Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Ash Wednesday at the Church of the Redeemer, Sarasota, FL (and a death sentence)

I took myself to the Church of the Redeemer in Sarasota FL for the Ash Wednesday service this morning.

It's not my parish home but I like to be there each Ash Wednesday because:

1.  The Rector, the Revd Fred Robinson is, without doubt,  a man of God.

2.  The Liturgy  (service) is conducted with a reverent dignity which I cannot but respect and admire.

3. Redeemer does not shilly/shally with regard to the hard parts of the Gospel of Jesus Christ/

4, The Church of the Redeemer has a 7:00 a.m. service each Ash Wednesday - that's my time of day!

It's not my parish home because (sadly) Redeemer will not allow the ministry of ordained women,

( a Sine qua non  for me).


The Preacher this morning was the Revd. Steven Peay , Dean and President of the Episcopal Church Seminary in Nashotah, Wisconsin.

His sermon fed my soul.  He reminded us that Lent is not about "giving up" (chocolate, alcohol etc), but that it is all about "taking on" the disciplines of prayer and bible study which will lead us to union with God through Jesus Christ.


On Ash Wednesday in Liturgical Churches it is the custom to impose ashes on the foreheads of worshipers with these words:  "Remember (O man) that you are dust, and to dust you shall return". 

 My United Church of Christ Minister and friend the Revd, J. Mary Luti, reminds us that this is the salutatory and annual "death sentence" for Christians.

She is utterly and wisely correct.  We Christians are utterly frank and honest.  We know that we face death and the judgment seat of Christ.  We get a stark and necessary reminder of this each Ash Wednesday.

EACH ASH WEDNESDAY  we read and hear this teaching of Jesus as recorded in Matthew Chapter Six

“When you fast,

do not look gloomy like the hypocrites.

They neglect their appearance,
so that they may appear to others to be fasting.
Amen, I say to you, they have received their reward.
But when you fast,
anoint your head and wash your face,
so that you may not appear to be fasting,
except to your Father who is hidden.
And your Father who sees what is hidden will repay you.”

(Matthew 6:16-18)

In the light of these words I have chosen in recent years not to receive Ashes.

It's not because  the Imposition of Ashes is in and of itself is right or wrong.  It is an indifferent ceremony.

It is because, sinner that I am, I am capable of enormous hypocrisy.


The high and low point of Ash Wednesday services is (for me) when we pray the following. 

 It is an "ouch" moment, forcing me to think about repentance at a deep and penetrating level.

I tried to pray this today with sincerity of heart ...  but only God knows whether or not my words were rote or sincere.

Litany of Penitence

The Celebrant and People together, all kneeling

Most holy and merciful Father:
We confess to you and to one another,
and to the whole communion of saints
in heaven and on earth,
that we have sinned by our own fault
in thought, word, and deed;
by what we have done, and by what we have left undone.

We have not loved you with our whole heart, and mind, and
strength. We have not loved our neighbors as ourselves. We
have not forgiven others, as we have been forgiven.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We have been deaf to your call to serve, as Christ served us.
We have not been true to the mind of Christ. We have grieved
your Holy Spirit.
Have mercy on us, Lord.

We confess to you, Lord, all our past unfaithfulness: the
pride, hypocrisy, and impatience of our lives,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our self-indulgent appetites and ways, and our exploitation
of other people,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our anger at our own frustration, and our envy of those
more fortunate than ourselves,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our intemperate love of worldly goods and comforts, and
our dishonesty in daily life and work,
We confess to you, Lord.

Our negligence in prayer and worship, and our failure to
commend the faith that is in us,
We confess to you, Lord.

Accept our repentance, Lord, for the wrongs we have done:
for our blindness to human need and suffering, and our
indifference to injustice and cruelty,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For all false judgments, for uncharitable thoughts toward our
neighbors, and for our prejudice and contempt toward those
who differ from us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

For our waste and pollution of your creation, and our lack of
concern for those who come after us,
Accept our repentance, Lord.

Restore us, good Lord, and let your anger depart from us;
Favorably hear us, for your mercy is great.

Accomplish in us the work of your salvation,
That we may show forth your glory in the world.

By the cross and passion of your Son our Lord,
Bring us with all your saints to the joy of his resurrection.

 the Priest, stands and, facing the people, says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who
desires not the death of sinners, but rather that they may turn
from their wickedness and live, has given power and
commandment to his ministers to declare and pronounce to
his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of
their sins. 

He pardons and absolves all those who truly
repent, and with sincere hearts believe his holy Gospel.

Therefore we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his
Holy Spirit, that those things may please him which we do on
this day, and that the rest of our life hereafter may be pure
and holy, so that at the last we may come to his eternal joy;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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