Ash Wednesday

Our Lenten self-examination, penitence and amendment of life should include an ecological perspective. The impact of our lifestyles and actions on the Earth, air and water, and all their inhabitants – animal as well as human – can come under review.

Reflection on Psalm 103:8-14
by Nan Stokes

The portion of the Psalms chosen for Ash Wednesday is an out-pouring of thanks to the Lord who can be counted on to reward us with great mercy and compassion, even though we are wicked and sinful. This is a thought we do not especially like to think, or a concept we do not like to accept, but at the beginning of this penitential season, it is time for us to think about where we are standing with our Lord. The images the psalmist uses to show how far our sins are removed from us are descriptive of creation: “as the heavens are high above the earth” and “as far as the east is from the west”. Both of these concepts are un-measurable, just as God’s great forgiveness is un-measurable. When our foreheads are marked with ashes, we, too remember that we are but dust. It is time to commit ourselves to a new life beginning this day.

Reflection on Psalm 103:1-11
by Nan Stokes

The Psalm for this third Sunday in Lent is a list of wonderful benefits from the Lord, and we are refreshed as we continue with our discipline. Jesus is calling all of us to repentance, and the gospel and epistle lessons today are tales of retribution for those who didn’t repent and so were punished. (Could the gardener have been the first tree-hugger? He came to the defense of the fig tree which had been late in providing fruit.) But the psalm tells us our sins are forgiven and our infirmities healed and our life is redeemed. Creation images abound – he satisfies us with good things, and our youth is renewed like an eagle’s. What can be more of a soaring description – as the heavens are high above the earth? Wherever we are living, we can look up and see the heavens and know that blue expanse is limitless, even if trees or skyscrapers or sand dunes obstruct part of the view. So is the compassion and mercy of the Lord a limitless expanse, and we choose this time of Lent to learn more about our God and how we must serve and fear him.