Monday, 15 February 2016

My how time flies!

Address given on Ash Wednesday 10th February 2016 at St Mary's, Nenagh (based on a reflection by Sally Foster-Fulton of Christian Aid Scotland in 'Dancing in the Desert - Prayers and reflections for Lent', published by Wild Goose Publications and the Iona Community).

My, how time flies! It seems like only yesterday we were caught up in the great consumer fest of Christmas – the Cadbury’s Roses, the over-priced party food, the booze, the chocolate Santas. But now they’ve been replaced with Creme eggs and chocolate bunnies in the shops, so the consumer festival of Easter is upon us already. We risk missing out on Lent.

Now I don’t mean to sound like a Scrooge - we should leave him behind at Christmas! I have nothing against chocolate – I’m fond of the stuff, and I love a celebration as much as the next man. But if we skip Lent we miss an important opportunity – in danger of being hidden under all these chocolate bunnies and Creme eggs is the ancient call to reflection. The church needs to reclaim it because the world needs it. Lent is a time to rethink, to reconsider, to reflect on where we’re going. Lent is a time, before the celebration of Easter, to consider where some of the paths we follow ultimately lead.

If we head in the direction that money, power, self-interest leads us … where will we end up? If we climb the ladder of success while ignoring the ones around us … where will we find ourselves? If we continue to consume as if there is no tomorrow … what will become of this beautiful planet? Lent is a time to reconsider.

Secular people often say that in an increasingly ‘post religious’ society the church has nothing to offer them. But I say we have this: We have the clarion call to repentance – not the ‘sackcloth and ashes, I am a loathsome sinner’ misunderstanding of repentance, but the ‘turn around, reconsider, redirect yourselves call to a new way of living’.

We could focus this Lent on denying ourselves and thinking pious thoughts, in other words on our own personal salvation. But would that really be any different to buying into the ‘me, me, because I’m worth it’ consumer culture of Creme eggs and chocolate bunnies? Jesus summarises God’s law as ‘love God and love your neighbour as yourself’. So in our Lenten journey we should rather seek to travel with Jesus and live in a way that allows everyone including ourselves to live as full a life as possible.

I hope you have already decided how you will mark Lent, but if not, here are a couple of ideas:
1. You could use Christian Aid’s Count Your Blessings calendar to be inspired to give, act and pray for communities in need. The calendar is an insert in this month’s Newslink, and I’ve left some copies at the back of the church.
2. You could undertake a Carbon Fast for Lent as Green Anglicans in South Africa have suggested. You can read about this in Newslink, and I’ve left copies at the back of the church.

Lent is an opportunity to journey with Jesus and wrestle with yourself. Lent is a time to reconsider, reflect, and redirect your life. Lent is an ancient clarion call to change.

My, how time flies! Before we know it, it will be Easter Day. How will we travel there this year?

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