KneeMail: 2 March AD 2017

2 March AD 2017


Ash Wednesday Sermon, 2017

Over the course of my priesthood, I have developed a little bit of a problem with ashes on Ash Wednesday. I fear that for some, they have become a talisman: an object which is believed to contain certain magical properties, providing good luck for the possessor or offering protection from evil or harm.

I have a friend who is on the staff of a busy Manhattan church. All Ash Wednesday long, for twelve hours or so, one priest or another sits in that church, distributing ashes to any and all who come by. In some places, a curious custom called Ashes To Go has even developed where clergy wander around the streets or subway stations ashing people willy-nilly. I am worried that it is the ashes themselves, and not what the ashes represent, that has become the focus for some, along the lines of a magical talisman.

A little teaching here: The ashes of Ash Wednesday, like holy water, or a crucifix, or palms on Palm Sunday, or the blessing of eyes on St Lucy’s Day, or hundreds of other things, are what the Church calls sacramentals. These differ from the Seven Sacraments of the New Covenant which are objective spiritual events: the Sacraments derive their power not from the human receiver, but from Jesus, working through his Church.

Sacramentals, however, simply symbolize the prayer of the Church with the worshipper, and are signs of that interaction. The ashes, and indeed all the sacramentals have absolutely no power of their own to effect anything. No, the ashes of Ash Wednesday must go along with prayer, corporate worship, the intent to repent and do penance. Only then are they worth anything, and apart from this they can be spiritually dangerous—a talisman with magical properties imposed on you by a witch-doctor.

In a moment you will hear these words: “I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word.” You will also hear these words: “Grant [Almighty God], that these ashes may be to us a sign of our mortality and penitence …” (BCP, p. 265).

You see how that works? The ashes are to signify our mortification, our penitence, our prayer, fasting and self-denial. Apart from this, ashes have no power of themselves. They are signs, but not lucky charms.

Hear again the words of the prophet Joel: “Rend your hearts, and not your garments, and return to the Lord your God” (Joel 2). Your priests, Fr David and I, will, indeed supplicate and cry between the vestibule and the altar, “Spare your people, O Lord,” for that is our vocation. We are very aware that at the Last Day our souls will be judged by the holiness of your souls. But in the end, what you do with Lent, this annual season of repentance and renewal, is up to you. The Church, through her priests, can only exhort and invite.

If the ashes of today are to be true signs, and not magical talismans, you will leave here firmly resolved, God being your helper, to observe a holy Lent. You will do what you do not ordinarily do, but what God working in you calls you to do. You will be at God’s altar every Sunday without fail. You will say your prayers. You will discipline your appetites. You will read your Bible.

There is phrase that was once said—and perhaps still is—to a postulant just before he took the habit and became a monk. It goes, “it is possible to fool other people, but it is never possible to fool God. God knows.”

The ashes of Ash Wednesday must go along with prayer, corporate worship, the intent to repent and do penance. Only then are they worth anything. You cannot fool God. God knows.

“I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent.” In the power of the Holy Spirit, do something, for Christ’s sake.


BEGINNING TODAY: Thursday Noon Lenten Bible Study. “That your love may abound more and more:” Philippians. Beginning at 12:05pm, and ending promptly at 12:50pm. Feel free to bring your lunch if you wish. With Fr Anderson in the Great Hall.

Masses are at 8:00am and 10am (sung). Christian Education classes at 9am.

Explore! Anglican Essentials. Are you interested in exploring what it means to be an Anglican Christian? This is our annual inquirer’s class for those considering membership at St James’ and Confirmation / Reception into the Anglican Communion, and refresher for everyone else! We will begin in the Great Hall at 9am

CELEBRATING BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK: Cory Floyd (26), Shelley Lewis (1), William Harrell (3).


GRANT THEM REST ETERNAL. Pray for the repose of the soul of Philip Akin, husband of Diane, and for Richard Lawrence, husband of Lindy.

Anniversaries of death: Decker Chappell, 1996; Claire Nelson, 1998; Leola McAfee, 1996; Alden Burge, 1997; Jay Young, 2015; Richard Williams, 1996.

Please notify the Office of any corrections or omissions.

THE ST JAMES’ PRAYER GROUP meets on Thursdays at 10am in the Cornerstone Chapel. You are welcome to join us as we pray over the list of our sick and shut-in.



FROM THE D.R.E.: I wanted to make sure everyone was aware of the Sunday morning children’s Christian Education schedule which includes Children’s Liturgy for the remainder of the spring block. If you and your children have not been here, you have been greatly missed by me, by the teachers and by the other students. Please make every effort to bring your children for the remainder of this Christian Education spring block.

March 12, No classes or chapel.

Palm Sunday, April 9, last Sunday for classes and chapel for the spring block. We will have an attendance drawing during snack time.(Students must be present to win)

Easter Vigil, April 15, First Holy Communion students will be presented and receive their first communion.

Easter Day, April 16, Easter Egg hunt, 9:00 am.

Mothers’ Day, May 14, Recognition of graduates and volunteers/Attendance Award Sunday.
–Mary Nell Short

Children ages 4 through grade 3 are invited to attend Children’s Liturgy of the Word during the first portion of the 10:00 service. The children process to the chapel for a service conducted by a lay adult. The Liturgy of the Word is a “child friendly” service with prayers, singing and a reading of the gospel followed by a short homily. The children rejoin their parents at the Peace.


THE DAUGHTERS OF THE KING is an Order for Episcopal women founded in 1885. We are a prayer and service group who meets once a month. We regularly take part in worship, study, and aid our Clergy as asked. If you are interested in more about us, please call or e-mail Lova Wile (903-832-2533 ), Tammy Cowdery (903-277-2148 ), or Gail Crisp (903-838-0942 ).


ALTAR FLOWERS: The “Flower Donor Chart” for 2017 is in the Porch or call or e-mail Martha Bean at 903-547-6911 – e-mail . The cost is still just $35 per donor, per Sunday. What a great way to honor or remember those who are important in our lives!


THE ROSARY GROUP meets on Tuesdays at 10am to pray the “Bible on a String.” Come join us. For more information, contact Lova at


BEGINNING MARCH 8th: “Job’s Lament” Scripture presents Job as a good and prosperous family man who is beset with horrendous disasters. Job experienced great sorrow and grief due to loss – “the Lord gives, and the Lord takes away” (Job 1:21). His example of working through grief and trusting in God will be our focus as we consider and work through our losses and grief over sin during the Lenten season. Please join us Wednesday nights in Lent, beginning at 6:30 pm in the Great Hall. Teaser trailer: Follow on Facebook ( Visit our Website (

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