A time to hate evil and love good

Ash cross

Dear friends in Christ,

One day each year, we take a pause from the usual madness to be serious about Lent. On Ash Wednesday, all distractions fade away, and we are reminded of a simple fact: we are all dying, and this precious life of ours is a gift to be savored.

If you said morning prayer according to the Book of Common Prayer today, you might have noticed a little tidbit in Amos. “Hate evil and love good.” It’s easy to say, but it’s very hard to do. It’s not all that difficult to hate evil in other people, but hating evil in ourselves is never easy. And that’s the point of Lent. We confront our own failings, so that we might make room for God’s grace to create new hearts in us.

The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us we are not alone in our struggle to hate evil and to love good.

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1-2)

It’s not that the saints are sitting in the Lent Dome and watching us all on the big screen. That’s not what Hebrews is talking about when it says they are witnesses. Rather, we are surrounded by a cloud of martyrs, women and men who witness to us by their deaths. We are preceded in our earthly pilgrimage by those who struggled, like us, to hate evil and love good. And they loved good more than evil, Jesus more than life.

We hope you make it to church today to hear the solemn reminder that life is short. The time to repent is now. And then we hope you enjoy this whole season of Lent, an opportunity to return to God, to make our hearts new. Lent Madness may be mad, but it also draws us together in community as we learn from those who hated evil and loved good.

Tomorrow the madness begins. Today, we give thanks that we have a redeemer in Jesus Christ. Today, we give thanks for boundless grace to help us learn to hate evil and love good.

Tim+     Scott+

Photo: U.S. Air Force 2nd Lt. Jenny Hyden, 20th Fighter Wing public affairs officer, stands with a cross of ashes on her forehead on Ash Wednesday at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 18, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Jensen Stidham/Released

21 Comments to "A time to hate evil and love good"

  1. Rev. Cynthia D. Pape's Gravatar Rev. Cynthia D. Pape
    February 14, 2018 - 11:38 am | Permalink

    Weeping with gratitude. That was lovely.

  2. February 14, 2018 - 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Powerfully stated. “…all distractions fade away, and we are reminded of a simple fact: we are all dying, and this precious life of ours is a gift to be savored.”

  3. Deirdre's Gravatar Deirdre
    February 14, 2018 - 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Two years ago I surrendered my life to God after I was diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. Now I’m grateful to be cancer free. I faced my mortality with the help of God. Thank yo Lord for the precious gift of life.

  4. Jennifer Grissom's Gravatar Jennifer Grissom
    February 14, 2018 - 12:22 pm | Permalink

    I’m with Rev. Pape. I did make it to church this morning and have jumped through some Lenten hoops today, but this is the first thing that really moved me. Thanks!

  5. Karen Mallon Sharp's Gravatar Karen Mallon Sharp
    February 14, 2018 - 12:47 pm | Permalink

    A blessed Ash Wednesday to all.
    “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” BCP, p. 265

  6. Midori Hall's Gravatar Midori Hall
    February 14, 2018 - 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Amen.

  7. Susan's Gravatar Susan
    February 14, 2018 - 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. Thank you for reminding us why we need to learn from the saints.

  8. Susan Mattingly's Gravatar Susan Mattingly
    February 14, 2018 - 1:56 pm | Permalink

    As the Rev. Joanna White would often pray at the end of a service :” Go in to the world and do good; Return no person evil for evil.” A most powerful message. Thank you, Joanna.

  9. Jim Fox's Gravatar Jim Fox
    February 14, 2018 - 1:58 pm | Permalink

    How I need Lent every year; the liturgical calendar is truly a blessing. “We confront our own failings, so that we might make room for God’s grace to create new hearts in us.” Thanks be to God!✟

  10. John Carter's Gravatar John Carter
    February 14, 2018 - 2:07 pm | Permalink

    Yes, a time to grow closer to God, get in touch with ourselves and to recognize how graced we are.

  11. Marybeth Wright's Gravatar Marybeth Wright
    February 14, 2018 - 2:18 pm | Permalink

    You guys are still bickering and fighting? My advice to both of you is to stop right now and at least try to be nice to each other.

  12. Marybeth Wright's Gravatar Marybeth Wright
    February 14, 2018 - 2:21 pm | Permalink

    You guys are still bickering and fighting? My advice to both of you is to stop right now and at least try to be nice to each other. This is not a repeat!

  13. Sheila Vossler's Gravatar Sheila Vossler
    February 14, 2018 - 7:02 pm | Permalink

    I am reminded that it is as we leave the church building itself, the real service begins.

  14. Betty A Morris's Gravatar Betty A Morris
    February 14, 2018 - 7:18 pm | Permalink

    Our priest suggests we follow the admonition to “Annoint your head and wash your face when you fast” and a basin and towels are available at the back of the church for us to wash each other’s faces after the service where we have received the ashes. My church in Richardson, TX did the same. Very powerful.

  15. Christine Parkhurst's Gravatar Christine Parkhurst
    February 14, 2018 - 8:15 pm | Permalink

    On Tuesday I saw an Oscar nominated live short, Watu Wote, about ordinary people resisting evil at the risk of their own lives. This lovely sermon made me think of the film, which recounted a true incident in Kenya when a bus carrying Christians and Muslims was ambushed by Al Shebab. They instructed the passengers to get out and divide themselves into Christians and Muslims. Before getting off the bus, the Muslim women covered the heads of the Christian women with headscarves. The Muslim passengers refused to identify the Christian passengers, and said “Kill us all, or leave us alone.” Salah Sabdow Farah, the assistant headmaster of a Muslim school, was shot after he resisted and later died of his wounds, leaving behind his wife and children. From his hospital bed he called for peace between the religions, and said that Islam is a religion of peace. I consider him and the other Muslim passengers to be saints. I pray to find the strength in my life to resist evil in myself and where I find it.

    • DyLynn's Gravatar DyLynn
      February 15, 2018 - 1:13 am | Permalink

      …thanks for sharing with “all of us.”

  16. Shirley Carr's Gravatar Shirley Carr
    February 14, 2018 - 9:35 pm | Permalink

    AMEN!!!!!!

  17. andrea's Gravatar andrea
    February 14, 2018 - 10:07 pm | Permalink

    Beautiful. Thank you for this. I was touched by the picture. A Blessed Ash Wednesday to all!

  18. Ci's Gravatar Ci
    February 14, 2018 - 10:19 pm | Permalink

    The risk of sickening older beloved members of our church kept us home today. The children were upset to learn that we had missed “pancake” dinner last night, as well. We broke bread together this evening and discussed how we would spend this Lent. The 7 yr. old will learn The Lord’s Prayer by heart. The 10 yr old will learn The Nicene Creed and Lord’s Prayer by heart. The 12 yr. old will learn the Apostle’s Creed and Lord’s Prayer by heart. They’ve also said they want to spend more time outside playing. I, too, like my “churching” in the great outdoors, though more typically with especially long, ahem, homilies, longer sermons, and extremely long services in general!
    I must say, you have robbed us, Peter v. Paul!

  19. James Reed's Gravatar James Reed
    February 15, 2018 - 10:04 am | Permalink

    To keep the proper perspective on life, we need to be reminded every so often of our mortality. Ash Wednesday is the perfect way to do this. “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return” is oh, so sobering. I try to keep my ash cross on my forehead as long as it will last.

  20. Bet Byrd's Gravatar Bet Byrd
    February 16, 2018 - 9:51 am | Permalink

    “to make room for God’s grace to create new heart in us”
    as hard as hating my evil

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