Agape: February 26, 2020 (Ash Wednesday)

Agape: The 2020 Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

To impeach or not impeach. To strike Iran or not strike Iran. To testify or not to testify. To criminalize or to rehabilitate. To welcome or to deport? Shootings—the challenge of those experiencing homelessness—addiction—racial tensions. We live in a time of great public anxiety, deep divisions getting deeper, and fractures in society growing wider. And then there was Lent! Time to go around with sad faces, displaying a holy anxiety about the intensity of one’s sacrifice, hoping against hope that it will be sufficient to garner the mercy of heaven! Well, no, not exactly. We have (thank God) left that medieval way of thinking behind. And yet we all know grumpy people during Lent, whose disciplines have deprived them of their favorite comforts. They are no fun to be around, and I can’t see how they are much good for an anxious world.

Whatever you choose to do as your Lenten discipline (and we will love you even if you are grumpy,) as a church, we are going to look at ways to live un-anxiously in an anxious world. How do we keep the chaos outside from becoming chaos within?

The theme for these Lenten meditations is agape, that kind of self-giving love that we see in Jesus. Jesus truly gave himself for the world, and yet we also see him grounding himself outside the anxious world of his day, going regularly into the mountains to pray. He shows us that we cannot give what we do not have, and that agape love does not come from the world but from beyond it. Ours will be a discipline of detachment, of looking at ways of attending to the needs of the world without getting sucked in. If we, as a community of faith, can do that, then we truly have something to offer our world.

O God of peace, your Son, Jesus Christ, promised us peace unlike that of the world. Bring that peace to flower in our hearts and lives, that we may help lead the world out of the darkness into your glorious light, through the same Jesus Christ, to whom with you and the Holy Spirit, we lift our voices in endless praise. Amen.
-Fr. Paul Moore