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
Joel 2:1–2, 12–17; Psalm 103; 2 Corinthians 5:20b–6:10; Matthew 6:1–6, 16–21
Blow the trumpet for the day of the Lord is coming! What do these words portend for you? For the prophet Joel, it was a warning: The Lord’s day brought darkness, gloom, and judgment. In a year like no other, maybe we can understand Joel’s prophesy like the ancients did, living in a perilous and uncertain time. This season of Lent, none of us are strangers to some of the solitude, self-denial, and testing that Christ experienced in the wilderness. The intentional fasting of Lent may seem redundant or out of touch in our lives.
But neither are we strangers to the love of God, the presence of His angels, or the glory and radical transformation that His coming brings. Neither are we made whole by our wealth and security. As Paul writes to the Corinthians, we Christians live having nothing, but possessing everything. Our congregation, speaking and seeing each other mostly through wires and fiber-optic cables this past year, has yet still stood together in a cathedral of our love, outside of time and space.
This season, we practice our faith remembering that God’s ways are not our ways, and that we can often find our greatest blessings are far from our greatest earthly desires. The voices you will hear in this booklet are those of your friends and family, your beloved faith community gathered in a solemn assembly. I pray you rend your heart with us, sorrowful yet always rejoicing.
Deuteronomy 30:15–20; Psalm 1; Luke 9:18–25
Choices have consequences, said Moses. Choose Life. Love the Lord your God and walk in His ways and keep His commandments. Service-Life—are we really looking at the same choice? Is choosing whom we will serve giving us the choice of Life?
Moses said that choosing to serve the Lord God is choosing to live and not perish. The author of Psalm 1 said that the man whose “delight is in the law of the Lord God” chooses to be planted like a tree by the streams of water fed by the power of the Spirit, producing the fruit of the Spirit, and living forever—with leaves that never wither. Jesus said, “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.”
Choose whom you will serve. Choose Life. The Lord God is the source of Life. A transformed Life is yours for the taking by being obedient to the Words of the Lord God, responding with love to the sacrificial love of the Christ of God.
Love the Lord your God, obey His voice, hold fast to Him; for this is your Life.
Susie White Edwards
Isaiah 58:1–9a; Psalm 51:1–10; Matthew 9:10–17
Today’s readings bring us a very powerful invitation on how to best make sense of our 2021 Lenten practices: “Go and learn what this means, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” In the presence of the Holy Spirit, let’s meditate on the following lines from the scripture, having in mind that the Latin root of the word mercy means to have a compassionate heart.
The Mercy of God:
“…You shall call, and the LORD will answer; You shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.” “Hide your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities.” “Make me hear of joy and gladness.”
Fasting in the spirit of Mercy:
…“To loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke?”
“Practicing “Scandalous Ministries”— the fruit of a compassionate heart:”
“Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?” “Why do we and the Pharisees fast often, but your disciples do not fast?”
May the action of the Holy Spirit transform our hearts so we can live and practice the Mercy of Christ in our daily lives. Amen.
Isaiah 58: 9b–14; Psalm 86:1–11; Luke 5:27–32
Loving God, you ask for repentance from sinners. Who is not one? You know all hearts. All have been sinners. All can be righteous. Help us remove the yoke of clanship and tribalism, so that we are Unbound to love all our brothers and sisters with Compassion and justice. Send these as a whisper of the Holy Spirit.
Genesis 9:8–17; 1 Peter 3:18–22; Mark 1:9–15; Psalm 25:1–9
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth… —Genesis 1:1
There is a clearly defined space for the place where God dwells and where all that is created exists. However, humankind, created by God, is at times exposed to or even exists within the Divine dwelling place.
In today’s Gospel reading we are told of the Baptism of Jesus by John the Baptist. Mark states that the heavens were torn apart and the Spirit, like a dove hovering above, descended upon Jesus and a voice came from heaven. No mention if the two, Jesus and John, were alone or “if others witnessed this happening.” Either way, wow, what a start to a ministry.
“O that you would tear open the heavens and come down, so the mountains would quake at your presence” (Isaiah 64:1). “Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened up” (John 1:51).
As we begin this holy season of Lent, let us be willing and available to dwell with the Spirit when the heavens are opened to us.
Leviticus 19:1–2, 11–18; Psalm 19:7–14; Matthew 25:31–46
Matthew 25:31–46 is one of my favorite passages. The other day I met some friends for a socially distanced beer in Lower Manhattan. I spoke a little about how I work for The Episcopal Church and, inevitably, I started getting questions. One friend explained how she grew up Christian and used to go to church every Sunday but doesn’t attend church anymore. She then said, “Even so, every single time I pass a homeless person on the subway, I feel like it could be Jesus, and I try to be a little kinder, a little gentler, a little more loving.” What a powerful faith that makes us recognize the most marginalized in society as the most important! Even after so many years of not going to church! I want to push her statement a little further, though. I don’t think each person could “possibly” be Jesus, I think that they truly are God. We are all connected to each other by the Holy Spirit. It is a beautiful thing to believe and a beautiful way to live. So, like this passage suggests, never forget to be kind, be gentle, and do your little part to show love to all those you encounter in life.
Isaiah 55:6–11; Psalm 34:15–22; Matthew 6:7–15
Thy Kingdom come… —Matthew 6:10
“Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of His glory!” And yet, this Holy God has redeemed a people for himself and has chosen to dwell among them. He took on human flesh. He lived, died, and rose again for their salvation, and they are now His holy people.
The Psalmist wrote: “His name shall endure forever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun; and men shall be blessed in Him.” (Psalm 72:17). Our hope is a heavenly one—the Lord is coming as the King of his Kingdom and as the groom of His bride, the Church. Now we suffer rejections as He is rejected. But, oh, what a change then! His name enduring; Men blessed in Him; all nations calling Him Blessed! We pray, “Come, Lord Jesus,” and all hopefully, come quickly!
When He comes, our Glorious King, all His ransomed home to bring, and then a new song we’ll sing, Hallelujah! What a Savior.
Acts 1:15-26; Philippians 3:13-21; John 15:1, 6-16; Psalm 15
Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of 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 give us the tools to look ahead, to refocus, and keep our eyes on the prize for which God has called us all to do.
Esther (Apocrypha) 14:1–6, 12–14; Psalm 138; Matthew 7:7–12
“Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you.” —Matthew 7:7
If we stopped there, we might be tempted to read these words and think Jesus is describing prayer as a kind of wish fulfillment. That we tell God what we want, and God sends it to us, like Santa Claus. Or Amazon.
Jesus won’t let us off so easily. God is faithful, yes. And God wants us to be faithful, too: “Is there anyone among you who, if a child asks for bread, will give a stone?” (Matthew 7:9).
Yes, God is like an adult feeding a hungry child. By phrasing this as a rhetorical question, Jesus also convicts us. He’s reminding us that we, too, must provide for the needs of others.
How might you live differently, remembering that you might well be God’s answer to someone else’s prayers? Not in a smug or holier-than-thou sort of way. In a way that takes seriously the Gospel truth—that you are a beloved child of God. Remembering that you are blessed to be a blessing.
Ask, search, knock: God will answer. Be prepared for God to change you in the process.
The Rev. Matt Welsch
Ezekiel 18:21–28; Psalm 130; Matthew 5:20–26
In Matthew 5, Jesus calls his disciples and today’s Christians to a higher standard of law. We are challenged to check our hearts. How easy it is for me to become bothered when I’m bumped by a stranger on a crowded train or New York sidewalk knowing that I’ve done the same to others in my haste. How quickly my heart hardens when I see or hear from government officials, particularly those whose policies don’t align with mine.
Whom have I wronged and not reconciled with? Who has wronged me, and I’ve not given the opportunity to reconcile? Before I present any offering to God through supplication, thanksgiving, or praise, I must reconcile my heart.
Deuteronomy 26:16–19; Psalm 119:1–8; Matthew 5:43–48
Today’s readings focus on three teachings: The Lord is our God and we should walk in His ways; Our ways should be blameless if we walk in His laws; and We should love our enemies.
Jesus exhorts us to keep His statutes and His ordinances and to listen to Him to ensure our being made a treasured possession and elevated above all nations. Therefore, we should apply all three passages to our daily way of life, focusing especially on loving our enemies.
Loving our enemies can prove difficult because if we are hurt by someone (our enemy) our reaction would most likely be retaliation—not forgiveness—and love would certainly not be an option. But Jesus shows us how to react by His many examples of love. One passage of scripture which comes to mind is “Now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1Corinthians 13:13). Jesus shows us how to do this if we walk in His ways and lead blameless lives. His greatest example is how He manifested His love for us and His love for His enemies while He was on the cross. In His dying moments He asked God to “forgive them for they know not what they do.” Only love could make this possible. This example should provide us with His guidance and teach us how to love our enemies as we love ourselves. Let us think on this and live accordingly.
Prayer: Lord, we pray for understanding and guidance, especially when we are tempted to deal with situations in our own way instead of listening for your voice. Help us to be the people You want us to be. Lord, hear our prayer. Amen
Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16; Romans 4:13-25; Mark 8:31-38; Psalm 22:22-30
This past summer Iona and I started our adventures first at the Jersey shore, Asbury Park specifically, where many musical artists were born. One of my favorites, Bruce Springsteen, wrote a song entitled “Glory Days.” The song was written initially as a trilogy—a friend (a boy), a girl, and a father (the “missing verse”). I am reminded of this song as I read the scriptures for this day because the lyrics while reflective are not necessarily the “glory” that is God’s in shaping our lives. Bruce’s glory days refer to “good memories;” but God’s glory often, not completely, refers to the shaping and molding God’s glory within each of us.
In this season of soul-searching and repentance we all reflect and take stock in our faithful anticipation of our rededication of ourselves at Eastertide. In his book, Our Deathless Hope, J.Pulsford shares, “As soon as any member of our race perceives that the world-form of his nature is his humiliation, and the soul within him begins to suffer, because God is so far from his consciousness—these are the best evidences that we can have that his soul is advancing in regeneration and being rapidly prepared for uniting with God.”
The readings for this day across the years guide us once again as J. Puslford does in a reminder of the changing purpose of our Lenten reflection. We are taken on a self-journey one of our deepest nature. The evolution of the spirit within is a path of challenge, fortitude, and love. Resurrection of ourselves, our true selves in our highest form represents hope. Hope is mentioned in all the readings of this day. We are drawn to hope through our glory of refinement and our faith in God. It is only then that we will be the refined tool for God’s purpose. We must not doubt this purpose, for it is the true path to oneness with God.
Daniel 9:3–10; Psalm 79:1–9; Luke 6:27–38
Of the lessons appointed for use on March 1, Monday, third week in Lent,
the verses in Luke are some of the most familiar.
…Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you.
…And as ye would that men shall do to you, do ye also to them.
…Give and it shall be given to you.
Has there been a more appropriate time for us to be reminded of what God requires of us? How have people of faith been distracted from these words which are almost part of the air we breathe? I guess that we have had the most difficulty with “love your enemies,” but we surely know that there is no justification for demonizing those with whom we have differing beliefs.
These precepts are so a part of universal culture, that something similar was written on the monument containing the Code of Hammurabi, which pre-dates the Hebrew Bible…”to prevent the strong from oppressing the weak and to see that justice is done for widows and orphans.”
The verses from Daniel and the Psalms speak of the sins and wickedness God’s people have committed and asks for forgiveness.
…O remember not against us former iniquities.
…To the Lord our God belong mercies and forgiveness, though we have rebelled against Him.
My Prayer: Would be that each one of us created in the image of God be enabled to fully blossom.
Isaiah 1:2–4, 16–20; Psalm 50:7–15, 22–24; Matthew 23:1–12
Cease to do evil, Learn to do good; Seek justice
All who humble themselves will be exalted
Today’s readings include familiar passages that, like the imagery of freshly fallen snow from Isaiah 1, feel new and bring a sense of calmness to me.
“Cease to do evil” is an immediate command. Learning to do good and seeking justice, however, are a continual journey. Neither can be crossed off your to do list in one day. The Gospel reading reminds us that with the Messiah as our one instructor, both good and justice will prevail “and all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Jeremiah 18:1–11, 18–20; Psalm 31:9–16; Matthew 20:17–28
The road down from Gethsemane to Jerusalem that Jesus walked after he was betrayed. A group of Trinity pilgrims traveled there in 2019.
Jeremiah 17:5–10; Psalm 1; Luke 16:19–31
The introductory psalm is one of wisdom. It expresses the personal feelings, attitudes and emotions of the human experience. It contrasts the wicked who ignore God’s ways with the righteous who meditate on God’s instructions. Trinity’s core values—Compassion, Inclusiveness, Integrity, Faith, Social Justice, Stewardship—help us to keep in step with the holy spirit so that we won’t gratify the impulses of our human nature that are harmful and destructive to our souls. The parable of Lazarus and the rich man can be taken as a metaphor for life even as evidenced in our contemporary times. The rich man represents power which existed even before Jesus; that’s why He used it so people could understand the relevance of it. Lazarus is the marginalized, the downtrodden, the poor. Unfortunately, so many in authority use their power to intimidate, humiliate and ignore the needs of the poor; ascribe laziness and worthlessness to people who are less fortunate.
The greatest commandment is love. Love should be universal, not for immediate family and friends; but should extend beyond borders to incorporate everyone. We should be more concerned with the POWER OF LOVE, than the love of power.
Heavenly Father, grant us the wisdom to do what is pleasing in thy sight, to extend love and mercy and treat everyone with the measure of dignity and respect as we would like to be treated.
Genesis 37:3–4, 12–28; Psalm 105:16–22; Matthew 21:33–43
It is easy to judge the people of history with the luxury of hindsight, and to criticize the decisions and beliefs that seem so obviously wrong by the standards of today. I, for one, always worry about how our own society’s current pop culture and values might be seen in a different light in some not too distant future. In today’s passages, we see Joseph mocked for his supremacy dream and sold into slavery by his brothers, and the tenants’ denial of the vineyard landowner’s authority—going so far as to kill the landowner’s son (a parabolic metaphor for Jesus).
As with so many instances in the Bible: the unlikely, the lowly, the outlier— they all seem to prevail time and time again with God’s reversal of their fate. I cannot help but wonder, whether in the commotion of my own daily life I may be oblivious to what is truly important or simply fail to recognize the right authorities and issues that deserve my attention. When we look back, the shiny milestones that stand out are rarely the most meaningful, and the simple mundane moments we take for granted are often the things we cherish most.
Jesus is the cornerstone; rejecting him is fatal, whether we ignorantly stumble over him or willfully deny him. What merits your energy and what did you notice today?
Alan Baker Yu
Micah 7:14–15, 18–20; Psalm 103:1–4 (5–8), 9–12; Luke 15:11–32
Today we are reading in Luke the parable of the Prodigal Son. I can’t remember a time when I did not know this story. Fortunately, it is so rich, so prismatic, that each visit reveals yet another facet. Over a lifetime, those spiritual lessons have taken many forms.
As Paul says in I Corinthians (13:11a) “When I was a child…I thought like a child,” so first I concentrated on the rebellious son. No dissolute living for me! If I never misbehaved, I’d never have to embarrass myself by asking for forgiveness. Age and experience, however, have proved that penitence must come to us all. At least, the celebration of the prodigal’s return made the idea of contrition look pretty good!
The Psalmist today echoes that understanding: “Bless the Lord…who forgives all. …He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities” (Psalm 103:1-3,10).
Later, I stumbled into the mindset of the elder brother. There have been substantial periods of my life that involved day-to-day, humdrum, unremarkable work as a volunteer in service to a church—whether a neighborhood congregation, a diocese, a big church, or a small-town parish— when the work seemed endless and the satisfactions few. As my fellow-volunteer once grumbled, “God doesn’t reward workhorses; He exploits them!” In that frame of mind, it is good to re-read this parable and find these words leaping from the page: “…you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours.” (Luke 15:31)
God is here, in moments mundane and dramatic, holding us close. You are always with me.
Katie Courtice Basquin
Exodus 20:1-17; 1 Corinthians 1:18-25; John 2:13-22; Psalm 19
Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin. —Exodus 20:20
As I write this reflection it is the fall of 2020. The nation is still in the midst of the pandemic which started just about a year ago. A pandemic in which we have experienced much fear and many changes in our lives.
In today’s readings one verse that stood out for me was Exodus 20:20 which made me think of the year 2020. This verse says, “Do not be afraid, God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.” Wow, is God trying to tell us something about how we are living?
I am not sure whether God was putting us to the test. But, if any good came out of the year 2020, I believe it was the changes in many of our sinful attitudes toward life. Many of us now have reconsidered our priorities and values and have a greater appreciation of our family and friends, communities and lifestyles.
I am also not sure what the state of the pandemic will be today. My hope is that we have put our trust in God, are not afraid and have changed our sinful ways of how we live our lives.
2 Kings 5:1–15b; Psalm 42:1–7; Luke 4:23–30
My soul thirsts for the living God.
God is our help; the question that sometimes comes when we don’t know the answer is “where is my God?” Whether or not we express it with hope, we know that God is with us.
We experience God at all levels of our lives. Each and every person whether “kings” or slaves, all are equal—there is no person without some form of need. “Where is God?” God is right there with you.
As we obey and walk the path; when we respect the nameless, befriend all persons in one form or another, we are walking with God. We are one of God’s children.
Where is God? Right here: So in the good times—praise His name. In the bad times, do the same. At all times—know and practice God’s love. Where is my God? God is living within each of us, now and forever.
Song of the Three Young Men 2–4, 11–20a; Psalm 25:3–10; Matthew 18:21–35
Today’s readings include the Gospel, a psalm, and the apocryphal story of The Prayer of Azariah (aka Abednego) in the Furnace. While the story cannot be verified, so it is often left out of the Holy Scriptures, it presents a truth. In the story, we hear: “[We] are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins. And at this time there is no prince, or prophet, or leader, no burnt offering, or sacrifice, or oblation, or incense, no place to make an offering before thee or to find mercy. Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted, as though...and may we wholly follow thee, for there will be no shame for those who trust in thee.”
With election results uncertified and churches closed at the time of this submission, the words seem most relatable. Azariah calls out, fire raging around him, and shows us how to draw nearer to God. With or without the ordinary and customary, God’s love and mercy, our salvation, is in the contrite heart, the humble spirit, the seeker, and the trusting. In spite of our sins, there is no shame for God’s love and mercy is for the sinner. The psalm says, “He instructs sinners in the way. He leads the humble in what is right and teaches the humble his way.” Our sins are not the final word nor does God, through Jesus, define us by them. It is the penitent heart, reflected in humility and trust in God, that will be our defining and our salvation. And, as Jesus teaches so directly in the Gospel, a penitent heart can only fully exist when we forgive others.
In this period of Lent, may we commit more to seek God’s mercy with our hearts, humbly forgive others with our actions, and humbly trust God with our whole being.
Deuteronomy 4:1–2, 5–9; Psalm 78:1–6; Matthew 5:17–19
God’s commandments, the laws of the Prophets, and the stories and their teachings are what make us good. They are what we must give to others, to our children and their children, if we are to make the world better. They are not really hard to understand, but to live them never ends. To share and encourage them in others is even harder. But the hardest surely is knowing, sharing and following them all.
So, we can pause, breathe, and know that God is love. That is what we teach and follow. Every parable, commandment, and lesson relies on this. If we teach and follow this, we embody the Word of the Lord, and can begin again.
Jeremiah 7:23–28; Luke 11:14–23; Psalm 95:6–11
A House Divided Against Itself Falls; “Venite exultemus”
All three readings from the various sources I have used, all echo a very similar trajectory.
A warning to the faithless to God. The results of faithlessness to God. The rewards of faithfulness to God.
That these messages are within our Lenten journey to Easter all speak of the need to remain faithful in challenging times.
In Jeremiah, God’s people “heed my voice, and I will be your God, and you will be my people.”
In Luke as prelude Jesus tells his flock before he casts out demons, “Ask and it shall be given to you; Seek and ye shall find; Knock and it shall be opened to you.”
In Psalm 95 the warning “harden not your hearts…forty years long was I grieved with this generation and said unto whom I swore my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.”
Luke quoting Jesus says, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation and whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters.”
Jeremiah warns, “This is a nation that obeyeth not the voice of the Lord, truth is perished, and is cut off from their mouth.”
In the end it is Psalm 95 that brings us back to future Easter hope. “Let us heartily rejoice in the strength of our salvation….For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods.”
Sources: Jeremiah Hebrew Bible translation from Hebrew, Robert Alter; Luke from Robert Hart Bentley, and King James Bible; Psalm 95 from Robert Alter and Coverdale Psalter.
Hosea 14:1–9; Psalm 81:8–14; Mark 12:28–34
Today’s readings give us the opportunity to reflect on why we praise God. Of all the commandments, the second one, requiring absolute devotion and praises to God, can be difficult to comprehend. God most certainly does not need our praises. The God who gives us free will is most definitely not controlling. So why is the Almighty so often described as a jealous God demanding our praise and worship?
Maybe it is because God is fiercely protective of us as Psalm 23:1-3 tells us: “The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.”
Maybe it is because the time we take away from the worries of life and devote to praising God gives the Almighty the opportunity to show us a glimpse of the abundance of love available to us as Isaiah 54:10 tells us: “Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you.
Maybe it is because praising God helps us gain a greater insight into who we are as Genesis 1:27 tells us: “So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”
Maybe it is because praising God gives us strength in difficult times, as Exodus 15:2 tells us: “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him.”
Or maybe because praising God brings us joy as Psalm 28:7 tells us: “The Lord is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and he helps me. My heart leaps for joy, and with my song I praise him.”
Hosea 6:1–6; Psalm 51:15–20; Luke 18:9–14
Morning Prayer, Rite Two Officiant: Lord, open our lips, People: And our mouth shall proclaim your praise.
For decades, my school’s daily chapel service has opened with Psalm 51:15’s request to make us an instrument of God. At more than 1,500 services over nine years, I stood with my class and acknowledged that we relied on the goodness of God to help us speak the words we needed to say.
When I recite Psalm 51:15 today, my classmates are with me. The verse helps me move to God, even when I don’t know what to say.
Numbers 21:4-9; Ephesians 2:1-10; John 3:14-21; Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22
In meditation with these passages, I reached a profound “knowing” of how God beholds me, cherishes me, brings me into the light, and saves me from the foe.
This “knowing” of God’s love, the three-dimensional certainty of God’s Grace, Faith, and Love, takes on new meaning, particularly in these divisive and discordant times.
Lent calls us to be beacons of God’s love and God’s grace. To answer to a higher calling, to be better people, and, with grace, to forgive the sins of our neighbors.
As the Apostle Paul wisely stated in the Letter to the Ephesians, “For by grace you have been saved through Faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God—nor the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”
Isaiah 65:17–25; Psalm 30:1–6, 11–13; John 4:43–54
Today’s readings are filled with joyful visions, healing, and happy endings. I write, though, in a time of strife and sadness, making the disparity between what I’m reading and what I’m living seem hard to bear.
A bit of perspective helps. We are promised a peaceful land where, “no more shall the sound of weeping be heard” (Isaiah 65:19) and “the wolf and the lamb shall feed together” (Isaiah 65:25).
But this is the 65th chapter of Isaiah. Before that there is much struggle, and many, many bad times. Remember that struggle does end, and healing often grows from pain and sadness.
The grief-stricken royal official, frantically seeking Jesus’ presence to save his son, doesn’t get exactly what he asks for. He wants a house call and Jesus refuses.
Nevertheless, Jesus promises healing and the official surrenders his own vision of things and “believed the word Jesus spoke to him” (John 4:50). And the boy is healed.
So, I pray, will we be healed. So, I pray, will we know peace and unity.
“Weeping may linger for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” (Psalm 30)
Ezekiel 47:1–9, 12; Psalm 46:1–8; John 5:1–18
As you read today’s texts, notice how images of water flow throughout (sorry, couldn’t resist). The ways that water is used in Scripture can teach us a lot about our spiritual practice. From the opening words of Genesis, where the Spirit of God moves over the waters of Creation, to the final lines of Revelation, where the gift that’s offered is the water of life, water gives, nourishes, and sustains life. I particularly love the verses that remind us of how trees near rivers draw life through their roots as if from a secret source. When we become intentional and regular with practices of prayer, meditation, scripture reading, and service, we tap into rich, unseen streams that calm our fears, form our thoughts, and inspire our actions. It helps to become aware of those spiritual deep wells and wide rivers that we can rely on in times of stress and challenge. What prayer practices feel most alive to you right now? Where does contemplation come into your life? Are you able to make time for silence? What kinds of art inspire you? Forming healthy spiritual habits ensures that we will bear good fruit in every season.
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
Exodus 32:7–14; Psalm 106:6–7, 19–23; John 5:30–47
Wrath, a Deadly Sin, is Distinct from Anger
Triggered: Anger stirs.
Wrath, a runaway kid, acts.
Mind the anger and spoil the wrath.
Prayer: May we honor our sensations and feelings of anger to discover the deepest form of compassion and do no harm.
2 Samuel 7:4, 8-16; Romans 4:13-18; Luke 2:41-52; Psalm 89:1-29
In the reading from Luke today, we meet the young boy Jesus, wandering off from his parents after Passover. His parents look for him three days, one of Jesus’ earliest vanishing acts—his ministry will contain several. He’s hidden, he’s revealed again. When they find him this time, he’s hanging out in the temple, listening to elders, asking questions.
“Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”
Did you spot that? “In my Father’s house,” the boy says to Joseph, a man generally accustomed to thinking of himself as the boy’s father. Shocking!
In the crucifixion story, Jesus appears on the third day as something new. In this story, Jesus the Lost Kid shows up on the third day, too, also in some new way. All parents know the story: One day you wake up, and your baby isn’t yours anymore, not in the same way.
This isn’t just the story with Jesus, and it isn’t just the story of kids growing. It’s any of the blessed struggles that come with the mess of being in the world. Yours today, gone tomorrow. Open today, closed tomorrow. Job today, no job tomorrow. We don’t get to keep any of it. It all belongs to God— always was, always did, always will.
And yet, lost sheep and lost coins end up found, one way or another. The old saying goes, “God always has a ram in the bush,” which also means, I think, that on the other side of all this loss, there’s a third day coming for us, just like that boy in the temple, when we too will say, “I was right here, all along,” in the house of our Father, who is in heaven. Where else could you possibly be?
Jeremiah 11:18–20; Psalm 7:6–11; John 7:37–52
Reading this part of John, the reference to water sort of jumped out at me. Since Trinity Institute in 2017, when we focused on water justice, I have been more aware of our dependence on clean water. Water has so much to do with life. Right at our birth, when our mother’s water broke, the way was opened for us. Jesus, after He had given His life for all of us, had His side pierced and water and blood ran out.
Water plays an important part in our Christian worship. At our baptism we were made a member of Christ’s family by being anointed or immersed in blessed water. At the Eucharist we may receive the wine mixed with water. When we set something aside for a special use, we may bless it by sprinkling it with holy water.
We can last longer without food than we can without water and there is nothing that quenches thirst better on a hot day than a glass of cold water. Let’s ask God to help us to be mindful of our use of water and to be more aware of the gift that it is.
Sr. Ann Whittaker, SSM
Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 5:5-10; John 12:20-33; Psalm 119:9-16
In this unprecedented season, our passages today remind us that even when we cannot be together in person, God has written God’s law on our hearts. The Psalm from the Hebrew Bible shows that following the way of God does not, therefore, require performing rote enactments of God’s commands, but rather means pursuing a relationship with God built on passionate meditation and honesty, a seeking of God with, as the Psalmist says, our “whole hearts.” In times of change and uncertainty, we may find that we draw closer to God, allowing verses and stories from the Bible that we have encountered many times, to speak to us in new ways. This is what it means to “fix our eyes” on God—to be focused and directed by a discipline of remembrance—always recalling God’s love and message for us during hard times in the past and reaffirming God’s presence with us now. Our passage from the Gospel of John also highlights that Jesus too knew times of sorrow—indeed, his “soul was troubled.” Even so, he stayed close to the Father, to his own calling, and to the teachings of the Torah that sustained him. Knowing that he would face tremendous suffering, he maintained confidence even in the face of death. We too, approaching Easter, rejoice that despite external circumstances, God is able, through Christ, to “Draw all people to himself.”
Susanna 1–9, 15–29, 34–61; Psalm 23; John 8:1–11
What does it mean to have our souls “restored”? We think of souls as being immortal and eternal, yet the image presented in this psalm is of sheep who would lose their way and starve without the ongoing presence of the shepherd. In Genesis, Adam receives his soul when God breathes it into him. This idea, of a soul that is in movement from and then back to God, echoes the sense of vulnerability and dependence evoked by the image of the sheep. An image of a soul that is not fixed and independent but dynamic—like a breath from God, needing always to go out from and then return to the shepherd.
This Lent, where are the still waters in your life where God might restore your soul to you?
Numbers 21:4–9; Psalm 102:15–22; John 8:21–30
The nations will fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory.
A lot to unpack in that one sentence from Psalm 102. But I look at it and think “politics.” And I am so tired of politics. The other thing that makes me weary are ALL the conversations and shows and books and articles about all the ways to cope with the pandemic. About working from home, how-to’s about exercise, meditation, cooking, etc. I know they’re well meaning, but still…
What I’m not hearing a lot about during the pandemic is faith. How to have it, how to practice it. And maybe it’s just me. That’s entirely, entirely possible. Because ironically, for an introvert, I find that not being around the congregation, the clergy, Mildred, Dolores, Lorna, and all the other people of Trinity makes my light, my faith, dimmer.
So I have to work harder for my faith right now. And the lessons in front of me aren’t much fun. I have two teenage boys, many of you know them. And as lovely as they can be, they’re still teenagers. And they have a job, which is to pull away, to create their own identity, a lot of times by dismissing mine. My job? To not get my feelings hurt, or at least not show it, and to trust that they have a God, too. To let go. And of course, to love them.
Even as I write this, I think of my friend Stacy, who always tells me that if my problems seem too big, it’s time for me to get a bigger God. A God bigger than any pandemic, any politician, bigger than adolescence and puberty. A God that I can place my faith in and let go.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
Daniel 3:14–20, 24–28; Canticle 13; John 8:31–42
Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free. —John 8:32
America had it rough in 2020.
A horrific pandemic, a Presidential election fraught with anxiety, civil unrest, increased job loss, poverty, and homelessness, and, amid all that, a heated division in beliefs of what was and was not true.
Our regular and dependable places for knowledge and learning, like libraries and schools, were either closed entirely or bravely trying to make it through the year, just like the individuals they served.
Now we find ourselves in 2021 and Spring has recently begun. We have learned to live, as much as we can, inside of a pandemic and, also, hopefully, how to better listen and learn. Perhaps our division in beliefs of what is true has receded, but, if not, possibly this spring, a time when seeds take root and life begins to awaken from the cold slumber of the preceding season, will be the harbinger of a chance to find common ground with each other and create a space where truth sets us all free.
Terrell L. Moody
Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 45; Hebrews 10:4-10; Luke 1:26-38
In the Gospels, Jesus often reminds his companions that he “came not to be served but to serve” (Matthew 20:28) and that his purpose is to do “the will of him who sent me” (John 4:34, John 6:38). We might think that Jesus, being divine, found these assignments easy to accomplish. But what about his anguished plea at Gethsemane: “Father…remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22:42)? What if, rather, Jesus was inspired by the example of obedience and service offered by his human mother at the Annunciation?
God gives both Mary and Jesus seemingly unfulfillable tasks: give birth as a virgin; die and rise again. But Gabriel reassures (Luke 1:37), and Jesus echoes (Matthew 19:26), “nothing will be impossible with God.” Mary, at great personal risk, responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be.” Decades later, Jesus proves “obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:8).
This Lent let us consider how we respond when God makes a request of us: especially one requiring courage and faith, which might bring an unforeseen miracle into the world.
Jeremiah 20:7–13; Psalm 18:1–7; John 10:31–42
The prophet Jeremiah complains that God has “enticed” and “overpowered” him, filling him with an unwelcome message for his people. When he resists his prophetic vocation, he feels “something like a burning fire shut up in my bones” and becomes “weary with holding it in.” But when he speaks his prophecy of “violence and destruction,” it becomes “a reproach and derision,” leading his “friends” to persecute him and leaving him nowhere to turn for protection but to God.
Jesus’s proclamation, though less immediately terrifying, finds no warmer welcome. He proclaims not only his own divinity, but the nearness to the divine of all who receive “the word of God.” This threatened his listeners’ deepest beliefs. So, despite the holiness of Jesus’s works, the people wanted him dead.
We often have uncomfortable truths that we struggle to share. When we hold them in, our souls yearn to speak. But speaking risks a negative reaction. Today’s readings thus invite us to consider how we can incorporate truth telling into our Lenten practice, both finding the courage to share our truths and the ability to respond with grace to others’ reactions.
Ezekiel 37:21–28; Psalm 85:1–7; John 11:45–53
“I, the LORD GOD, will gather the people of Israel and bring them home from the foreign nations where they now live.” What more could they want? What more could be given? HE would wash away their sins. They would be HIS people, and HE would be their GOD. HE promised to bless the people with unending peace, protect them and let them become a powerful nation.
Should the Lord’s Word be sufficient?
The LORD blessed HIS land. HE made all go well for HIS descendants. HE forgave their sins, took away their guilt, and suppressed HIS anger. HIS descendants begged, “Please bring us back home and don’t be angry. Will you always be angry at us and our families? Show us your love and save us!”
Does the plea sound familiar?
Many people saw the things that JESUS did, and put their faith in him. The chief priests and the Pharisees called the council together and said, “What should we do? If we don’t stop him everyone will put their faith in him.” Caiaphas spoke up and said, “Don’t you know it is better for one person to die for the people than for the whole nation to be destroyed?” Yet JESUS would not die just for one nation. He would die to “bring together all of GOD’s scattered people.”
Accept, O Lord, our thanks and praise for all that you have done for us.
Roslyn (Roz) Hall
Isaiah 50:4–9a; Philippians 2:5-11; Mark 14:1-15, 47; Psalm 31:9-16
As we journey through this Passion week let us take this opportunity to reflect on Suffering. The reading from Philippians reminds us to focus on Christ for strength and to rejoice during the times of struggles, remembering that Christ’s own life is an example of humiliation and believers are considered to be Lights in Darkness; within the light is truth which provides comfort, and safety. Darkness is dangerous, insecure, and hides the truth; light uncovers truth, which provides comfort, and safety. Let us be light bearers to look out for each other’s interest rather than our own by doing things for each other. Let us shine as lights in the world rejoicing in the day of Christ knowing that we have not run or labored in vain. Each of us has been given the ability to shine in the light of Jesus to those around us. That light that shines around us can change the world by being kind to others, to give a word of encouragement.
“Suffering Servant” Honorable John Lewis (Feb. 21, 1940 – July 17, 2020) was famously beaten, bloodied, and arrested in Selma, Alabama, and in other cities across the Jim Crow South during the struggle for civil rights and racial equality. Let us be guided with Hope, Light, Spirit, Faith, and be compassionate to others.
Dear God help us to shine the light of Christ as we share good news with others.
Isaiah 42:1–9; Psalm 36:5–11; Hebrews 9:11–15; John 12:1–11
There is a secret to a bond
God looks to Jesus, the secret, the Spirit
Working quietly to make us brighter
He is in us
We are servants to others
We hold the rights and ways to make a covenant
With all people, like God did with us
We are servants with a quiet song.
Living for others as Jesus did for us
Seals the bond, ties the strings, tidies the love
The smell of perfume can never be wasted
As Jesus did not stay in mortal form
But was anointed with honor and care
He is part of the servant’s song that set people free.
So, yes, we are servants with a quiet song
It radiates from within us to bring justice and hope
As God wants
People are trusted to do work, bring calm, and love all
Isaiah 49:1–7; Psalm 71:1–14; 1 Corinthians 1:18–31; John 12:20–36
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: 24
Jesus has made his triumphal entry to Jerusalem, the crowds continue to follow him, and Jesus knows what the end will be. He continues to teach the crowds and when he says “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.” Jesus in this instance was alluding to his own death and resurrection. We all know when we plant a grain of wheat, if it grows it produces much wheat. Jesus is also saying that when he dies he will rise again and draw all men to him. He is dying for us, so that we may inherit the Kingdom of Heaven. All of us will be saved.
O God, you have made known your love through Jesus’ life and words. Help us to receive His teaching, and to find the fullness of that love and bring its presence to others. All for our tender mercies sake. Amen.
Isaiah 50:4–9a; Psalm 70; Hebrews 12:1-3; John 13:21-32
“Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me,” says Jesus. We are never told why Judas betrayed; we know, though, there was darkness within him. Most of us squirm in discomfort because this story is about the worst that is in us. Judas is not the culprit as much as he is the mirror of our own incomprehensible betrayals.
We all betray Jesus; denying it is to negate that Jesus loves us or that he gave himself to us. Putting anything in our life before our relationship with God, for example, betrays the Son who shows us that our relationship with God— creator, redeemer, sustainer—is the most important relationship in our lives. We try to be bearers of light in the darkness; yet, we live in fear that our own darkness will be revealed. We, too, condemn Jesus to the cross.
Paradox: Love is the antithesis to betrayal. The new command Jesus gives: “Love one another. As I have loved you; so, you must love one another. By this will all people know that you are my followers, if you love one another” (John 13: 31-35).
Jesus chose to stay with us through betrayal, pain and suffering on the cross. He has shown us that he will not abandon us. We have Jesus who walked this road before us and continues to walk this journey with us.
Exodus 12:1–14; Psalm 116:1, 10–17; 1 Corinthians 11:23–26; John 13:1–17, 31b–35
The Mystical Supper, Icon by Simon Ushakov (1685) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maundy_Thursday
…the Lord Jesus on the night he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said: “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”
Deborah E. Hope
Isaiah 52:13–53:12; Psalm 22; Hebrews 10:16–25; John 18:1-19, 42
Job 14:1–14; Psalm 31:1–4, 15–16; 1 Peter 4:1–8; Matthew 27:57–66
I am always amazed how these passages relate one to another. In this case, I would put the last one first!
Matthew, my last passage, talks about the chief priests and the Pharisees asking Pilate to guard Jesus’s tomb lest the Lord’s disciples steal His body to make His prophecy of resurrection come true. Little do they know!
The other passages talk about waiting for the Lord, amid all adversity.
Job speaks of waiting for “my relief to come.”
Psalm 31 reminds us to take shelter in Yahweh for “my days are in your hand.”
Peter reminds us that despite being “plagued by trials” and having our “faith tested, God’s power will guard [us] until salvation.”
Our faith has, as Peter says, been “tested.” However, we are now “filled with joy” by the Resurrection.
Isaiah 25:6-9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-11; Mark 16:1-8; Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24
Easter Message from Priest-in-charge
“Do not be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus.” With these words, the Gospel of Mark ushers in a kingdom of Easter joy with both a command and a proclamation. First, he tells the women who have come to the empty tomb, to not be afraid. Despite all appearances, things are not as they seem. Though the women have come expecting death, death has been overcome. Second, the women are reminded that they have come “looking for Jesus.” The one they have walked with, the one with whom they have eaten meals and shared the demanding and joyful proclamation of the Gospel, seems to now be absent to them, and yet still they are looking and longing for him. They came to the tomb as the “sun had risen” to find that the one they love, God’s son, is risen indeed!
This Easter day, we, too, must continue to look for Jesus, and we must do so without fear. Even in these difficult times, when so much in our world is riven with division and grief, when death seems to be all around us, we as God’s beloved church continue to look for Jesus—in every meal given to someone in need, through every phone call of encouragement to those who may feel isolated and alone, through every gift of time and resources. In these actions of kindness and love, Jesus is resurrected in our hearts and in the lives of those we care for, living through us and in us. Because of this truth, we need not fear the perils of this world. As the Psalmist reminds us, the Lord is “good” and his “steadfast love endures forever.”
May we be steadfast in our looking for Jesus, and steadfast in our enduring love for one another. May each of you, wherever you are, feel God’s love this Easter Season as we celebrate the empty tomb.
The Rev. Phillip A. Jackson, Priest-in-charge