Minnesota Episcopal Environmental Stewardship Commission (MEESC)

Episcopal Church in Minnesota
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Resolution on the Spirituality of Food Production

Resolution on Church Buildings and Grounds

Resolution on Creation Season

Resolution on Green Congregations

Lectionary Reflection

Ash Wednesday, All Years Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary Revised Common Lectionary

Year C, Lent 3 Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary


Psalm 103

Bless the LORD, O my soul, * and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul, * and forget not all his benefits.

He forgives all your sins * and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave * and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things, * and your youth is renewed like an eagle's.

The LORD executes righteousness * and judgment for all who are oppressed.

He made his ways known to Moses * and his works to the children of Israel.

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy, * slow to anger and of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us, * nor will he keep his anger for ever.

He has not dealt with us according to our sins, * nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

For as the heavens are high above the earth, * so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

As far as the east is from the west, * so far has he removed our sins from us.

As a father cares for his children, * so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

For he himself knows whereof we are made; * he remembers that we are but dust.

Our days are like the grass; * we flourish like a flower of the field;

When the wind goes over it, it is gone, * and its place shall know it no more.

But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him, * and his righteousness on children's children;

On those who keep his covenant * and remember his commandments and do them.

The LORD has set his throne in heaven, * and his kingship has dominion over all.

Bless the LORD, you angels of his, you mighty ones who do his bidding, * and hearken to the voice of his word.

Bless the LORD, all you his hosts, * you ministers of his who do his will.

Bless the LORD, all you works of his, in all places of his dominion; * bless the LORD, O my soul.

Reflection on Psalm 103: 8-14 by Nan Stokes

The portion of the Psalms chosen for Ash Wednesday is an out-pouring of thanks to the Lord who can be counted on to reward us with great mercy and compassion, even though we are wicked and sinful. This is a thought we do not especially like to think, or a concept we do not like to accept, but at the beginning of this penitential season, it is time for us to think about where we are standing with our Lord. The images the psalmist uses to show how far our sins are removed from us are descriptive of creation: "as the heavens are high above the earth" and "as far as the east is from the west". Both of these concepts are un-measurable, just as God's great forgiveness is un-measurable. When our foreheads are marked with ashes, we, too remember that we are but dust. It is time to commit ourselves to a new life beginning this day.

Reflection on Psalm 103: 1-11 by Nan Stokes

The Psalm for this third Sunday in Lent is a list of wonderful benefits from the Lord, and we are refreshed as we continue with our discipline. Jesus is calling all of us to repentance, and the gospel and epistle lessons today are tales of retribution for those who didn't repent and so were punished. (Could the gardener have been the first tree-hugger? He came to the defense of the fig tree which had been late in providing fruit.) But the psalm tells us our sins are forgiven and our infirmities healed and our life is redeemed. Creation images abound he satisfies us with good things, and our youth is renewed like an eagle's. What can be more of a soaring description as the heavens are high above the earth? Wherever we are living, we can look up and see the heavens and know that blue expanse is limitless, even if trees or skyscrapers or sand dunes obstruct part of the view. So is the compassion and mercy of the Lord a limitless expanse, and we choose this time of Lent to learn more about our God and how we must serve and fear him.

Printable version

Reflections on other Readings for Ash Wednesday, All Years:

Reflections available at the active links
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Joel 2: 1-2, 12-17 or Isaiah 58:1-12
Psalm 103 or 103: 8-14 (this page)
New Testament Reading

Reflections on Readings for Year C, Lent 3:

Reflections available at the active links
Standard (Episcopal) Lectionary
Revised Common Lectionary
Old Testament (Hebrew Scripture) Reading:
Exodus 3:1-15
Exodus 3:1-15
Psalm 103 (this page)
Psalm 63:1-8
New Testament Reading
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
1 Corinthians 10:1-13

Nan Stokes (1929-2010) is a past co-chair of MEESC (2002-2006). She resided in Duluth, MN, when she originally wrote these reflections in 1998. We welcome your comments. Please address your comments or additional reflections to our WebVerger or any MEESC member, or mail them to:

MEESC c/o C. Morello 4451 Lakeside Drive Eveleth, MN 55743-4400 USA

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