You hate nothing you have made

I love the traditional Collect for Ash Wednesday :

Almighty and everlasting God, you hate nothing you have made and forgive the sins of all who are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Pray this today.

Ash Wednesday by T. S. Eliot

To mark Ash Wednesday, consider T. S. Eliot’s poem of the same name, which he wrote upon his conversion to Christianity and his baptism. The whole poem, linked above, is very much worth reading, despite its difficulty. But here is a magnificent excerpt on the Word of God as the center of everything, despite all opposition:

If the lost word is lost, if the spent word is spent
If the unheard, unspoken
Word is unspoken, unheard;
Still is the unspoken word, the Word unheard,
The Word without a word, the Word within
The world and for the world;
And the light shone in darkness and
Against the Word the unstilled world still whirled
About the centre of the silent Word.

He is my Lord, Who has redeemed me

The Second Article of the Creed from THE SMALL CATECHISM is a fitting meditation for Ash Wednesday:

THE SECOND ARTICLE

I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son our Lord, Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit; born of the Virgin Mary; suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, died, and was buried; He descended into hell; the third day He rose again from the dead; He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty; from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead.

What does this mean?

I believe that Jesus Christ is true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary; and that He is my Lord, Who has redeemed me, a lost and condemned creature, purchased and won me from all sins, from death and from the power of the devil; not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood, and with His innocent suffering and death; in order that I might be His own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness; even as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity. This is most certainly true.

The Leprosy of Sin

It was good to have our pastor back. Pastor Douthwaite has been in Kenya for the last three weeks teaching at a seminary over there. Our Scripture texts were about the healing of lepers. Pastor Douthwaite developed the parallels between leprosy and sin. Leprosy is an infection that cut off those afflicted with it from other people, making them “unclean.” Sin is also like that. Naaman was healed of his leprosy when he bathed in a river Jordan, a sign of Baptism. Jesus touched the leper. Normally when someone touched somebody who was “unclean,” he himself became unclean. But when Jesus touched the leper–and us sinners–His cleanness makes us clean.

It was a profound, powerful, and illuminating sermon, an exposition of Scripture that proclaimed both the Law and the Gospel. The sermon is not posted right now, as I write this, but it will probably be at this site.

Updike on the Resurrection of Christ

Seven Stanzas at Easter

by John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His Flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that — pierced — died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mache,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

What do you do when you don’t have to do anything? (#5)

More from St. Athanasius Lutheran Church: Baptism of our Lord Sermon by Rev. James Douthwaite:

And not just any ol’ life do we now live, but as St. Paul said, a new life. His life. A Christ life. Not because we have to, but because what do you do when you don’t have to do anything? For, child of God, you do not have to do anything! You are forgiven. Your salvation is secure. Jesus’ death and resurrection is your death and resurrection, and there nothing you can add to that! Nothing.

So what do you do when you don’t have to do anything? You don’t do nothing – you live the Christ life. For that is who you are. Confessing your sins and receiving your Saviour’s forgiveness. Eating not locusts and wild honey, but the true body and blood of your Saviour, given and shed for you. And living for others as Christ lived for you. Such an honor we do not deserve. But what a privilege has been given to us. To serve, to speak, to live as the new creation that you are as a baptized child of God.

Perhaps others will think you crazy. No matter. Your Father is delighted, for [baptized into Christ] you are His beloved son, and with you He is well-pleased.


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