A Lenten Prologue

Tuesday, February 12, 2013 — Week of Last Epiphany (Year One)

Shrove Tuesday

Charles Freer Andrews, Priest and “Friend of the Poor” in India, 1940

[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 26, 28 (morning) // 36, 39 (evening)

Deuteronomy 6:16-25

Hebrews 2:1-10

John 1:19-28

Today’s psalms and readings are an effective prologue to Lent. They remind us of our duty to follow God with faith by doing what is good and by trusting God. The exercise of doing good is our appropriate response to what God has already done for us. Doing good is also a reflection of our trust in God. Whenever we act in ways consistent with the will of God, we are manifesting hope, that God will indeed bring justice and happiness to all creation.

Deuteronomy expresses that message by asking us to remember all the good that God has already done for us and to teach our children that story. We have been nurtured and cared for by God. We’ve been brought to this good land and this day by God’s hand. Out of love for God, therefore, do what is good.

Hebrews makes the point by narrating the story that we, like Jesus, for a little while are made lower than the angels. But God has crowned Jesus and will crown us with glory and honor, subjecting all things under our feet. Therefore, pay great attention, and do not drift away. Things may be a bit oppressive and chaotic now, but we are on the sure path of the pioneer of our salvation.

The Gospel shows John the Baptist testifying that he is the voice in the wilderness crying out “Make straight the way of the Lord.” It is a Lenten cry. Make straight a path in our hearts on the way to Holy Week.

And the psalms all get very personal about the struggle to do good and act rightly in a world where there is so much corruption and deceit. The only real motivation for acting rightly is our hope and trust in God. Humans, after all, can make a wreck of nearly anything.

On the eve of Lent, the church invites us to clear-eyed self-reflection. Many people prepare today for making their confession tomorrow on Ash Wednesday. It is a time to look at the patterns, sins and failures in our lives. Then, remembering the good that God has done for us, and renewing our trust and hope in God’s steadfast love, we confess our sins with remorse and with a strong intention to turn away from them and to follow the good way.

That’s why many people will make some Lenten resolve today. One tradition is to give something up — a sign of our willingness to exercise discipline in the avoidance of that which separates us from God, our neighbor and ourselves. Another tradition is to take something on for Lent — an expression of an intention to renew our growth in following the good way.

God has done so much for us already and promises even more. In thankful hope, what can we let go of? In thankful hope, what resolve can we make in order to prepare for the renewal of the story that gives us everything?

Today’s commemoration offers an icon of a consecrated, Lenten life. Charles Freer Andrews gave himself to serve the poor and oppressed in the British Empire, and to challenge the system of Indentured Service which functioned almost as a new slavery. A close friend of Gandhi, he was called Deenabandhu, or “Friend of the Poor.” I commend this fascinating essay by T. Sher Singh as an inspiring discussion of Andrews’ life. As we enter Lent, how might we act in such a way that we might earn the nickname “Friend of the Poor.”

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