Thursday after Ash Wednesday, March 7, 2019
"Bless the Lord who forgives all our sins. His mercy endures for ever."
In our baptismal covenant we renounce the ways of evil, pledge our allegiance to Jesus Christ, affirm our faith in our Triune God as outlined in the Apostles' Creed, and promise to live according to the pattern of Jesus's life as given to us by the church (Holy Baptism, BCP 302-305). As creatures who learn and grow and make mistakes along the way, sometimes we persist in ways that are harmful to ourselves and our relationships. Our baptismal covenant reflects this reality when we are asked "Will you persevere in resisting evil, and, whenever you fall into sin, repent and return to the Lord?" (BCP 304). But before we can repent and return to the Lord, we first need to know for what we are examining ourselves. That is, what is "sin"?
Sin, according to our catechism, is "the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation" (Catechism: Sin and Redemption, BCP 848). Sin is a way of describing behavior way that betrays our allegiance to Jesus and the way of life to which he calls us.
God created us to be "free to make choices: to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God." (Catechism: Human Nature, BCP 845). Sin reduces our liberty and destroys the harmony for which we were created.
The renunciations in our Baptismal Covenant (Holy Baptism, BCP 302) give us three more insights into what sin is. We renounce systems and forces that are in rebellion against God. We renounce anything that corrupts and destroys God's creatures. We renounce desires that draw us away from God. Sin is anything that reduces our ability to love God, to love our neighbors, to live in harmony with creation, or the ability of others to love and live in harmony.
From our Confession we know that we sin "by our own fault in thought, word, and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone" (BCP 267). Enriching Our Worship Volume 1 provides us with the means of confessing that others sin on our behalf and that we are caught in a web of societal sin (EOW1, 19).
While we confess our sins weekly in the Eucharist and daily in the Daily Office, the Litany of Penitence in the Ash Wednesday service gives us another means of living into this season of penitence by examining our lives, individually and corporately, so that we can repent, seek to make amends, and return to a more nuanced expression of the baptismal life will help us do our part in having a holy Lent.
Through this season, we will explore how the Litany of Penitence helps us live more fully into our baptism. Monday through Friday meditations will focus on specific aspects of the Litany of Penitence, asking us to examine our personal lives and corporate life for ways that we have not fully lived into our baptism.
Before examining our lives over the next 47 days, let us rest assured that God loves what God has created and forgives those who seek to live in love and harmony. Consider 1 John 1-10 as we begin our Lenten meditations.
How you have experienced God's mercy?
How might trusting that God is merciful help you examine your thoughts, words, deeds, and things left undone for sin?
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.
--Collect for Ash Wednesday, BCP