The Day After
Thursday, February 14, 2013 -- Week of Last Epiphany (Year One)
Cyril and Methodius, Monk and Bishop, Missionaries to the Slavs, 869, 885
[Go to http://www.missionstclare.com/english/index.html for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]
Today's Readings for the Daily Office
(Book of Common Prayer, p. 950)
Psalms 37:1-18 (morning) // 37:19-42 (evening)
It's not too hard to weave together a "second-day-of-lent" homily out of today's readings.
Deuteronomy reminds us that God chose us out of God's own munificence. It is not because we're bigger or better or smarter than others. God chose us because God wanted to. And the Gospel confirms this surprising grace of God with John the Baptist's wondrous insight -- I didn't know who he was, but God's Spirit showed me that this is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. God's face is turned toward us with amazing love.
Therefore, get your house in order, advises the Epistle to Titus. The elder gives some common-sense advice to about being organized, moderate and studied. And the psalm addresses one of those distractions that plague us all -- don't worry about other people, especially the ones that bother you so much. Trust God and things will work out. Put your heart in God and wait patiently.
I remember an old Ash Wednesday sermon when I asked the congregation to give up three things for Lent -- three things that get in the way of a healthy life: fear, anger and guilt. Seems like that homily connects with some themes of today's readings.
When we trust God, when we deeply know that God has chosen us and surprises us with love, we can relax our fears. It's one of scripture's major themes. In one form or another, the Bible says "Fear not; do not be afraid" 365 times. It's like the Spirit knew we would need reminding every day, even in leap years. It's always what the angels say, "Be not afraid!" Like they know something they want us to know.
Anger is the appropriate emotion whenever anything we love is threatened. It's a motivator. But once we've been motivated to act to protect or care for whatever is threatened, anger needs a short shelf life. Leave rage alone. Don't let the sun set on your anger. Anger spoils quickly, decomposing into resentment or bitterness. Let anger motivate you to act to protect something you love, but then let it go quickly. Psalm 37 starts that way -- "Do not fret yourself because of evildoers; do not be jealous of those who do wrong." God's working to straighten things out.
And guilt. Part of Ash Wednesday's litany of penitence is intended to give us a good mouthful of guilt so that we can spit it out instantly, be forgiven, and chase that bad taste away with the heavenly food of communion. Guilt is a good thing. It's our conscience telling us we've crossed our ideals. But once it has done its sentinel job, spit it out. "God, I'm sorry." "Bless you my child; you are forgiven." It's over. The guilt is gone. You are clean. Start again with confidence.
Give up fear, anger and guilt for Lent. Better than chocolate.