rev. Dr. Mark Bozzuti-Jones
Monday in the First Week of Lent, March 7, 2022
Leviticus 19:1–2, 11–18; Psalm 19:7–14; Matthew 25:31–46
Today’s scripture readings remind us what we already know from God’s Ten Commandments about what not to do. In a sense, they are generally the converse of the Golden Rule: Do not do unto others what we do not want done unto us.
And the Old Testament verses also point to the clarification by Jesus of the overarching commandments in the Gospels about what we should do: to love God, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to love our neighbors as the Lord, our God, loves us.
The Gospel reading points to Jesus’ teaching of when the righteous sheep and accursed goats are asking the Lord when it was when they did or did not feed Him when hungry, clothe Him when naked, etc.
I challenge us in this season of Lent to look inward and ask ourselves “What do these commandment words actually mean for us to not do anymore to others in our everyday lives?” For instance, is slander a form of gossip as well as lying? Are we still in denial about practicing bad habits that we need to give up?
Let us commit to giving up such habits so that may live in Christ.
Tuesday in the First Week of Lent, March 8, 2022
Isaiah 55:6–11; Psalm 34:15–22; Matthew 6:7–15
Thy Kingdom come… —Matthew 6:10
The Lord can be found; He is near. Isaiah describes the rain and the snow— the storms—that come down from the heavens, raining troubles into our lives. As we are bailing out water from our basements, or sloshing through deep puddles, icy wind cutting our faces, we cannot appreciate that storms serve to water our lives, making them “bud and flourish” and ultimately yielding a harvest of seed (to sow once more) and bread (to eat and be nourished).
Psalm 34 tells us God is near enough to hear our cries. He understands our pain: “the Lord is close to the broken hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.” Crushed by the weight of life’s storms: suffering and injustice in the world, our personal disappointments, sadness, anger, bitterness, grief, sickness, and loneliness. Take heart; be encouraged: “The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.”
Finally, in Matthew, we are instructed to turn it all over to the Lord when we pray: “Our Father… your will be done.”
The Lord is nearby during the storms of your life. He understands deeply and stands ready and able to deliver you from many troubles.
Wednesday in the First Week of Lent, March 9, 2022
Acts 1:15-26; Philippians 3:13-21; John 15:1, 6-16; Psalm 15
Today’s Old and New Testament readings portray a similar message. The theme is striving for perfection. As human beings, this is not an easy feat. However, the scriptures provide guidance. When we aspire to follow the teachings of Christ, to reach the mark of the high calling as Paul said in Philippians 3—“I press on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call in Christ Jesus”—we must remember the first and greatest commandment to love one another and your neighbor as yourself, as Jesus said. This is expressed in Trinity’s Core Values (Compassion, Inclusiveness, Integrity, Faith, Social Justice, Stewardship). These Core Values are embedded in Psalm 15; verse 1 asks the question, verses 2 and 3 provide the roadmap to the upright life. If we are able to do these things it is a reflection that we are in fellowship with God. Although we are prone to stumble, we must strive towards the prize of the mark of the high calling that is in Christ Jesus.
Heavenly Father, we thank you for all the blessings you have bestowed on us. Help us to always be mindful of the needs of others and to love our neighbors as ourselves.
Thursday in the First Week of Lent, March 10, 2022
Esther (Apocrypha) 14:1–6, 12–14; Psalm 138; Matthew 7:7–12
Let us take an active part in the blessings we beseech from God. Wishful thinking is not enough. Let us find that desire of our hearts, then stand up and ask for it. Let us be as generous and loving as the Divine who listens to and answers us. Let us open our minds and spirits to accept the gift that will follow; it may not be what we have asked, but it will be what we need.
The last verse seems different in tone from the rest, but it, too, speaks of action and personal accountability. Let us acknowledge that grace from God may come in many forms, including from others who walk this path at the same time as ourselves. It is easier to imagine being a doting parent to one’s own child. Can we feel the same love for strangers? Do, and wish, unto others as you would have them do unto you.
Friday in the First Week of Lent, March 11, 2022
Ezekiel 18:21–28; Psalm 130; Matthew 5:20–26
NPR describes March 11, 2020—two years ago today—as “the day everything changed.” The WHO declared COVID-19 a pandemic. Then President Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from European countries to the United States. The NBA suspended its season.
Out of the depths so many of us have cried to God over the last two years: Help me!
I hope you felt God’s steadfast love break over you like the dawn of a new day.
Morning has not come for all of us. Some of us wait and wait and wait…
Lord, come among those who cry from the depths; help them through their time of darkness. Send us to keep watch with those who wait.
Saturday in the First Week of Lent, March 12, 2022
Deuteronomy 26:16–19; Psalm 119:1–8; Matthew 5:43–48
We are all God’s children, and we have an obligation to listen to Him and obey Him. But most of us think we know better than to heed his commandments and so we ignore Him and follow our own advice. Why should we love those who do not love us but try to hurt us? Sometimes our worst enemies become our best friends. We think we should love those who love us but God says that makes no sense, it serves no purpose. In all three passages of scripture, we are persuaded to let love lead the way.
If we pay sufficient attention to these passages and meditate on them, eventually we will be convinced that this is the path to follow.
Let us strive to show love and compassion for each other because we have one God and Father who treats all of us as his children (which indeed we all are) and let love lead the way.
Dear God, please continue to show us the way and help us to be the children you want us to be, we ask this for your love’s sake.
The Second Sunday in Lent, March 13, 2022
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38; Psalm 22:22-30
Ours is a complex time of global change which grabs at the frays of our fragile social safety net—the safety net God’s prophetic voices call us to sew as we seek to protect and serve our most vulnerable siblings in Christ.
God’s covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15 begins: “Do not be afraid, Abraham, I am your shield, and your reward shall be very great,” as God promises Abraham an heir, with more descendants than all the stars in heaven.
David sings in Psalm 27 that “The Lord is my light and my salvation, the stronghold of my life—of whom, then shall I fear?” Wait for the Lord, David sings, be strong, and let your heart take courage.
In Luke, the Lord speaks to Herod—describing “Jerusalem, Jerusalem as the city that kills the prophets,” telling Herod, “How often have I desired to gather your children as a hen gathers her brood under her wrap…”
These prophetic voices give me reassurance and calm. I am reminded of the transformative force of speaking truth to power, of our responsibility to name systemic injustice, and, as children of the same God, of our call to forge a Just Society.
Farris M. Thomas, Jr.
Monday in the Second Week of Lent, March 14, 2022
Daniel 9:3–10; Psalm 79:1–9; Luke 6:27–38
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Surely every parent has said that to a child, hoping to invoke more civilized behavior! Perhaps you remember: “How would you like it if somebody started hitting you?” (Sullen shaking of head). “Then why are you hitting Johnny?” That “do onto others…” was a daily refrain in our house.
Jesus’ message may not quickly penetrate the youngster’s head, particularly if the head is as hard as mine. What an impossible task—Love my enemy? Give my coat and my shirt? Lend without expectation? Why?
It wasn’t only my sinful nature. All God’s people share that self-centeredness. Daniel admits, “…we have sinned and done wrong, acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments.” And the Psalmist laments, “Will you be angry forever?... we are brought very low… forgive our sins, for your name’s sake.”
In Luke, Jesus does more than forgive. He offers promise: “…Love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked…Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you.”
Katie Courtice Basquin
Tuesday in the Second Week of Lent, March 15, 2022
Isaiah 1:2–4, 16–20; Psalm 50:7–15, 22–24; Matthew 23:1–12
Wednesday in the Second Week of Lent, March 16, 2022
Jeremiah 18:1–11, 18–20; Psalm 31:9–16; Matthew 20:17–28
In Matthew, “The mother of Zebedee’s sons came to Jesus with her sons, and kneeling down, asked a favor of him…She said, ‘Grant that one of these two sons of mine may sit at your right and the other at your left, in your kingdom.’”
Why is it that some of us believe that we have earned the right to special privileges? Obviously these two men were not high born but were simple fishermen. Why then did their mother think that they, among the apostles, deserved to be exalted?
Jeremiah speaks of the potter and his wheel. When the pot, newly created, is not up to standards, the potter uses the same clay to re-form it. So then, neither should our own imperfections damn us forever. We are always a work in progress and continue to receive God’s love.
In the words of the Psalmist: “Let your face shine upon your servant; save me in your unfailing love.” We are told that the Psalmist is King David, whose story we all know well.
As royalty, David thought himself to be above the law. He desired Bathsheba, slept with her, and she became pregnant. So that his sin would not be discovered, he arranged for the death of her husband, Uriah. Through Nathan, God rebuked David for his actions. David confessed, “I have sinned against the Lord.” Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin, you are not going to die.”
Our society often ignores the possibility that an imperfect “pot” can be re-formed. The death penalty denies the paradigm of God’s mercy and eternal love. There are those who have been placed in exalted positions which permit them to act on our behalf, to administer justice. Nevertheless, our system of justice has proven itself to be less than perfect. Verdicts that are found to be unjust are sometimes overturned, but usually after the person has spent many years in prison.
Hubris has allowed us to make judgements in God’s name which are antithetical to God’s teaching. We have, in fact, created a god in our image.
My prayer: Would that each one of us, created in the image of God, be enabled to fully blossom.
Thursday in the Second Week of Lent, March 17, 2022
Jeremiah 17:5–10; Psalm 1; Luke 16:19–31
“Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord...for he shall be like a tree planted by a rivulet, spreads its roots…” —Jeremiah 17:7–8
“He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water, that yields its fruit in its season...and all that he does shall prosper.”—Psalm 1:3
Jeremiah and King David proclaimed the message from our Creator, what He was searching for in humankind. The righteous ones are chosen and compared to a healthy tree planted near still waters.
We thrive and grow in community, so does a tree; growing alone or in forests; in remote areas or in the midst of a cosmopolitan city. A tree’s innate sense of purpose is simply being, spreading its roots deep in the Earth; sharing its resources with those of the same family near and far; extending to the different “others” for their survival.
Balance; courage; soil and water; all are applicable to the health and prosperity of humans and trees alike. At the heart of each species lies the Divine Essence.
We, the Divine Sparks from the Creator, need to take heed to the Beingness in that Oneness.
Friday in the Second Week of Lent, March 18, 2022
Isaiah 49:8–15; John 5:19–29; Psalm 145:8–19
Recently, a friend of mine whom I’ve known for 25+ years, and who belongs to another faith, asked me a question about why I went to church. Specifically, he wanted to know how over the past 10 years I became “churchy,” as he called it. Was it about Jesus, or community, or something else?
My friend knows I went back to church initially because my wife and I wanted our young children to develop some spiritual “muscles,” and that somehow over time, I had gotten more involved in the Council and other areas of Trinity.
What he didn’t know was that Jesus was one of the issues I had with the Christian church before I started going back, or at least my version of what Jesus represented in the Church (with a capital “C”).
I should stop here and clarify that I am not at all qualified to have any kind of discussion about Jesus. I’m not theologically competent; I can’t have an eschatological conversation about the future of our souls with you, or anything like that. So, my thoughts on Jesus should be taken with a large rock of salt. I can tell you that I do have a lot more respect for Jesus now that I know a bit more about him. I liked that he defied authority, and I admired his courage and faith, even when faced the prospect of death as a man. But Jesus is not the reason I am “churchy.”
What I told my friend was that I became involved because I fell in love with the community of people here, and that I enjoyed doing service in our community and neighborhood. Call it church with a small “c.”
Since the reopening of the church, I’ve had the opportunity to see our community in person and it’s only reaffirmed what I told my friend. I’m “churchy” because of all of you. I’ve missed you so much and I’m so happy to be a part of this wonderful community of ours, this church.
Saturday in the Second Week of Lent, March 19, 2022
2 Samuel 7:4, 8–16; Romans 4:13–18; Luke 2:41–52; Psalm 89:1–29 or 89:1–4, 26–29
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. —Philippians 3:13–14
Reading the passage above reminds us to focus on the future, rather than on what we cannot change from the past.
Forgetting what is behind us is easier said than done. We often hold on to the “what ifs” and become crippled by the weight of the past. I find that the Lenten season is a way for me to let go of the past. Today’s scriptures gives us the tools to look ahead, to refocus and keep our eyes on the prize for which God has called us all to do.
Shannon K. Sell
The Third Sunday in Lent, March 20, 2022
Exodus 3:1–15; 1 Corinthians 10:1–13; Luke 13:1–9; Psalm 63:1–8
Moses at the Burning Bush
Moses is in the middle of nowhere, living incognito as a shepherd, years after fleeing Egypt as a fugitive. Perhaps it is getting dark, and Moses knows he should turn home. Instead, he propels his flock further, to a place “beyond the wilderness,” towards the base of “the mountain of God.” What is Moses looking for?
Suddenly, with no preamble, there is a light. A desert tree, a wild bush, erupts in flames—inexplicable, luminous, and frightening. All this time, Moses has been trying to outrun his past. Yet here he is, faced with God’s very Presence, the ineffable “is-ness” of God’s Being.
The flame lights up the night, but also illuminates Moses’ consciousness of a new reality, a fresh way of seeing. This is exemplified in the text’s emphasis on words related to sight. Moses must “turn aside and look at this great sight,” and God “[sees] that [Moses] turned aside to see.” When Moses hides his face from God, it is because “he was afraid to look at God.” The light of God has entered Moses’ life, and he awakens to awareness of how God interacts with the world, and with Moses himself. He is given a vocation— to help lead his people into freedom. This task is daunting. But a light has come into the world—the passion of God for God’s people, unable to be extinguished. Moses is invited to participate in this work. He has caught a glimpse of God’s great vision.
We, too, are called to new sight. As in the hymn “Amazing Grace,” in the light of God’s love, we proclaim, “I once was blind, but now I see.” This new seeing strengthens us to do God’s work, even when we are afraid. God has shown up for us before, even in the wilderness, and will do so again.
Monday in the Third Week of Lent, March 21, 2022
2 Kings 5:1–15b; Psalm 42:1–7; Luke 4:23–30
The Sound of Silence
“My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and behold the face of God?” —Psalm 42
Today we read in 2 Kings about the success of great prophets and leaders participating in God’s saving grace. We see a famous prophet stepping forward as an instrument of God’s healing power to an enemy. We see a powerful leader relieved of personal suffering. Jesus references the story in Luke 4.
While there are many examples and truths contained in the stories above, to me, it is the sound of the young girl that resonates most. Perhaps it is because today is the 12th birthday of my daughter who is, truly and daily, a spirited gift from God. “A young girl captive from the land of Israel…said to her mistress, ‘if only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy.’” A young girl, taken from her home against her will, forced into slavery in a foreign land, living with no status, speaks up through faith and with faith. She is the prophet that, breaking her silence, dares to speak boldly about the living God and in the process becomes a catalyst for the unlikely transformation of another.
I listen to “The Sounds of Silence” by one of my father’s favorite artists, Simon & Garfunkel.
“People talking without speaking / People hearing without listening / People writing songs that voices never share / No one dared / Disturb the sound of silence.”
I think about this young girl. I think we can be her.
“The words of the prophets / Are written on the subway walls / And tenement halls / And whispered in the sounds of silence”
“When shall I come and behold the face of God?” asks the Psalmist. It is when we speak boldly through faith and with faith to those most among us. It is when we listen boldly through faith and with faith to those least among us. May we all see the face of God this Lent.
Tuesday in the Third Week of Lent, March 22, 2022
Song of the Three Young Men 2–4, 11–20a; Psalm 25:3–10; Matthew 18:21–35
Everyone hates hypocrisy. This makes the logic of this parable difficult to argue. The structure is almost syllogistic. We have been forgiven much, and so how can we hold anything against one another? Unsurprisingly, the knowing is much easier than the doing. We are not the masters of our own hearts, and what is effortless for God is impossible for us.
At Easter we will be released from our bondage. All things will be made new and whole in the resurrected Jesus. All debts will be forgiven, and all prisoners released. For now, we watch and wait for the gift of forgiveness, and the strength to forgive.
Wednesday in the Third Week of Lent, March 23, 2022
Deuteronomy 4:1–2, 5–9; Psalm 78:1–6; Matthew 5:17–19
I’m not a big fan of rules, to be honest. I feel like too often when there are rules, people become obsessed with following those rules and ignore what is actually happening around them and the injustices around them. We see this throughout history.
“Blacks can’t sit up front in the bus, it’s a rule.”
“That woman and her child on the border can’t enter our country, those are the rules.”
Sometimes, rules make us callous, mean and ignorant, stuck in our own ways.
Yet today, all of our scripture readings talk about the importance of rules. Jesus describes how he came to fulfill the law and all the rules originally set by Moses in the Old Testament. These commandments bring us closer to God, they give us a starting point to living a just and sacred life for God. They set the boundaries for our life.
However, these rules are just a start. The greatest commandment of all is to love God with all your being and love your neighbor as yourself. May we never forget this commandment, and when it comes to breaking another rule in order to keep this commandment—break some rules, friend.
Thursday in the Third Week of Lent, March 24, 2022
Jeremiah 7:23–28; Luke 11:14–23; Psalm 95:6–11
At night, when I look up at the ocean of stars scattered above Trinity Retreat Center, I am reminded of the words of Psalm 95: “We are the people of God’s pasture, and the sheep of God’s hand.” God’s pasture is the Cosmos, where our lovingkindness, our prayers, our songs, our dancing, our silence, our actions, our hunger for justice should shine like stars in the winter night, surrendering to grace, willing to fall into the eternal embrace of God’s promise in Christ.
Friday in the Third Week of Lent, March 24, 2022
Isaiah 7:10–14; Psalm 45 or Psalm 40:5–10 or Canticle 15 (or 3); Hebrews 10:4–10; Luke 1:26–38
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the House of David and the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said “Hail O favored one, the Lord is with you…do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” And Mary said to the Angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” And the Angel said to her “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, therefore, the child will be called Holy, the Son of God.”
How many glorious visual renderings have we seen of the Annunciation, from the greatest artists from early days to now? This is a scene that begs for visual representation. And yet, we, too, are left mystified.
To fully understand the significance of the Annunciation, we must skip ahead to Hebrews 10:4–10. Hebrews spells out Jesus’ significance in very clear language—offering the superiority of Christ over all that has gone before—inaugurating a NEW COVENANT. The first covenant with Moses is old, obsolete, and passing away.
Jesus says, “Thou has neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices, burnt offerings and sin offerings.” He added “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” He abolished the first in order to establish the second. And by that will the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once and for all.
Hebrews backs up this argument by referring back to Psalm 40:5–10—“In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure. Burnt offerings and sin offerings you have not received, so I said to you, Behold I come.”
By young Mary saying “yes” to Gabriel and to God, she set in motion the foundations of our Christian faith.
Saturday in the Third Week of Lent, March 26, 2022
Hosea 6:1–6; Psalm 51:15–20; Luke 18:9–14
Behold I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me. —Isaiah 49:16
Can a woman forget her suckling child, that she should not have compassion on the son of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee. —Isaiah 49:15
The closeness of a child to a mother’s love pales in comparison with God’s love. His palm is where we reside as he surrounds us with walls that are constantly under His surveillance. Not even death has the power to separate us since the grave has to release us at Jesus’s command (John 5:28). If we call on God in truth, fear Him and love Him, He will hear our cry, and He will preserve us (Psalm 145).
Janet A. Blair
The Fourth Sunday in Lent, March 27, 2022
Joshua 5:9–12; 2 Corinthians 5:16–21; Luke 15:1–3, 11b–32; Psalm 32
The gospel reading from Luke today is the parable of the “Prodigal Son.” This story of rejoicing when “what was lost has now been found” is the third parable in Luke 15 to illustrate this message, but it adds two unique dimensions: the repentance of the “lost” one, and the righteous anger of the other, faithful son. I can certainly understand the elder son’s sense of not being treated justly by his father. And with that, I find that my sense of “justice” is challenged by this and other stories Jesus tells, like the late-starting workers who get paid the same as the ones who started at the beginning of the day. Time after time, Jesus paints a picture of God’s extravagant, generous love and forgiveness. And he rebukes notions of human justice that would place a limit on God’s love, or the idea that those who work harder or live more faithfully are entitled to a larger share of that love. I pray for God’s grace in my life, especially when I am self-righteous and indignant like the elder brother in this story.
Monday in the Fourth Week of Lent, March 28, 2022
Isaiah 65:17–25; Psalm 30:1–6, 11–13; John 4:43–54
When I felt secure, I said, “I will never be shaken.” —Psalm 30:6
We could not have felt more insecure than over the past two years. Our faith was tested, our routines were changed. We wore masks to keep us safe; but they hid our fear and muffled our voices. They made our words inaudible.
Throughout each of these readings we encounter the promise of a better tomorrow: “See, I will create new heavens and a new earth,” “…the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more” (Isaiah 65: 17, 19), and “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5).
When we are faced with trials and tribulations in life we are challenged to go beyond, to persevere and imagine a future state; and to have faith and believe. To be like the man from Capernaum in the Gospel of John, who “took Jesus at his word and departed” for home believing his son was healed as Jesus had promised. For his faith made him feel secure.
Lord, we pray that you will help us to see your promise and feel secure in our faith. Amen.
Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, March 29, 2022
Ezekiel 47:1–9, 12; Psalm 46:1–8; John 5:1–18
In John 5:1–18, we learn of a man who had been ill for 38 years. The man would lay at the pool where those who were disabled would go in hopes of being healed by going into the water once it was stirred. Jesus asked the man, “Do you want to be made well?” In verse 7 the man answers, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; and while I am making my way, someone else steps down ahead of me.”
I noticed the man did not provide a yes or no answer, just reasons why he couldn’t get into the water in time.
I think of the excuses for not accomplishing some of my personal goals: the usual I’m too tired or too busy to work out, volunteer, read my Bible, check in on someone in need. Meditating on this passage has stirred the waters for me and I am jumping in.
I am convicted and, yes, I want to be made well.
Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent, March 30, 2022
Isaiah 49:8–15; John 5:19–29; Psalm 145:8–19
Promises Made, Promises Kept
These readings demonstrate that when God makes a promise to his people, God keeps that promise and expects those to whom the promise is made should strive to fulfill their part of the agreement. In Isaiah, God gives a mandate to those who have been chosen and sends them out to fulfill the mandate among people of his choosing. God promises to care for and comfort those people whom he sends out to care for others. She will care for the caregivers. In the book of John, he gives authority to His chosen Son to carry out His wishes—to do the things that God himself would have done in human form. The Psalmist sings praises to the Lord who is just and impartial in caring for those who love God.
In each of today’s readings, we see that those who trust in the loving care of the Almighty One shall indeed be cared for and never neglected. The comfort of these words resonates during these times of a long-lasting pandemic, of social injustice, and disobedience regarding the care and conservation of this earth, our island home. It is a timely reminder that we should heed God’s words and that we should keep our part of the promise and covenants made between God and ourselves. By doing so, we will lack nothing and reside in God’s love and care always. God always keeps the promises made to us. Let us strive to keep the promises we make to God.
Verna F. Barnett
Thursday in the Fourth Week of Lent, March 31, 2022
Exodus 32:7–14; Psalm 106:6–7, 19–23; John 5:30–47
The scripture from Exodus tells us that God rescued God’s people out of slavery from Egypt with great power and a mighty hand. Soon after, the people forgot who God was and the good things He did for them, and God’s wrath burns hot against them. God spoke to Moses, and on the people’s behalf, Moses intercedes and reminds God of his promises to God’s people. This exchange was strong, and the Lord changed his mind from destroying God’s people. We all need forgiveness and redemption. Have you ever done something wrong and asked God for forgiveness?
Whether our sins are great or small, God can forgive us. He is faithful and shows mercy.
Harriet Tubman (1822–1913) was born into slavery and found hope and courage. From her mother’s Bible stories on Israel’s escape from slavery under Pharaoh, she found her freedom, traveled over the Maryland state line out of slavery, then went back and led several rescue missions to free the other slaves who were still trapped in captivity.
Knowing and serving Christ is true freedom.
A blessed Lent to all!
Friday in. the Fourth Week of Lent, April 1, 2022
2 Samuel 7:4, 8-16; Romans 4:13-18; Luke 2:41-52; Psalm 89:1-29
The God who gives life to the dead and calls into being things that were not.
In Godly Play, our Sunday school curriculum for younger children, some of the lessons focus on the experience of God’s people in the desert. All the stories start with the same reminders: “we need part of the desert in our lives because so many important things happened in the desert. The desert is a dangerous place... When the wind blows, the shape of the desert changes. People lose their way… People do not go there unless they have to. It takes courage to go into the desert.”
We take our spiritual journey through the desert during Lent, and as Godly Play reminds us, it is difficult and takes courage. We get lost in the worries of daily life. Extreme self-denial and/or overly critical self-examination can be dangerous to our well-being. Thankfully, through prayers and the reading of scriptures, we come so close to God and God comes so close to us that our eyes open the wonders that surround us, we gain a better understanding of who we are and what matters, and we learn the best way forward.
Saturday in the Fourth Week of Lent, April 2, 2022
Jeremiah 11:18–20; Psalm 7:6–11; John 7:37–52
Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them. —John 7:38
Water: Water for Life; Water of Life. Water is among the most essential elements of life. Without it, quite simply, we dehydrate and die. Our bodies are made up mostly of water, and when we are thirsty, we must quench our thirst not only to satisfy the desire but more importantly to maintain the body at optimal levels, thus Water for Life. Similarly, such is the relationship with God. When emotionally or mentally parched and in need of sustenance we can turn to God. No matter our station in life, or our conflicts, doubts or fears, God invites us to drink, be replenished and become spiritually healthy with hope and strength. Thus, God is the Water of Life, the God of truth. God’s river of love flows endlessly. The Gospel of John states if you believe, have faith, and abide in the Lord, streams of water will flow from within, and you will live in God’s love, truth, and spirit. God’s spirit is pure, life-giving, and everlasting, and will live inside all who go to God in faith. When we acknowledge our thirst for God and drink the water of life, the joy we attain is manifested in more ways than we can imagine. Our spiritual needs are satisfied in such abundance that we are able to share the blessings with others.
I heard the voice of Jesus say, Behold, I freely give the living water; thirsty one, stoop down and drink and live. I came to Jesus, and I drank of that life-giving stream. My thirst was quenched, my soul revived, and now I live in Him. (Hymnal 1982, #692)
The Fifth Sunday in Lent, April 3, 2022
Isaiah 43:16–21; Philippians 3:4b–14; John 12:1–8; Psalm 126
Our mouths were filled with laughter, our tongues with songs of joy.
Probably like you, I could write a list of things I’ve sorely missed over the last two years because of the situation we found ourselves in. If you’re curious, some of mine are not needing to gear up for a possible battle royale over the last bag of Oreos on the supermarket shelf; knowing what day it was; and not playing a weekly game of NYC Apartment Jenga* to find space in the hall closet for that bulk order of disinfecting wipes (*I should probably trademark that, right?).
The past two years also brought into the zeitgeist wearing face masks. Those small rectangles of cloth covering our mouths helped us be safer, but they also made it a little more difficult to talk and hear each other; and they muffled the sounds of laughter and joy.
Probably like you, I found amusement in new things: buying playful masks, someone’s pet showing up in a Zoom meeting, and ‘No mask, no pizza’ signs (if there’s one way to get NYC folks to follow the rules, it’s cutting off access to our slices). Mirth may have felt a little harder to come by, but laughter connects, lightens, inspires, and grounds us and we can experience the joy of it in even the toughest moments, one chortle after another.
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Monday in the Fifth Week of Lent, April 4, 2022
Susanna 1–9, 15–29, 34–61; Psalm 23; John 8:1–11
Tuesday in the Fifth Week of Lent, April 5, 2022
Numbers 21:4–9; Psalm 102:15–22; John 8:21–30
God’s perspective is different from ours: “You are of this world; I am not of this world” (John 8:23) “and from heaven he view(s) the earth.” (Psalm 102:19). God sees an infinitely deeper and more complex reality than we do.
In Numbers we watch the Israelites, in the desert, complaining about everything from their daily conditions to the food provided. God, who earlier performed multiple miracles to save them, responds to the criticism with venomous speed.
After quite a bit of suffering, relief is offered in the homeopathic form of a giant bronze serpent. Moving on from a really bad situation requires a powerful look at what is wrong, a fearless attempt to see from more than a simple human perspective.
When I pray the Serenity Prayer, which I do more and more in these trying times, I find the challenge is not in finding serenity or courage, but in having the wisdom to know which to use. Wisdom that can only come from God.
This Lent I pray for a glimpse of God’s wisdom.
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.
Wednesday in the Fifth. Week of Lent, April 6, 2022
Daniel 3:14–20, 24–28; Canticle 13; John 8:31–42
This story from Daniel I remember from children’s chapel, mostly for having the best names in scripture, but also for the salvific power of the Lord: King Nebuchadnezzar punished his Jewish political appointees over Babylon—Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego—with death in a fiery furnace for refusing to worship a golden statue. The King incredulously asked them, “Who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?” But the trio emerged from the flames without a hint of singe or smoke, and the king reversed the edict and acknowledged their god, our God.
While the King’s question was probably rhetorical (and perhaps a bit saucy), it’s worth contemplation: who IS this god who would deliver Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego? How does he deliver us today, and from what or whom do we need deliverance? What are the idols?
Our lives may not be threatened by a furnace but the pressures and challenges we all face can feel just as fiery: Perhaps it’s the darkness that fogs my mind sometimes, the whirlpools of toxic work culture, the pain of losing something/someone I love. Could it be the numbing behaviors that distract you from the present moment? Or either the elusiveness of perfectionism or the despondency of not trying your best? What can free us from the things that enslave us?
Words from the John passage respond: “Then Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, ‘If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.’”
These passages about freedom and safety remind us that we are safe in God’s Truth and loving embrace, free from the weight of sin, redeemed again and again, just because we are God’s. We are called to continue in the Word, reading and living the Gospel message, refusing to be distracted by the idols of the day: whether the pursuit of power or money for their own sake, consumerism, or even the false narratives we believe about ourselves. Where and how will you find Truth in this Lenten season? Where and how will you find Truth today?
Thursday in the Fifth Week of Lent, April 7, 2022
Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 45; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38
God with us.
Did you ever have a knowledge or experience that can’t be described by human language? That’s how I feel about God’s love. Our earthly school is a world of beginnings and ends, of measures, proportions, and boundaries.
God’s love is endless, immeasurable, inestimable, boundless. (I like to think of the word “infinite” but can’t comprehend infinity.) God’s love flows deep, high and wide, is everywhere and always, in all, is all. And all of that enormous love, in its incomprehensibly limitless, mind-blowing presence is a gift, unearned and unknowable.
Thanks be to God!
Friday in the Fifth Week of Lent, April 8, 2022
Jeremiah 20:7–13; Psalm 18:1–7; John 10:31–42
Today’s readings remind us to hold steadfast in the face of adversity. The psalmist begs for God’s salvation and is delivered. Jesus escapes stoning, certain of his works and words.
The weeping prophet Jeremiah laments, as he often does. He desperately wants to prevent the plunder and destruction of Jerusalem, to avert famine and foreign captivity. However, the Israelites have responded to his prophecies with nothing but reproach and derision.
He is disillusioned and wants to stop sharing God’s word: “I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name.” But he finds he is physically unable to: “His word was in my heart like a burning fire shut up in my bones; I was weary of holding it back, and l could not.” God’s message burns so hot and bright in his soul that he can’t contain it. It must escape.
Today, we, too, have many challenges before us. I pray that we, too, may not contain God’s truths and convictions within ourselves, that we may not fear disdain and apathy. That we may do the right thing, even when it is hard, for the Lord is with us.
Saturday in the Fifth Week of Lent, April 9, 2022
Ezekiel 37:21–28; Psalm 85:1–7; John 11:45–53
Reading the Signs
Most of us would love a view into the future. Whether it is through reading the daily horoscope or taking some bolder action, we frequently look for insights or certainty into how things turn out for us.
The Bible is full of visions and prophecies. As we set our faces towards Holy Week, these readings are no different. As High Priest, Caiaphas makes a prophecy: Jesus will die for the nation and “not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God.” Ezekiel prophesies that God will unite the lands and that “there shall be one king for them all.”
But predictions are funny things and frequently come with a twist. Through our own dim eyes and limited understanding, we may not always see clearly or understand their full implications. Caiaphas likely presumed that the children of God would be gathered under his own authority, and many listeners likely presumed that Ezekiel was talking more precisely about the two ancient kingdoms of Judah and Israel.
Even as Jesus has been explicitly telling his disciples about his passion and death, as well as the path set before them, they cannot believe his words or grasp the implications of God’s plan.
My prayer today is for a greater trust in God’s goodness and providence. While we may not always discern or fathom what the future holds, may we remain open to God’s will, both for us and the world, having faith that all things will work for good.
“Now all glory to God, who is able, through God’s mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.” —Ephesians 3:20
Palm Sunday, April 10, 2022
Isaiah 50:4–9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15, 47; Psalm 31:9-16
Palm Sunday...the day we celebrate the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem singing Hosanna while waving palms. Today is the start of Holy Week, an occasion to reflect on the final week of Jesus’ life. On this day, the people were praising him. By the end of the week, the people were shouting to crucify him. Prepare your heart and mind for the agony of His Passion and the joy of His Resurrection.
The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens— wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught. The Lord God has opened my ear, and I was not rebellious, I did not turn backward.
Who will contend with me? Let us stand up together. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me. It is the Lord God who helps me; who will declare me guilty?
—Isaiah 50:4-5; 8-9
Monday in Holy Week, April 11, 2022
Isaiah 42:1–9; Psalm 36:5–11; Hebrews 9:11–15; John 12:1–11
In today’s Gospel from John, we are once again given a foreshadowing of the execution of Jesus of Nazareth by the Roman Empire. The Pharisees were threatened by Jesus performing miracles: the ability to teach and explain the law even though he had a limited education, turning water into wine, feeding masses of hungry people with five loaves of bread and two fish, curing a blind man and even raising his friend Lazarus from the dead days after he had died. The Pharisees appeal to the government to carry out their desire for the killing of Jesus and ending his ministry.
Before Jesus heads to Jerusalem, he decides to visit with friends in Bethany. He visits Martha, Mary, and Lazarus. They meet to share a meal. While there, Mary brings in a container of expensive ointment and begins to rub it over the feet of Jesus. She anoints him. It is symbolic of his actual burial soon to come. Jesus sees this act as one of respect for his body which will soon be tortured and killed by the state.
Pray for prisoners and those who face death by governments, including in our own country.
Holy Tuesday, April 12, 2022
Isaiah 49:1–7; Psalm 71:1–14; 1 Corinthians 1:18–31; John 12:20–36
We all know what is coming... The empty tomb, hands probing wounds, disbelief followed by the shock of awareness. But first the betrayal and the mobs. First the perversion of justice and the state execution. First grief and despair...
We know it because we have been repeating it; for two thousand years we have carried the memory of this loss and this hope. Our own years of remembering join with the generations of witnesses. It would be easy to become callous from the repetition. Who wouldn’t choose the security of hardened resolve over destabilizing vulnerability? Bitter certainty can be easier to hold onto than fresh hope.
But faith without feeling is an empty husk. As we move through Holy Week, we are asked not to be numb to the suffering of the world, not to flee or turn away from death. Jesus’ death on the cross and his call for us to take up our own cross may seem like folly to the cynical observer, and yet, “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.”
May we all bear much fruit.
Holy Wednesday, April 13, 2022
Isaiah 50:4–9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32
Do Not Let Faith Run on “E”
Grasping the first three verses in Hebrews 12 prompts a synopsis of chapter 11. The author writing to the Hebrews narrates a litany of believers whose faith was the steadfast principle of their holy obedience, remarkable services, and patient sufferings.
The author urges the Hebrew community to endure their trials by remembering their ancestral champions of faith as heavenly spectators who cheer them on to overcome discouragement. The community had gone through hard times that necessitated them to bear abuse, persecution, and suffering. Although they were compassionate toward one another, they were also precariously close to apostasy: renouncing their faith, drifting from the truth, neglecting their community. Not living intentionally in faith leads to sin; that sin-ridden path hinders us from running the Christian race immersively, thereby separating us miserably from God.
Hence, the imploring call to persevere then and now. When weary and faint, remember how Jesus suffered. Our trials are incomparable to His agonies. Just as our cloud of witnesses endured struggles and proved resolute, we as pilgrims must also persist in faith, patience, and peace—beyond understanding—in the spiritual race. Jesus Christ, being the pioneer and perfector of our faith, sustains our destined pilgrimage with life-giving water, inviolable refuge, and ever-present companionship. Faith in our journey points to an eternal city in a heavenly country where earthly pain ends and perfected justice begins.
Through Jesus Christ, God provided “something better” (11:40): Better things (6:9); better hope (7:19); a better covenant (7:22); better promises (8:6); better sacrifices (9:23); better possessions (10:34); a better country (11:16); a better resurrection (11:35); a better word (12:24).
Do not grow weary or lose heart. Do not let faith run on “E.”
Maundy Thursday, April 14, 2022
Exodus 12:1–14; Psalm 116:1, 10–17; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; John 13:1–17, 31b–35
Good Friday, April 15, 2022
Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16–25; John 18:1-19, 42
Today is a day of broken hearts, of deep worry, the day the Lord of love is broken into pieces by the angry crowd. In many of our churches, we honor this day of crucifixion with a practice called the Stations of the Cross, wherein we go physically to 14 stations around a church or neighborhood, walking with Jesus through the various steps of the passion story.
In fact, we can always go for a walk with Jesus. It’s not a complicated practice, there are no prayers or meditation techniques to learn. You can just decide to leave your house—maybe a new route around your neighborhood, or some beloved place in nature—with no destination in mind, and just go for a walk with Jesus. See what comes up.
You might find that even when we feel very far from God, when the temple curtain is torn and the Holy of Holies is empty, that He is still very near us, to the very end of the age.
Holy Saturday, April 16, 2022
Job 14:1–14; 1 Peter 4:1–8; John 19:38–42; Psalm 31:1–4, 15–16
These passages are so remarkable for the eve of the Feast of the Resurrection. They are inextricably intertwined, with passages so familiar that they are part of our everyday lives.
Job talks of “release” coming.
Peter tells us that “love covers a multitude of sins” and that we suffer “by the will of God.”
The Psalm announces that the Lord is our “refuge.”
It is perhaps John who sums up the meaning of Easter the best. He alludes to the trinitarian godhead and tells us that “I am the way, the truth and the life.” “Believe in God.” ”I will come again.”
As we come to the Feast of Easter, let us remember that Easter is the coming of the Lord, but also that “I will come again.”
Easter Day, April 17, 2022
Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
The images of Easter are always powerfully evocative for me—our lovingly hand-painted Paschal candle, the spring flowers placed everywhere after an austere Lent, the collective warm glow created by the individual burning tapers of the congregation at the Easter Vigil, the baptismal font. They all joyfully shout light and life abundant.
An image that we do not often see in the Episcopal Church is the Orthodox icon of the anastasis (Resurrection) found in almost every Eastern church. This icon shows Christ breaching the gates of hell, often portrayed with two long, broken gates lying in the shape of a cross under his feet. The central action is Christ firmly grasping the wrists of Adam and Eve and pulling them upward out of their graves. In this image we are meant to understand that God’s saving grace is for all people; that the force that woke Christ from the dead is the divine force of creation; that Christ’s resurrection changed everything, for everyone, no exceptions.
Jurgen Moltmann points out that “Christ’s death on the cross was lonely, and his experience alone; his resurrection is a collective, inclusive act that encompasses all of humankind and all of creation—a cosmic event, the beginning of a new creation of all things.”
May the truth of Easter transform our lives and connect us more deeply and responsively to all of God’s creation.
The Rev. Michael Bird, Vicar