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Shrove Tuesday

Shrove Tuesday – sin

Shrove Tuesday
Pancakes on Shrove Tuesday

In the English translation of the Bible we read the word “sin”. The Hebrew word mostly being translated is חָטָא (chata). The Greek word mostly being translated is ἁμαρτία (hamartia). Both mean “missing the mark”.

In Judges 20:16, there’s a story of 26,000 armed men amongst whom was a group of seven hundred left-handed young men who could sling a stone at a hair and not miss חָטָא (chata).

We miss the mark of our own goals, our own expectations of ourselves. We miss the mark of the expectations of others. We miss the mark of God’s expectations of us.

Our own goals and expectations – I would expect we are pretty clear about that. Some expectations that other people have of us we know well. Some of their expectations – we may not even know that someone has certain expectations of us. And when it comes to God’s expectations of us, well… it’s not hard to find quite a bit of disagreement about exactly what those expectations are.

Some would say that highlighting sin as merely “missing the mark” can make sin sound like just a skill deficiency. Hardly worth God’s strong interest in sin. Certainly not sufficient to relate to Christ’s incarnation, life, suffering, and death…

I tend to flinch whenever someone uses the words “merely”, “just”, “only” [as, for example, in: “merely a story”, “just a metaphor”, “only a film”].

There’s more IMO to the mark than my goal, your goal for me, God’s goal…

IMO: the goal is God. Union with God is the goal. And it is that mark that we miss. Through weakness and skill deficiency, sure. But also on purpose.

“Shrove” relates to the English word “shriven” – to be forgiven. Sunday’s Gospel reading had that moment of realisation, of insight: I am a sinful person.

There are spiritualities where one can only be forgiven for a particular sin once. In such a spirituality you can miss the mark – once. After that – be afraid, be very afraid. Because, in such a spirituality, there is no third chance. Christian spirituality differs from this. Christian spirituality declares forgiveness is always available to us. Christ’s response is: Do not be afraid.

A Shrove Tuesday Hymn.

A good collect for Shrove Tuesday:

Let us pray (in silence) [that we may live as forgiven people]


God of infinite mercy,
grant that we who know your compassion
may rejoice in your forgiveness
and gladly forgive others
for the sake of Jesus Christ our Saviour
who is alive with with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God now and for ever.

Reflection on the above collect.

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9 thoughts on “Shrove Tuesday – sin”

  1. I suppose the answer to not acquiring another accusation of sin would be forfeiting our expectations of other’s altogether. When I was younger I often had unrealistic hopes and dreams involving someone I cared for or loved. This included parents, siblings, friends and significant others. How can you change this way of thinking for yourself, keeping in line with what God expects of us as caring, compassionate servants and helpers in his kingdom? Possibly looking inward constantly until you have a self-awareness bordering on unselfishness and giving of yourself. Then look outward on your neighbor and realize we aren’t here to satisy our needs only but to try on a daily basis to reach out and give possibly what we may not get in our own lives. This could mark the beginning of our journey to Jesus during this season of Lent.

  2. Julianne Stewart

    I know it is now Ash Wednesday, but life rushes on so quickly…yesterday at morning office, the hymn selected (for Tuesday of week 1 in Hymns for Prayer and Praise) had these words which seem pertinent to what you have written above. It is addressed to Christ:

    “May what is false within us
    Before your truth give way…..”


    “The love that we have wasted,
    O God of love renew.”

    I always find these words very moving and a reminder of missing the mark, and how our awareness of “missing the mark” is a wonderful invitation to growth, to reconciliation and a return to wholeness.

  3. What, Father B, no favorite pancake recipe? I hope it doesn’t make me persona non grata, but I prefer waffles. Pancakes just sit like muck in my stomach. Whereas, light and crunchy waffles really hit the spot. They are great with real butter and real Canadian Maple syrup! Or, with butter, a twist of lemon juice and a sprinkling of powdered, real cane sugar.

  4. Almighty Father which in your Son has granted unto us a living hope,
    give us this day also pancakes,
    that we being thus fed by the riches of your bounty,
    might be sustained bodily as we walk in your grace and arrive at the last into your eternal rest,
    where you live and reign eternal with that same Son,
    in the Fellowship of the Holy Spirit;
    one God, now and forever.

    1. A great start, Vincent 🙂 but I think it could be much improved, for example by including something like:

      …you provided Elijah with cake baked on hot stones and he went through the desert in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights…


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