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Welcome to Trinity Episcopal Church, NJ!

March 1, 2017: Ash Wednesday

Celebrant and Homilist: The Rev. Andrew David Kruger

Deacon: Clive Oscar Sang

Seminarian: Allison Burns-LaGreca

Verger: Anthony Francis Vitale

Organist: Anthony J. Rafaniello

  • Choir Anthem: “Praise, My Soul, the King of Heaven” – Text: Henry Francis Lyte. Music: Mark Andrews

Audio Files

Collect of the Day

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.

Readings of the Day

First Reading

Joel 2:1-2, 12-17 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?’”

Psalm 103:8-14

8    The Lord is full of compassion and mercy, * slow to anger and of great kindness. 9    He will not always accuse us, * nor will he keep his anger for ever. 10   He has not dealt with us according to our sins, * nor rewarded us according to our wickedness. 11   For as the heavens are high above the earth, * so is his mercy great upon those who fear him. 12   As far as the east is from the west, * so far has he removed our sins from us. 13   As a father cares for his children, * so does the Lord care for those who fear him. 14   For he himself knows whereof we are made; * he remembers that we are but dust.

Second Reading

2 Corinthians 5:20b—6:10 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.

Holy Gospel

Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21 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.”

The Worship Service

10 AM: Rite Two

THE LITURGY OF THE WORD

Acclamation BCP 355
Collect for Purity BCP 355
Kyrie S # 278
Collect of the Day BCP 218
The Lesson Exodus 24: 12-18
Psalm Psalm 2
The Epistle 2 Peter 1: 16-21
Sequence Hymn H # 137
The Gospel Matthew 17: 1-9
Sermon Father Andy

The rest of the service follows the normal order of service for the Imposition of Ashes and the Eucharist.

Father Kruger’s Sermon for today

Lord God, through the written word, and the spoken word, may we know your Living Word; Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen

Annie Dillard the American author tells a wonderfully pithy story in one of her books about a missionary and an Inuit; “Once upon a time, an Eskimo hunter went to see the local missionary who had been preaching in his village. “I want to ask you something,” the hunter said. “What’s that?” the missionary replied. “If I did not know about God and sin,” the hunter said, “would I go to hell?” “No,” the missionary said, “not if you did not know.” “Then why,” asked the hunter, “did you tell me in the first place?”

Perhaps we have all internalised the Inuit’s question because the church seems to talk a good deal less about sin and death these days. Some of that is for good reason and there is little doubt that there have been times when the church has used talk of sin and hell and death to manipulate and invoke fear. Many people today are reluctant to speak about sin and would prefer to purge it from our common language. Human beings are, after all, remarkably good at calling old things by a new name.

Here I’m indebted to Barbara Brown Taylor who points out that: “When it comes to sin we seem to have adopted the languages of medicine and law to speak about sin.” In the medical model, the basic human problem is not called sin but sickness. Everyone is vulnerable to sickness and very few people avoid being sick at some time in their lives. Since no one in his or her right mind chooses to be sick, it does not make any sense to hold sick people responsible for their illnesses. A person with advanced Alzheimer’s cannot decide to be lucid any more than a person with bipolar disorder can decide to stop having mood swings. Both persons have illnesses that restrict their freedom and limit their responsibility. To hold either of them accountable for their actions would be to blame the victims.

When sickness is substituted for sin, then illness becomes the metaphor for human failing. We receive diagnosis instead of judgment, treatment instead of penance. I hear this language used more in the tradition of liberal Christianity. It has biblical precedent, and lends itself to a kind of no-fault theology based on an understanding of sin as all-pervasive and unavoidable. The language of law heads in the opposite direction. In the legal model, the basic human problem is not called sin or sickness but crime. Whether the offense is as minor as running a stop sign or as major as shooting someone else in the head, the presence of laws prohibiting these behaviors suggests that they are governable.

We are responsible for our actions. Regardless of our circumstances, we are free to avoid lives of crime, and we are furthermore expected to do so. If we fail—and if we are caught—then we will have to face the consequences. These may range from fines to prison terms, depending on the offense. Submitting to this punishment is how we pay our debt to society. When crime is substituted for sin, then lawlessness becomes the metaphor for human failing. The answer is not medicine but a swift dose of justice.

What we need is a fair but righteous judge who will brush away our excuses and hold us accountable for our actions. I hear this language used more in the tradition of conservative Christianity. This too has biblical precedent, and lends itself to a kind of full-fault theology based on an understanding of sin as willful misbehavior. The emphasis here is on the individual believer who has power to choose between good and evil. Situational ethics does not apply. There is right and there is wrong.

Barbara Brown Taylor’s concern, which I share, is that neither the language of medicine nor the language of law is an adequate substitute for the language of theology, which has more room in it for paradox than either of the other two. In the theological model, the basic human problem is not sickness or lawlessness but sin. It is something we experience both as a species and as individuals, in our damaged upbringing and in our willful misbehavior.

However we run into it, we run into it as wrecked relationship: with God, with one another, with the whole created order. Sometimes we cause the wreckage and sometimes we are simply trapped in it, but either way we are not doomed. In fact sin is our only hope, because the recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again. Why do we speak about sin… because naming our sin begins the process of being reconciled with God and others?

A good way to start is to practice the tried and tested spiritual disciplines of Lent: fast more than you usually do (and if you have never fasted then you should start), give more than you usually give, and pray more than you usually pray. May we know the grace of God as we fast, and give, and pray. Amen.