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Ash Wednesday

With Archbishop Linda Nicholls

Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada

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February 26, 2020

Click the red circle above to hear Archbishop Linda read the Gospel or read below.

“Beware of practising 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.”

Click the red circle above to hear Archbishop Linda’s reflection for Ash Wednesday or read below.

I am a cradle Anglican – baptized as an infant and confirmed at eleven years old, too early to truly understand the fullness of my commitment but knowing that it was important. To this day I remember confirmation class where we discussed the need for a rule of life and were asked to consider what it would mean for us.  Thankfully the rhythm of our liturgical calendar helps! Every year as we begin Lent we are called to consider our lives in the light of God’s call – to renew our rule of life through the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving – to repent where we have failed to live into our calling – and to set our hearts again on living the way of Christ.

Every year I need to examine my life afresh – a bit like the annual cleaning of the hull of a boat to scrape off the barnacles of indifference or lack of awareness of how I have not kept the promises of my baptism. I need to ask again where my heart has shifted from the treasures of the gospel to the treasures of this world, including a common challenge for church folk that being so absorbed in doing for the church we miss the gospel in our lives.

The gifts of Lent begin in prayer – taking the time to be present in prayer with God, first to listen. Our lives are so fast paced we rarely sit in silence to listen and hear God. In the silence I discover how distracted my mind is as it races from what I need to do next to the last argument I have had or the next event that needs planning. Prayer invites me to slow down – listen to the presence of God in my life and then offer repentance and commitment to living differently.

As a child fasting was most often about fasting from chocolate or candy. Today I ask what has captured my heart in such a way that I am not even aware of its power. What do I need to let go of in order to be more present to God in and around me? One year I needed to fast from my competitiveness when driving on the highway!

Fasting from something that demands our attention whether it be coffee or chocolate or gossip or alcohol invites our heart to reorient itself. Like a compass needle seeking the North Pole by fasting we detach the magnets that try to shift our hearts away from God.

Our Lenten practices then call for us to give. It is too easy for us to simply become self-centered in a focus on ‘me’ and my relationship with God. The gospel is never just about ‘me’. It is always about ‘us’. We are a community of people called by God to bring light into the darkness of a world of pain, suffering and need. Almsgiving requires us to lift up our heads to see the world and its needs and ask, “How can I help?” That is the gift of the work of The Primate’s World Relief and Development Fund. The staff focus on the needs of our world – in Canada and across the globe. They draw together the information and stories that help us understand where inequality, violence, natural disasters and human sin create pain and suffering. Here we are invited to share – to give of ourselves to the healing of God’s world.

As we enter this Lenten season – once more given the opportunity to reorient our lives fully to God – may the practices of prayer, fasting and almsgiving draw us closer to God and deeper into the work of God’s kingdom. May your Lent be holy, cleansing and renewing!

February 27, 2020

Listen to the Gospel reading at the top of this page again.

What words, ideas or phrases stand out for you?

February 28, 2020

Listen to the Gospel reading at the top of this page again.

What is Jesus/the Gospel saying to you?

February 29, 2020

Your Saturday Sabbath, an illustration of father and child. Consider what you have heard this week and how this image might relate.

Man and baby hugging, Illustration by Rini Templeton
Illustration by Rini Templeton

Next week: First week of Lent with the Rev. Scott McLeod