To quote Ecclesiastes chapter 3 verse 1, “There is a time for every purpose under heaven.” So now it’s time for a Layperson Lecture! I’m Constance McEntee, seminary drop-out and the Idiot Before G0D.
The scripture selections for Ash Wednesday, 26 February 2020, come from LectionaryPage.net, and there were two suggested readings from the Jewish scriptures
JOEL 2:1-2, 12-17 is a call to the people to repent. ISAIAH 58:1-12 takes this a step farther, it seems, calling for atonement in addition to repentance.
PSALM 103 promises blessings if the people please G0D.
2 CORINTHIANS 5:20b-6:10 continues the theme by urging the faithful to stay close to G0D.
In the Gospel according to Saint MATTHEW 6:1-6, 16-21, Jesus warns against outward signs of piety. I find it strange this is an Ash Wednesday selection. We will be leaving church with ashes on our foreheads, outward signs of ritual. And yet, Ash Wednesday starts the liturgical season of Lent: a time of ritualized repentance and fasting and sacrifice.
What do REPENTANCE, FASTING, and SACRIFICE mean in our time? I think Repentance means being aware of the wrongs we do and have done and endeavoring to do better. Fasting and Sacrifice are related. Growing up Catholic, I learned that these meant giving up something we love in order to suffer for the love of G0D. Maybe that wasn’t what they intended to teach, but that’s what I learned. But in more recent years with both the United Church of Christ and The Episcopal Church, these things have been taught differently. It seems to be less about giving up something we love and more about refraining from harming the least of G0D’s people.
In closing, I offer this BENEDICTION: Let us refrain from oppressive thoughts, words, and actions, and let us do so with the blessings of the Lover, the Beloved, and the Love Overflowing. Amen, and go with G0D.