Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sound the alarm on my holy mountain!
Let all the inhabitants of the land tremble,
for the day of the LORD is coming, it is near--
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness!
Like blackness spread upon the mountains
a great and powerful army comes;
their like has never been from of old,
nor will be again after them in ages to come.
Yet even now, says the LORD,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the LORD, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain offering and a drink offering
for the LORD, your God?
Blow the trumpet in Zion;
sanctify a fast;
call a solemn assembly;
gather the people.
Sanctify the congregation;
assemble the aged;
gather the children,
even infants at the breast.
Let the bridegroom leave his room,
and the bride her canopy.
Between the vestibule and the altar
let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep.
Let them say, "Spare your people, O LORD,
and do not make your heritage a mockery,
a byword among the nations.
Why should it be said among the peoples,
`Where is their God?'"
Shout out, do not hold back!
Lift up your voice like a trumpet!
Announce to my people their rebellion,
to the house of Jacob their sins.
Yet day after day they seek me
and delight to know my ways,
as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness
and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;
they ask of me righteous judgments,
they delight to draw near to God.
"Why do we fast, but you do not see?
Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?"
Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,
and oppress all your workers.
Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight
and to strike with a wicked fist.
Such fasting as you do today
will not make your voice heard on high.
Is such the fast that I choose,
a day to humble oneself?
Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,
and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?
Will you call this a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD?
Is not this the fast that I choose:
to loose the bonds of injustice,
to undo the thongs of the yoke,
to let the oppressed go free,
and to break every yoke?
Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,
and bring the homeless poor into your house;
when you see the naked, to cover them,
and not to hide yourself from your own kin?
Then your light shall break forth like the dawn,
and your healing shall spring up quickly;
your vindicator shall go before you,
the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.
Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;
you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.
If you remove the yoke from among you,
the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,
if you offer your food to the hungry
and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,
then your light shall rise in the darkness
and your gloom be like the noonday.
The LORD will guide you continually,
and satisfy your needs in parched places,
and make your bones strong;
and you shall be like a watered garden,
like a spring of water,
whose waters never fail.
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
Benedic, anima mea
We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,
"At an acceptable time I have listened to you,
and on a day of salvation I have helped you."
See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone's way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see-- we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.
Jesus said, "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven.
"So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Someone gave me this little book years ago, and as Lent approaches, its title strikes me as just the thing to ponder during Lent 2018. I’m not sure if I got it right last Lent, or any of the previous fifty-something ones before that, but here it is in a book by John McQuiston II:
It is for us
to train our hearts
to live in grace,
to sacrifice our self-centered desires,
to find the peace without want
without seeking it for ourselves,
and when we fail,
to begin again each day.
There is both comfort and opportunity in the repetition of the church seasons, and here we are again at Lent, an opportunity to slow down, consider what is of ultimate value, and recommit, with God’s help, to living a life that reflects that value, to reestablish my covenant with God, to—as Mary Oliver writes in her poem "Sometimes”:
Instructions for living a life:
Tell about it.
To pay attention and really see the Realm of God simmering beneath the surface, draw near, turn aside (repent) and believe it’s actually there. What better time than Lent? "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.” Mark 1:15
Venture into the desert and listen for the life. "Been through the desert on a horse with no name; it felt good to be out of the rain. In the desert you can remember your name, ‘cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain…”. Hint: Your name is beloved.
Gretchen R. Chateau
Things were looking iffy for my October 2008 trip to Italy with friends. The economy was crashing and we couldn’t find a hotel in Sienna—our hub for 10 days of photography—for under $300 a night. The dollar was taking a beating overseas; our 401k’s had become 201k’s; the wellbeing of our country hung on the audacity of hope.
How Jim found this place, I’ll never know. But we ended up in the birthplace of Saint Catherine of Sienna, one of the two patron saints of Europe (Saint Francis being the other). It was located next to the abbey of the order that she founded and in the shadow of the Basilica San Dominica, where her remains were entombed. The novitiates of the order served as maids for the hotel and made us our breakfast.
I cried our first night there, listening to the nuns sing vespers. Every morning I awoke to the Matins bells of the basilica and the constant cooing of doves.
The memory of that trip carries me through many dark times.
I struggle to imagine how Jesus must have felt coming out of his 40-day long "dark night of the soul” to learn that his spiritual brother and baptizer, John, had been arrested by the authorities.
I’m sure I would have been justifiably angry. Not Jesus—He shocked the hell out of us all by calling it "good news.”
"The time is fulfilled,” He said "and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
Today, we still have the audacity to hope, and to love. To love both our brother, was well as our brother’s persecutors (and Lord knows that’s the really hard part).
Believe in the good news.
The good news is love.
Love is all there is.
God said to Noah and to his sons with him, "As for me, I am establishing my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the domestic animals, and every animal of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." God said, "This is the sign of the covenant that I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth and the bow is seen in the clouds, I will remember my covenant that is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh. When the bow is in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is on the earth." God said to Noah, "This is the sign of the covenant that I have established between me and all flesh that is on the earth."
Ad te, Domine, levavi
Christ also suffered for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit, in which also he went and made a proclamation to the spirits in prison, who in former times did not obey, when God waited patiently in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were saved through water. And baptism, which this prefigured, now saves you-- not as a removal of dirt from the body, but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers made subject to him.
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, "You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased."
And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news."
Trigger Warning: This video makes reference to suicide and the death penalty.
In this week’s gospel lesson, the Spirit drives Jesus out to the wilderness where angels attend and care for him.
The following video shares Nikki Roberts’ story of being cared for by a voice coming through an air vent. This video was made as a part of the #kellyonmymind campaign to halt the execution of Kelly Gissendaner. Kelly, a convicted murderer, was executed by the state of Georgia in 2015. Nikki’s testimony reminds us that angels can come to us in the strangest of places and perhaps from the least expected persons.
Who are the angels in your life? How might the Spirit be calling you to be an angel in someone’s life?
The Rev. Kim Jackson
Catapults. Sometimes only powerful catapults break through barriers and help us make connections. Connections. If you want to reach your destination, you have to make the right connections. What connections?
I know next to nothing about automobile repair, but I do know on older cars one could bypass the normal key-in-the-ignition starting of a car and do a thing called “jump start.” Jesus is baptized, God says this is my beloved child, and the Holy Spirit jump starts (catapults?) Jesus into the desert to make all the connections.
Connections like those made in the A Case For Life forum Thursday evening, where Sr. Helen Prejean was catapulted into a connection with a man on death row, and set on fire to write Dead Man Walking and open the conversation about how the death penalty is, as Pope Francis has said, “contrary to the Gospel.”
Connections like those discussed in Adult Formation on Alvin Ailey’s Revelations, with reminders of how art and stories help us make the leap from us/them to we, how art and stories enter the mind, but then rush to the heart, where all the really powerful God work happens.
Maybe that’s why Jesus told stories and didn’t write theological treatises. Stories have a way of catapulting over the barrier of our logical mind and drive us out into the wilderness to make all the connections.
What will be your catapult this Lent?
Faith is a word that means so much but at the same time is nebulous. Faith many times is a struggle to piece together the affairs of life with a belief in the divine.
It was August 9, 1996, and my life changed forever. My mother and sister died in a car accident a month before my sophomore year of college. I cannot express the amount of pain and suffering that one goes through when you have such a sudden loss. The next year was really a haze. I went to class and slept. I was like an automaton just sleep walking through life.
The one thing I could hold on to that year was faith. My faith in God, my faith that the pain would go away, and my faith that there is always sunshine when you reach the summit after being in the dark valley. My faith in Jesus Christ and his love for all of us made such a bad year feel just a little bit better.
In this week’s scriptures, faith runs throughout. When God told Abraham that he would be a father of many nations even though his wife was barren, Abraham believed in God’s promise. As Paul says, Abraham’s faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness” and “it will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.”
Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. (Psalm 30:5)
“What may I pray for you?” Kim asks, and the woman’s eyes fill with tears. Kim, the woman, Simon, and Tim are standing at the North Avenue MARTA station entrance. It’s early morning on Ash Wednesday, and the priests in their cassocks and purple stoles have crossed the street to invite passersby to receive ashes. Lisa Bell-Davis is here with her camera, and I have some handout cards reading, “Ashes to Go” and “You are loved from beginning to end.”
If this seems strange, it’s because it is. It’s a departure from our usual Lenten observances. “God’s frozen people” are not known for proclaiming the good news in the public square. When Simon mentioned our Ashes to Go plan, I was skeptical. After all, the liturgy is not really condensable, is it? How could the clergy offer ashes without a full explanation of the ritual’s purpose? Without that explanation, what’s the point? Won’t this trivialize our traditions?
But we stand at the MARTA station, the “Ashes to Go” sign and clergy placed so as not to be missed. Commuters rush from the station toward Ubers and shuttles, child care, classes or offices. Our neighbors, much like All Saints’ parish, are people of every circumstance, story, sexuality, nationality, income, race, ethnicity, belief, ability, color, age, gender, and occupation.
The clergy issue smile and say, “Good morning. Would you like to receive ashes?” People who respond smile back or tear up, look embarrassed or fearful, wilt with sadness or buoy up with expectation. Emotions run the gamut. Throughout our hour and a half, there are poignant moments of penance, forgiveness, and healing. Even from a distance, I observe pain, need, and contrition in people’s eyes and body language. When asked what prayer they wish, I overhear a few request healing for themselves or family members, but only the clergy know the needs of the majority.
Before Ashes to Go, I worried about adherence to our tradition and wrestled with intellectual questions about evangelism. Maybe I was like the reluctant visitor watching John the Baptist in the river, thinking, "This is just not done." But My skepticism changed when I saw the announcement of the beloved. What the clergy offered on Ash Wednesday was a visible sign of God's unending love. And that's always a good thing.
Sydney C. Cleland
A little over a year ago, I was introduced to pottery classes by a friend and All Saints’ member. Since then I have continued to try my hand at pottery, I have been slowly working my way to larger and larger bowls. Just last month I started a new class, at a new studio. After learning a new technique, I decided this was my moment; I was going to use open studio time and make an amazing bowl.
I spent hours making coils, tentatively attempted to put them in an artistic pattern, and then smoothed them, joining them together as I had been taught in class. I was very proud of having made this bowl, but then as I took it off the mold, at the end of open studio, it fell apart. I felt broken, as if a part of me had broken with the bowl, and I spent the evening, at home, dwelling on what I now saw as “my bowl”.
The next day I went back, reassembled the bowl, added more clay for support, and even cautiously let it dry in the sun. This time, when I remove it from the mold, it doesn’t fall apart; it is “my bowl." As of Saturday, it has continued its journey and has now successfully gone through the kiln, had a small piece fall off, been glazed and is now completed.
One might think, gosh what an interesting story about a pottery bowl, but I have come to realize that for me this bowl, was more than a mere bowl, it is a reflection of my current fears in life. A feeling that I am putting so much of me into life, that I have invested in myself, but that now, I am not becoming who I thought I would be.
Yet, now that the bowl is done, no one can tell that it was broken, that it fell apart. This experience made me realize that it is true, I am my own worst critic, and I see flaws that no one else does.
This year for lent, I am not giving something up, I am building myself up.
“Our hearts seek your help and healing; and so purify us by your discipline that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ."