The Fifth Sunday in Lent
April 3, 2022

Dear Friends,

Throughout the Sundays in Lent this year we have begun the 9 and 11 am services with the Penitential Order. It is a recitation of the Ten Commandments, each one followed by the congregational response, “Amen, Lord have mercy.” Some years we have used the traditional rite, with the response to each Commandment’s being, “Lord have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.” Now as we approach the final Sunday in Lent, we might step back and ask: “how’s it going?” On the whole, is the heart of humanity inclining toward or away from the Commandments of God?

Many would suggest that the diagnosis is not good. Everyone this week seems to be talking about what is being called “the slap seen round the world.” On Sunday evening at the Oscars, the actor Will Smith took offense at a crude joke the comedian Chris Rock made about his wife. Smith left his seat, crossed the invisible border between those in the audience and those on stage, and struck Rock across the face. He then returned to his seat and proceeded to shout verbal profanities to his physical assault. People were stunned. Was the whole thing staged, part of the act? No, it was not.

Sadly, the scene is a microcosm of the horrific happenings in Ukraine. Vladimir Putin, the President of Russia, deemed it acceptable, even necessary to direct his military across the border of a sovereign nation and destroy entire cities. Thousands have died. Millions have become refugees, uprooted from their homes. The war crimes Putin has committed in the name of Russia have already caused untold grief and suffering. The legacy of hatred he will leave in his wake is likely to last for generations. It would seem that the heart of humanity is disinclined to keep God’s law.

We have no stones to throw. This week at Grace Church we finally released the Cozen O’Connor Report, detailing the deplorable deeds of Bruce McInnes, a choirmaster in the 1990s. McInnes crossed personal boundaries that are supposed to be inviolate. He invaded the sanctity of innocent children and sexually assaulted them. In so doing he inflicted terrible, psychological wounds on people. His legacy will be an everlasting sorrow in the long history of Grace Church.

We need the Penitential Order. We need the grace of God to incline our hearts to walk in the ways of Jesus. What I can tell you is that over the past 2 ½ years I have witnessed just that in many, many people who have tried to respond faithfully to these things that have come to pass. From the survivors of McInnes’ abuse who came forward, to those at church and school who guided our efforts to be transparent and pastoral, I have seen the Spirit of God dwelling in the midst of our painful circumstances. For that I give thanks, and continue to pray: “Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep thy laws.”

See you in church.

The Rev. J. Donald Waring