Sunday 21st February - 1st Sunday in Lent
May I speak in the name of God..
May I speak in the name of God
The great season of Lent is now upon us. I have shared with you already that I do not particularly enjoy this season.
There are numerous reasons for this.
The first is that it is a season which makes us traditionally give things up.
I don’t really like giving things up.
Evelyn Underhill, an Anglican mystic and writer of the twentieth century wrote:
“Reduce, or stop entirely, your use during Lent of one or more of the following:
Cigarettes, Chocolates and sweets. After-dinner coffee. Cocktails. Sherry. Hot-water bottles. Bath salts. Bath powder.
Reduce expenditure on cosmetics and give the money saved in charity.
A time-limit of five minutes on hot baths.
Avoid lounging, and sometimes deliberately choose an uncomfortable chair.
Do not linger in bed, but get up at once when called.
No new clothes till Easter”
Some of this may sound rather absurd to our modern ears (apart from cocktails and bath salts perhaps)
But the essence of this sense of abstinence remains both within the church and more significantly outside of it, during these weeks leading up to Easter.
Perhaps a more modern equivalent maybe not watching Netflix or looking at social media.
We often seem to think that we are better people if we are able to improve something of ourselves over these next seven weeks.
However, does giving up cake actually make me a better Christian?
Will I be closer to God if I don’t eat a large bar of Cadbury’s fruit and nut until Easter Day?
Does increasing the amount of press ups I do each day improve my relationship with God?
Well no. Is the simple answer.
So why give things up?
Or even why try and take things up; reading that Christian book that has set on the shelf for years.
Phone that member of the family regularly who drives us round the bend?
The essence of this season is to remove things that stand in the way of deepening our relationship with God.
Of stripping our lives back to the basics before our Heavenly Father.
If this includes not shoving a slice of apple crumble in our faces during this season then so be it.
But at the heart of it is a need for each of us to look honestly and truthfully at our lives before a holy God who calls us each day into a deeper and more intimate relationship with Him.
To rely upon him for all that we need in life.
We read again in our Gospel the familiar words of Christ’s baptism as told by St Mark.
The most straightforward of all the Gospel texts, Mark explains clearly and precisely the baptism of Christ and his temptation in the wilderness before he starts his public ministry.
What we find in this text, usually read on this first Sunday of Lent, is that there is no mention of avoiding cake, wine or chocolate, but rather we see in Jesus a close and intimate walk with his Father which begins in his baptism, then carries him through the wilderness and time of temptation and on into his public ministry.
Christ stands before his Father and the Spirit descends upon him like a dove.
Confirming that Christ is the Son of God, chosen and equipped to face the trials and temptations of this life to fulfil his earthly mission.
The suffering that Christ endured both in the wilderness but more brutally on the cross reminds us of his willingness to suffer for the sins of all, as St Peter reminds us.
As we begin a new season of Lent my prayer for each of you as it is for me, is that we would together turns our eyes to Christ and allow ourselves the joy and even the pain of laying all that we are before a Holy God and saying to Christ come and live in me, just as the Spirit came upon Christ at his baptism.
Abstaining from chocolate, wine, bath salts or whatever it maybe may improve our figures and health but what does our spiritual health look like?
How will we seriously invest in our relationship with God over these coming weeks so that Easter isn’t simply the traditional festival that we enjoy each year but rather one that has greater meaning and deeper significance as we have allowed the Spirit of God to examine and strip away the unimportant and superficial elements of our lives so that we may walk more closely and more intimately with Christ. Amen