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February 23, 2024

 

Our Wednesday night adult forum series during Lent is a study of the Seven Deadly Sins.

 

What most people now refer to as "the seven deadly sins" has developed over time. There is no list so named in Hebrew or Christian scripture, though one can certainly find various enumerations - for example, the ten commandments (Exodus 20:2–17, Deuteronomy 5:6-21, and see Exodus 34:11-26). The New Testament has a number of lists to which the seven deadlies bear resemblance, notably Mark 7:21-22:

 

"For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come: fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (See also, e.g., Galatians 5:19-21, 2 Timothy 3:1-5).

 

Tertullian (ca. 202) and Evagrius (ca. 399) developed lists of seven and eight deadly sins, respectively. Pope Gregory the Great (r. 590-604) organized these into the list of seven most commonly recognized today: pride, envy, wrath, sloth, avarice, gluttony, and lust. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274) adopted this list and described them as "capital" sins - that is, having their origin in the head or mind. Aquinas contrasted these sins against seven virtues, which he organized as "theological" - faith, hope, and charity - and "cardinal" - temperance, justice, prudence, and fortitude.

 

Lists of the Seven Deadly Sins continue to be variously ranked, described, and ordered in devotional literature. For purposes of our Wednesday night class, we're referring to the 2014 revision of Saint Augustine's Prayer Book, edited by David Cobb and Derek Olsen (my seminary classmate!), and published by Forward Movement. Saint Augustine's has an extended section on "Penitence and the Sacrament of Reconciliation" that includes a number of Psalms, passages of scripture, and prayers in connection with the rite of reconciliation (known in Roman Catholic tradition as "confession"), and offers a "Form of Self-Examination Based on the Seven Deadly Sins," enumerated as: Pride, Anger, Envy, Greed, Gluttony, Lust, Sloth.

 

An important note in a penitential season: We should be careful of scrupulousness and the form of religious pride (itself, of course, a serious sin) that rejects or fails to rely on the grace of God and the mercy of Christ. All of us are sinners: none of us is beyond redemption. The purpose of prayer and self-examination is greater intimacy with that God who forgives all our sins.

 

Remember you are trying to recall and confess [your sins], not to be condemned, but to be forgiven. "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, you will not despise." - Psalm 51:18. (Saint Augustine's Prayer Book, 122).

 

Be awake, by all means; but also be merciful to yourselves, and abide in peace.

 

Blessing and Peace - Reid

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Feb 16, 2024

 

Mark, breathless chronicler that he is, moves us in three very short paragraphs from the baptism of Jesus to the temptation in the wilderness to the ministry of proclamation in Galilee. Though his is the least detailed account of the temptation of the three synoptic gospels, Mark does include all the characters - Jesus, Satan, the wild beasts, and the angels - and lets us know that it was 40 days of desert living.

 

We don't know from Mark the details of the temptations that Satan offered - those are found in Matthew and Luke. Our own temptations are usually pretty modest in scale - anger at a friend or loved one, or the kind of self-satisfaction (pride) that prevents us from caring for someone in need, or the bad behaviour towards a neighbor that is prompted by our envy. We might not even give much thought to these petty sins. 

 

Forty days of silence and prayer might reveal our sins with a bit more clarity, and of course this is precisely what Lent is for. Remember that our busy-ness is not only a distraction but a trap for our unwariness. Perhaps we use the coming few weeks to identify opportunities to be more loving, more hopeful, more faithful. I pray blessings on your journey and success to your Lenten discipline.

 

Blessing and Peace - Reid

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Feb 9, 2024

 

This coming Sunday we'll read from the Gospel of Mark (9:2-8) an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus. This story appears in all three of the synoptic gospels, and we'll have heard each of them in the space of only one year. On February 19 of last year we read it from the Gospel of Matthew (17:1-8). Then it happened, on August 6, that the Feast of the Transfiguration fell on Sunday. The Transfiguration is a "Feast of our Lord" that "take[s] precedence of a Sunday" (BCP p. 16), and consequently we read the story from the Gospel of Luke (9:28-36) in place of the usual cycle of Sunday readings in ordinary time. After this, we'll give it a rest until March 2, 2025 (Luke, again).

 

The Transfiguration is always read on the Last Sunday after the Epiphany - from Matthew in Year A, Mark in Year B, and Luke in Year C of our three-year lectionary cycle - as well as on the fixed feast day of August 6. As we know, the word "epiphany" comes from the Greek word epiphaneia meaning "manifestation." Since the Transfiguration is a central manifestation of Christ as the incarnation of God, it makes sense that our lectionary is constructed in this way.

 

The Transfiguration is a rich, multilayered story, linking Jesus with Moses and Elijah, with exodus and ascension, and with baptism and resurrection. A complex and intense event, the disciples could make no sense of it except in retrospect, after Jesus' resurrection. My hunch is that many of us can think back on some central event or turning point in our own lives, filled with meaning, that brought us to the place we are now, and sheds light on "who we really are." I encourage you to meditate on this, and see what perspective this gospel may bring you.

 

Blessing and Peace - Reid

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Feb 2, 2024

 

We still have some days, dear ones, to consider a Lenten discipline. Often people think of this as "giving something up for Lent" - and indeed we might well want to give up our anger, or our intemperance, or our pride, as opposed to, say, chocolate or fizzy drinks or the internet. 

 

The idea of a Lenten discipline is not the mere giving up of a luxury or a bad habit; but rather to expand our devotion. The giving up of a thing is intended to create space for prayer or reflection - so, for example, one year I gave up dipping into the candy jar at Canterbury House. Instead, every time I reached for the lid (that is, every single day and more than once!), I remembered to leave the candy alone, and instead to recite the "Jesus Prayer" ("Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner").

 

Many people choose to "take something on" for Lent as an alternative discipline. Reading one or more of the Daily Devotions (pp 136 ff. of the Book of Common Prayer) is a good example. A new volunteer undertaking, addressing poverty or age or loneliness, might be another.

 

Your priest is a resource for helping to decide on a discipline. In addition, I'm available for the rite of "Reconciliation of a Penitent" (see BCP p 446), either as Lent approaches or during the season. Blessing and Peace is perhaps the most valuable thing any ordained person has to offer. May these be yours in abundance!

Blessing and Peace - Reid

S​aint Andrew's 

Episco​pal Church

579 Fairview Avenue Hartwell, GA 30643 

 706-376-4986

standrews.episcopal.hartwell@gmail.com

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