Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Ash Wednesday Readings

Wednesday, February 17, 2010 -- Week of Last Epiphany, Year Two
Ash Wednesday

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 951)
Psalms 95* & 32, 143 (morning) 102, 130 (evening)
Amos 5:6-15
Hebrews 12:1-14
Luke 18:9-14

It seems like one of those days when different things pop out to me from each of the readings.

Psalm 32 speaks of a joy that comes with confession and forgiveness. "Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven and whose sin is put away." The Psalmist speaks of the turbulance that comes when we live with the burden of our sin and alienation, with the inner dialogue of rationalization and conscience. "While I held my tongue, my bones withered away, because of my groaning all day long... I said, 'I will confess my transgressions to God.' Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin." Instantly the Psalmist is relieved and revived. He knows himself to be led by God. "Be glad, you righteous, and rejoice in God; shout for joy, all who are true of heart."

Several metaphors from Psalm 143 caught me today. "My soul gasps to you like a thirsty land." What a beautiful expression of our desire for the dew of God's blessing. And I like the phrase, "show me the road that I must walk, for I lift up my soul to you."

While the Psalmist speaks to our personal condition, Amos addresses our social, economic and political condition, and our responsibilities in that wider sphere. He decries the injustice that does not support the needs of the poor, and he condemns those who live comfortably in "houses of hewn stone" and who drink pleasant wine. The system can be bought. The rich buy influence. "They hate the one who reproves in the gate, and they abhor the one who speaks the truth." Amos speaks judgment on the whole thing. Unless we change radically, disaster awaits, he says. Maybe God will help those who remain after catastrophe. "Hate evil and love good, and establish justice in the gate; it may be that the Lord, the God of hosts, will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph."

Hebrews offers an encouraging word for Lent. Embrace discipline. What is the discipline God would call you to today? How would God commend you to a discipline that would strengthen you? The writer uses athletic images. "Lay aside every weight and the sin the clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us... Discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint, but rather be healed."

What discipline is set before us as we enter this Lent? What exercise should we practice in order to become stronger, healthier in mind, body and soul?

Finally the Gospel offers us perspective. Don't compare. There are two men praying. One looks like everything a good person should be. And he thanks God for all his blessings, that he is not like so many others. The other looks like a failure. He doesn't come close, but stays on the back pew. He doesn't look up, but grieves saying, "God, be merciful to me, a sinner!"

Though neither may be aware of it at all, Jesus says that the latter man walked home with God's blessing and joy upon him, and the other did not. Luke adds a punch line: "All who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted."

Good readings for Ash Wednesday.


Audio podcast: Listen to an audio podcast of the most recent Morning Reflections from today and the past week. Click the following link: Morning Reflection Podcasts

About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.

Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117

An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site at this location --

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas


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