2018 LENTEN DEVOTIONAL GUIDE
THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH OF ST. PETER AND ST. PAUL
INTRODUCTION TO OUR LENTEN DEVOTIONAL GUIDE
The period from Ash Wednesday to Easter, known as Lent, is a season for self-examination and
repentance. Clergy and parishioners of The Episcopal Church of St. Peter & St. Paul have prepared
devotional readings for the days from Ash Wednesday through Easter since 2001. We hope that this
daily devotional guide will be a blessing to you and help you to deepen your Lenten practice.
Eternal Lord, of love behold your church
walking once more the pilgrim way of Lent,
Led by your cloud by day, by night your fire,
moved by your love and toward your presence bent:
far off yet here-the goal of all desire.
So daily dying to the way of self,
so daily living in your way of love,
we walk the road, Lord Jesus, that you trod,
knowing ourselves baptized into your death:
so, we are dead and live with you in God.
If dead in you, so in you, we arise.
you the firstborn of all the faithful dead.
and as through stony ground the green shoots break,
glorious in springtime dress of leaf and flower,
so, in the Father’s glory shall we wake.
Thomas H. Cain, Hymn 149
ASH WEDNESDAY, February 14, 2018
Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return.
These are the words that are spoken by the clergy as the faithful gather to observe Ash Wednesday, the
beginning of the liturgical season of Lent. Ash Wednesday is a day that calls us to remember our limits, the
transitory aspects of our lives. It is a day when we recall all our weaknesses and remember just how much we
need God’s unconditional love and grace. This day reminds us that no matter how much we’ve accomplished,
no matter what circumstances surround us, and no matter what lies ahead, we are dust.
Ash Wednesday draws us into a process of examining our lives. Do our values and beliefs reflect how we live
our daily lives? Are we realizing our potential or are we just wasting time? Are our lives full of self-
centeredness, or do we walk in humility? Do we hold tightly on to our wealth and spend large sums of money
on personal pleasure, and then turn around and get offended when we are asked by a homeless person for a
couple of bucks for a hot meal. Do we spend a majority of our days mesmerized by our computer screens, while
the beauty and wonder of the world around us goes unseen?
It is easy to get caught in the illusion of self-importance. Believing that the way you spend your time and the
things you give your life to are actually meaningful and worthwhile. But when we take a few steps back and
examine our lives through the lens of our limits, everything suddenly comes into focus. Maybe you don’t need
to win that argument with your spouse. Maybe you could forgo the daily Starbucks and give that money to
someone who could use a bite to eat or a warm place to stay. Maybe you could actually survive without looking
at Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for a day. Maybe our lives really do have so much more potential and value
than we ascribe to them by our actions.
How do you spend your life? What are your priorities and values? Do they line up with the way you use your
time each and every day? These are the questions that Ash Wednesday calls us to ask. The ashes on our
foreheads are a bold reminder that our time is limited, that privilege, success and the social and corporate ladder
are nothing but delusions that we create, that we all begin our lives and will end them in the same exact way.
They remind us that our time here is limited and that our lives hold tremendous value and potential. What will
we do to redeem our time?
May each of us stop and reflect on the folly and beauty of our lives. May we use this season of repentance to
refine our rhythms and amend our actions. And may we know, deep down in our being, that we are dust.
Beautiful, precious, mysterious, dust. And may that realization help us live our lives as people who measure our
time wisely, give our lives freely, and love each other boldly.
Almighty God, you have created us out of the dust of the earth: Grant that these ashes may be to us a sign of our
mortality and penitence, that we may remember that it is only by your gracious gift that we are given everlasting
life; through Jesus Christ our Savior. Amen (BCP pg. 265)
Reverend Elisa Harres
THURSDAY, February 15, 2018
1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.
Lent is a penitential season, and I have many questions about the process of being penitent. Are we entitled to
God’s grace without first sincerely seeking forgiveness? Is our confession rote? Do we really take it to heart?
Do we seek God’s forgiveness and reconciliation at the moment we sin, or do we wait until Sunday to say the
Confession? Do we even remember our sin by that point? Is one of the ‘things left undone’ our absently relying
on the Confession as a catch-all for our sins? Isn’t true repentance being sorry and remorseful for our actions
and specifically asking forgiveness, reconciling with God and others? Wow! So many questions.
Many avoid closely examining the topic of reconciliation. It’s very confusing, what is sin, anyway? We tend
look at our actions, thoughts and beliefs through secular eyes. We too easily give ourselves a pass when it
sin. It wasn’t so bad, everyone does it, it’s not like I killed anyone… When we take the ‘easy’ but wrong path,
we let it go without confessing to God or anyone else. Somehow, we end up thinking that we are in control of
our relationship with God. We get to decide what’s right or wrong and how bad or how nominal our sins are.
We somehow boil it down to end up thinking if we are good, God loves us and if we are bad, God won’t love
us. God’s love depends on our behavior. This kind of wrong thinking puts into a dangerous cycle of sin that
separates us from God.
Asking for and receiving forgiveness and living a life of redemption always seemed like a matter between me
and God and was no one else’s business. The old saying, All May, Some Should, None Must, resonated with me
and I always considered myself to be in the ‘None Must’ category. That is, until I read Joy in Confession by
Rev. Hillary D. Raining. Her book specifically explains how confession and reconciliation are based on the
Bible and the BCP. She explains in very straightforward terms sin, shame, guilt, forgiveness, resurrection,
incarnation and growth from forgiveness.
Then it happened, I wronged someone. I was devastated by my actions and I honestly and deeply doubted my
judgement. I sought out Mtr. Elisa to hear my confession. As I received the sacramental forgiveness, I learned
how to reach out and reconcile with the person I wronged. It was truly a life changing experience. My guilt and
shame were wiped away as were the tears that came with my remorse. My experience was deeply joyful and
freeing. Hillary Raining said, ‘God doesn’t love and forgive us because of how good we are, God loves and
forgives us because of how good God is.’ Reconciliation is how we accept God’s grace and start fresh without
looking back. I was able to move forward and start again, so grateful for the grace and mercy I received.
Hillary Raining is the rector at St. Christopher’s Episcopal Church in Gladwynn, PA and will be our guest
leader at the Parish Women’s Retreat in March during Lent. I hope you will join us to explore confession and
reconciliation as a life changing spiritual practice.
Peace+ Amy Stillwell
FRIDAY, February 16, 2018
Going a little further, he fell with his face to the ground and prayed, “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup
be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will.”
Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the
cross, scorning its shame…
Jesus knows what’s ahead yet He, as a human being on this earth, is able to say, “yet not as I will but as you
will”. Jesus could have walked away, and I think that’s what I would have done because the cruelty of the cross
is way too much to bear. Yet He could still say, “as you will”. The will of God, is this what I seek no matter
what is going on in my life?
Sadly, I must admit that often my first reaction is not to seek God but to think I have only myself to rely on.
That in turn gives me a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness because I know I do not have any power. Yet
at the same time I sincerely do have a true belief in God and in the knowledge that Jesus lives in me [John