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New and contrite hearts

I started to write about something else. Then I remembered Parkland.

The “something else” will have to wait. Maybe tomorrow.

It happened last year on Valentine’s Day. Otherwise known as Ash Wednesday. Remember how it felt so early?

For me, Ash Wednesday is about death, repentance, and God’s mercy. That’s what I’ll reflect upon today. Not politics, or guns, or fear and anger but death, repentance, and the Mercy.

So, a few reflections.


The picture

The picture above is an AP shot of two mothers. It and the story have appeared again as we remember.

Last year it was about two mothers, Cathi Rush and Mechelle Boyle, long time acquaintances. Rush not knowing whether her son was hurt or dead; Mechelle moved by compassion -- “Oh, my God, she doesn’t know if her son is alive or dead. She’s here crying and can’t reach him.”

This year the story is about how each moved in a different direction in response to the shooting.  Boyle, a military veteran who supports gun rights and also wants some restrictions on gun ownership. Rush, a nurse, who wants more gun control laws.          

     A recent article  



Sarah Lerner’s story is in the New York Times today. She’s an English and journalism teacher at Stoneman Douglas. Two of her students were killed that day.

“On Rosh Hashana I asked my rabbi if it would be O.K. to say Kaddish, the memorial prayer. I didn’t want to be disrespectful to those whose immediate family member had died. He’s like, ‘Of course it’s appropriate, Sarah. They meant so much to you.’ “       The article  

What caught my attention is that Kaddish, used in mourning, doesn’t mention death or mourning. It’s about G-d.

Here’s a paragraph –

Blessed and praised, glorified and exalted, extolled and honored, adored and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed be He, beyond all the blessings and hymns, praises and consolations that are ever spoken in the world; and say, Amen. 

The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of American says, “the theme of Kaddish is the greatness of G-d.”  It ends with a paragraph that acknowledges that it is G-d who creates harmony and peace, in the celestial heights and for us.


What we as Christians know is this

Action grounded in awe and adoration is our way. We think it holy action. We believe it to be purer action. The stuff of ashes and Kaddish.

I have a friend in the parish who grew up in England. Over the years we’ve spoken a few times about how common it was in England to assume that parish churches would be open in times of national tragedy. That the church’s first act was to be a place of prayer. A community that before it turned to politics turned to God.

It’s what Evelyn Underhill was getting at –

One’s first duty is adoration, and one’s second duty is awe and only one’s third duty is service. And that for those three things and nothing else, addressed to God and no one else, you and I and all other countless human creatures evolved upon the surface of this planet were created. We observe then that two of the three things for which our souls were made are matters of attitude, of relation: adoration and awe. Unless these two are right, the last of the triad, service, won’t be right. Unless the whole of your...life is a movement of praise and adoration, unless it is instinct with awe, the work which the life produces won’t be much good. 


Parish development

Sound parish development shapes congregations so they might better root people in the reality of how things truly work. Root people in God. Help them know that the first and second duties are adoration and awe; and after that service and action. That before we turn to solving all the problems we turn to the Merciful and Compassionate One. We acknowledge our sin and wickedness. We seek a “clean heart” and “right spirit.”

Open my lips, O Lord, *

And my mouth shall proclaim your praise. (Ps 51)