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This evening we met at church for an Ash Wednesday service. In previous years, we have had ashing. And on one notorious occasion the Vicar managed to burn my forehead with incorrectly mixed ashes.

This year, with the need for social distancing, the Vicar, like several others, has decided to return to the older liturgy of the Church of England, and lead a service known as A Commination (The Confession of Cursed Sinners). We used a modern, shortened version, provided by Church Society. The original 1662 one is in the Book of Common Prayer.

The service is not all that popular in the Church of England. People find it quite harsh, because it reminds us of all the things that God does not like – that are under his curse. It is a painful exercise, to remind ourselves of our sinfulness and the ways in which we break God’s laws and reject his rule in our lives. But the phrase that struck me the evening, as we went through the service was towards the end of the confession:

and so make haste to help us in this world,
that we may ever live with you in the world to come,
where there will no longer be any curse

That reminder that there will ‘not longer be any curse’ is so helpful to carry out of a service of penitence and mourning for sin. The promise that we will be free of the heaviness we feel when we think of the Lord’s standards and the way we fail to keep them. To remember that

Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us

As I was looking for pretty pictures to illustate this post, I came across a poem by Wordsworth. It seems that The Commination wasn’t popular even in his day. But he too realised that this service where we contemplate the darkness of our sin is needed, that we should deal with our guilt and seek pardon from the Lord. So my prayer this Lent is that I would have that fruit of peace and love and joy as I thank Jesus that there will no longer be any curse.

Ecclesiastical Sonnets – Part Iii. – Xxix – The Commination Service
Shun not this Rite, neglected, yea abhorred,
By some of unreflecting mind, as calling
Man to curse man, (thought monstrous and appalling.)
Go thou and hear the threatenings of the Lord;
Listening within his Temple see his sword
Unsheathed in wrath to strike the offender’s head,
Thy own, if sorrow for thy sin be dead,
Guilt unrepented, pardon unimplored.
Two aspects bears Truth needful for salvation;
Who knows not ‘that?’ yet would this delicate age
Look only on the Gospel’s brighter page:
Let light and dark duly our thoughts employ;
So shall the fearful words of Commination
Yield timely fruit of peace and love and joy.

William Wordsworth

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Caught this great gospel rap link from Propaganda the other day.

His explanation of the gospel comes with a neat mnemonic – a new gospel outline for Easter, perhaps?:

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We love the kids music produced by Seeds Family Worship in the US. At the moment you can download a free memory song from their website – Romans 6v23.

For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

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We had such a ball on Sunday evening. The kids dressed up, we lit our pumpkin and put it in the Vicar’s study window, put sweeties in a bag and waited around for the doorbell to ring. Which it did, almost continuously between 5.30pm and 6.30pm. Civilised, I thought.

As I’ve mentioned before, we imposed the Vicarage rules of making the Trick or Treaters tell a joke or story or sing a song before treats were given. I have to say, I was generally rather disappointed with the quality of the jokes. After the first group, who had a selection of not too awful jokes, pretty much everyone told the knock knock Dr Who one. Bonus points, though, to the teenage girls at the end of the session who told a proper(ish) ghost story.

After handing out sweeties and a Good Book Company tract, we took our Trick or Treaters to look at our pumpkin and told them about about it. I got the kids to do it a few times and sometimes I talked to them. We took the visitors through sin (the yucky middle of the pumpkin that needs to be got rid of) and the light which we can have in our hearts because of the cross. One set of Trick or Treaters had been in Junior Church with me in the morning, and had heard my (rather longer) explanation of the pumpkin in the service. They joined me in singing the new song I’d taught them: ‘What a Mighty Mighty Saviour You Are’.

In the window on the stairs on Saturday evening

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I’m a Vicar’s wife, don’cha know, and I’m sooo respectable. And that’s how I like my sin as well. Respectable. Not too in-your-face. Obviously people have to think that I’m doing okay, but I’m not going to bother tackling anything that I can get away with…

So when I came across Jerry Bridges’ book on the subject a few months ago, I thought I ought to read it. But, since I struggle with the respectable sin of lack of self control (Chapter 13), I’ve still not finished it. Then I saw that Nicole of 168 hours fame is blogging through the book in her bookgroup on the Australian ministry wives site In Tandem.

As Nicole points out in her first post

It’s (obviously) not a book that was written specifically for ministry wives, but it could have been!  When you think about it, there is a lot about the kind of people who commonly end up as ministry wives and the kind of situation that we are in that means we are less likely to be involved in public, flagrant, scandalous sins than in all sorts of other sins that we keep secret or that the church culture we belong to quietly tolerates.

So I’m going to finish this book over the holidays. Why not join me in some summer reading, and comment on In Tandem or on here with your thoughts?

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Well, he’s not really a babe any more, but he’s still only six, and as the snow continues to drift down here in the parish, I wanted to share the Joker’s theological thoughts on the current weather.

He told the Vicar the other night

Dad, I know why God made snow white. It’s so that we can remember that although our hearts are dirty because of our sin, he washes them really pure, like snow, as we trust in Jesus who died for our sin.

It’s good to remember that as we sit at home and I attempt to vaguely homeschool the kids as the school is shut again. Our hearts don’t feel very clean today as we bicker about studying, but they are.

The view from our living room window this morning

‘Homeschooling’ now seems to be consisting of the Queen and the Joker educating themselves about snowman construction. And I’ve promised the Engineer that he can write a blog post. Hmm. Very glad that I don’t do this fulltime!

The church from our garden

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