Archives March 2006

Sermon: Mass of the Lord's Supper, 2006

Mass of the Lord’s Supper

In the name of the +Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

“Do this in remembrance of me”

Today is traditionally known as Maundy Thursday. Maundy comes from the Latin word “Mandatum” – commandment – “A new commandment I will give to you – that you love one another” – John 13:34.

Love is at the heart of this Gospel

It is love which transcends tribe, culture, language, ethnicity, sexuality or location

It is love which unites when the world seeks to pull apart, to dissolve into sectarianism or ethnic conflict

It is love which overcomes the rifts, arguments, fights and conflicts in our families and our marriages.

This love is shown for us on the Cross. The cross which was in the eyes of so many a terrible humiliation, a criminal’s death becomes the victory, the triumph. The Lamb of God slain for our sins, led out to the slaughter – and every time I think of this, I am reminded of those stark images from the Passion of the Christ which make plain the love which gives of itself so completely.

How could we not respond to such love with anything other than our love?

How could we do anything else than recall this saving act with faith.

The Jews made a great thing of recalling the saving acts of God – the book of Deuteronomy is effectively a recapping of the escape from Egypt and a reworking of the law (on the basis that if you teach something twice, it must be really important). To the Middle-eastern mind (and indeed many other non-western cultures), where story telling and recalling are a societal act, stories are not just events of the past, but a living embodiment of the present – we are here because of what we have done in the past.

The Jews sat in the desert and later in the promised land because of Yahweh – we are here because of what we have done in the past.

The Jews fretted in exile in Babylon because of their failure of obey the Torah and recalled – we are here because of what we have done in the past.

We gather together to proclaim the Lord’s death and resurrection in the sacrifice of the mass – we are here because of what has been done in the past.

The word at the heart of this, the institution of the Lord’s Supper in the Upper Room is Anemnesis

I Corinthians 11:24 – “when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, ‘This is my body that is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”

and

Luke 22:19 – “Then he took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’”

Remembrance is an inadequate translation for the Greek word – bringing the past into the present – bringing Christ into our midst – the real presence of Christ in body and blood.

Jesus said “THIS IS MY BODY … THIS IS MY BLOOD” and he meant it.

The Passover was a festival which was not a remembrance of the past deeds of Yahweh and the deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt, but a bringing of it into their midst. The Passover happened not 4000 years ago, but now.

Our deliverance, from the slavery of sin and the punishment of death occurs now.

And why should we recall it? Because it brings into our presence that parable in action, which we have just all witnessed – the humility of Christ – the same humility which would be further revealed on the Cross.

When the priest takes off the chasuble and puts on an amice to wash the feet of the people, he brings home the call of Christ, not just to think fondly of the poor, the outcast, the refugee, the tainted, the unsound, the diseased, not to think fondly of them in the past, but to deal with them in the present – to deal with them now. For, as Jesus said, “the poor are always with us”.

The job of washing the feet of guests feel to the lowest slave in the household. People didn’t routinely wear shoes, and the streets were full of the products of an agrarian society – the evidence of donkeys were all around, and so it was not a pleasant task. Jesus took on this role and showed his disciples, showed us, a parable in action – to become one with Christ means casting aside our claims to greatness, claims to honour, claims to prestige and to act like the lowest slave of the household.

Tonight as we gather at this celebration, to bring into our present the whole message of Christ, we see the Mass as the heart of our faith: with its messages of love, of humility, of loving, of thankfulness and of the closeness of God in our midst. The Mass is not an optional extra, but the very centre of our being with God.

We do not presume to understand the mechanisms going on here: anyone who demands to understand the Eucharist taking place here is merely showing how far they are from understanding that the ways of Yahweh are simply beyond understanding, that although God is close, he is unknowable, mysterious, other.

God cannot simply be measured out, or weighed, or deduced. God is. God simply is.

But through the grace of holy orders, the calling down of the Holy Spirit, something special happens: the ordinary – ordinary bread and ordinary wine are made extraordinary. Ordinary people like you and I are transformed into the extraordinary people of God, and the Christ who said “I will be with you always” stands here in our midst and shares again, and again and again his simple meal of bread and wine, and love and humility.

At the end of the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, the Church is stripped, the sacrament is removed to the altar of repose and we are left in the desolate silence, reminded of the arid loss of the disciples as their Lord was arrested and taken from them.

But we recognise that what took place in that Upper Room fed not only those disciples gathered for a Passover meal, but fed an entire Church. It is a miracle which makes the feeding of the five thousand look trivial, and yet here amid bread and wine and worship and prayers are hidden the gateway to salvation. This is more than a simple memorial meal, or a farewell toast – it is that night brought into Elson and shared with you, his disciples.

During Lent we have used the memorial acclamation which cannot be any more apt, so let us say together:

“Every time we eat this bread and drink this cup we proclaim your death, Lord Jesus, until you come in glory”

We are here because God is.

Amen.


Sermon: Lent 4, Year B

Sermon: Lent 4, Year B
Text – John 3:16

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”

I believe this to be the greatest verse in all the Bible.
There are only 25 words in this verse yet no other single verse in all the Scriptures has been as blessed in the salvation of so many souls.

Martin Luther called John 3:16 the miniature gospel.
It has been called the Gospel in a nutshell.
It has been called a love letter from God written in blood and addressed to all.

Years ago a doctor in a hospital Intensive Care Unit gave me only 2 minutes with a lost dying woman who had called for a priest in her dying hour. The doctor told me he would give me only 120 seconds with her. What could I say in so short a time?

I just sensed that God had given me the words needed: John 3:16 and the Jesus prayer. It was all she needed. She died in peace and I am sure died at peace with her Saviour.

There are many ways to look at this verse but for a few minutes I want us to look at some of the words of this great verse.

FOR GOD – John 3:16 begins as the Bible begins, with the existence of God taken for granted. Think of Genesis 1:1 (“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”). Only a fool would think otherwise. See Psalm 14:1 (“Only a fool would say, “There is no God!”) The whole Bible stands on belief in God, and our whole existence is suffused with his place in our lives – a God engaged with our existence.

The Bible says that this God…

SO LOVED – What is love? It cannot be defined in words. The word “loved” occurs 56 times in the Book of John. The dictionary says love is “to have a feeling, affection, or regard for, to be strongly attached to or attracted toward, to hold dear”. There are also synonyms
like affection, charity, devotion, fondness, liking, and passion. All these definitions are weak when defining the word “love”. The difficulty becomes greater when you add the word “so”. GOD SO LOVED… “so loved” surpasses illustration.

THE WORLD – The word “world” is found 77 times in John. This is not talking about the matter-world or the world system but the world people. The greatest love of man or woman is love of self. What a narrow love that is!

Walter Wilson said that “No one in all the world could possibly love everyone in the world. In fact most people find it difficult to love all their relatives.” But God has found it possible, with His great heart of love, to love every individual in the entire world in spite of their faults.

God loves the Jews (we know that from Scripture) but also the French, the Arabs, the Americans, and the English.
God loves the civilized – but also the heathen.
God loves the Baptists and the Methodists, the Free Church and the Roman Catholics and even the Anglicans
God loves the progressives, the fundamentalists, conservatives, liberals and the communists.
God loves priests and good Christians like yourselves – but also murderers, gamblers, drug addicts, and prostitutes.
God loves ALL – ALL colors, ALL individuals, ALL social groups, ALL…
God loved a world of saints – NO – rather he loved a world of sinners.

He loves the sinner not the sin,
the criminal not the crime,
the rebel not the rebellion,
the liar not the lie,
the idolater not the idol.

THAT HE GAVE – The world knows a little about giving but God’s giving costs something. Most of the giving we know about is giving that really has no element of sacrifice in it.

God did not give riches or silver or gold, land or stock options. He gave all he had in the person of his Son. “He gave” means suffering.

We think a lot about the suffering of the Son but have you ever thought about the suffering of the Father. Could you stand in a window of your house and watch an angry mob spit on, beat, abuse, and kill your son with the power to stop it in an infinity of a second’s notice. God could have stopped it but HE GAVE… Because he loved us.

HIS ONLY BEGOTTEN SON – Here is a word of relationship. David was a “son” to King Saul in I Sam. 26:21-25 by association. God the Father is called “Father” not because of relationship to his creatures but because of his relationship to his Son.

A child was once trying to quote this verse and said “his only forgotten Son” and it struck me how true it is. He has been forgotten by most people.

THAT WHOSOEVER – This means all. All have sinned and all need a Saviour. It means any who will. It means those who believe. It means you. It means me. No-one is beyond redemption.

BELIEVES – The word “believe” with its various endings occur 100 times in John. Believing is at the heart of the Gospel

IN HIM – Acts 4:12 and I John 5:12 show us that salvation is in a Person and that person is the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is not found in believing in the preacher, the church, a good Christian, but in Christ.

SHOULD NOT PERISH – A life without God is a life of annihilation

BUT HAVE EVERLASTING LIFE – Life is mentioned 36 times in the Book of John. Notice the verse begins with God and ends with life.

Of course, you recall from last week that the most important Scripture for me is also concerned with life: “I come that you may have life – life in all its fullness” and it is this Scripture under consideration this morning which gives it full meaning.

I saw a poem years ago that said:

For God – the Lord of earth and heaven,
So loved – and longed to see forgiven,
The world – in sin and pleasure mad,
That he gave – the only Son he had,
His only Son – to take our place,
That whosoever – Oh, what grace,
Believes – placing simple trust,
In Him – the righteous and the just,
Should not perish – lost in sin,
But have everlasting life – in HIM.

Simple words. Powerful theology. Profound love.

Amen.


Sermon: Lent 3, Year B

Sermon: Lent 3, Year B
Exodus 20:1-17; John 2:13-25

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Old Testament debars graven images of God – likenesses of the unseen image are impossible, for God is, as he said to Moses in Exodus 3: “I AM”

However, Jesus Christ is the ultimate image of God – the ultimate Ikon.

John 1:14 “And the Word (logos) became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

1 John 1:1 “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word (logos) of life”

Ikons are windows into heaven, a manifestation of the seen God, of the Kingdom of God on earth, not just in heaven.

The word has been fully expressed. Not in words of prohibition but in words of assent: John 10:10 “I come that you may have life – life in all its fullness”

The earliest disciples could point to the risen Christ and say “This is how it will be for us after the resurrection” and their personal witness, even at the point of martyrdom proves more than anything of the truth of that revelation.

Take some time this Lent to spend it with an ikon. Look at is beauty, and see not the object in itself, but glimpse through it the seen God, the incarnated Christ, the redeemer on earth.

This is a real and live faith, not for books or arid bible reading. The 365 Prohibitions of the Torah are about what you are not to do. Look at the 10 Commandments. Christ is about enabling.

Rather than display the 10 commandments in Church (as they used to be behind what is now the reredos), if we put up anything I would suggest one of two sentiments:

John 10:10 “I come that you may have life – life in all its fullness”

Luke 10:27 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.”

It is not about what you don’t do. But about what you do.

Christ drove out the moneychangers and the animal sellers because his Gospel calls us to engage with things we don’t like, to transform them.

It’s not enough to decry young people on our streets, we must provide a youth project for them (which we have done),

it’s not enough to give in to secular pressures, we must stand up for our faith, and the truths of the Gospel, especially on matters of social justice.

In the power of Christ, we do not condemn, we forgive. We enable, we transform.

Condemnation is within the Old Testament, but the New Testament speaks of reconciliation.

St Paul knew this is contrary to the way of the world: a world that cannot forgive; a world that seeks to pick holes, to care only about itself and its own quota, a world of businessmen and management consultants who are concerned with the minutae of finance rather than the proclamation of the kingdom of God.

St Paul knew this was foolishness to the Greeks, but “God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, God’s weakness is stronger than human strength”.

We as a parish look forward to the future with a new vibrancy and a knowledge of the Christ that liberates each and every one of us.

In the power of Christ, the redemption of the Cross, the proclamation of the Kingdom of God as a tangible reality in this place, in the power of prayer and the saving mystery of the eucharist, we know that God comes to transform us, to make us afresh, to give us life – life in all its fullness.

Amen


Sermon: Lent 2, Year B

Sermon: Lent 2, Year B
Text: Mark 9:2-10

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The Transfiguration of Our Lord is one of those epiphanous moments – an episode where Jesus Christ is revealed as he truly is – not merely a fairly special man, or a marvellous teacher, or even a thoroughly good bloke, but he is shown to be God himself, revealed to us in all his glory. ‘Transfiguration’ in Greek is ‘Meta-morphos’ – from which we get metamorphosis – a change from one thing to another.

The Transfiguration was a marvellous experience for the closest of Jesus’ disciples, those privileged to see this revelation at first hand; and it was an experience which they wanted to go on forever. This is why Peter makes that rather embarrassing comment about making three tents for Moses, Elijah and Jesus – because if he sets up somewhere for them to stay then by the rules of Middle-Eastern hospitality, they would be required to remain until the host wished them to leave.

Few of us are privileged enough to have such a close, intimate experience of God. Few of us encounter directly the glory and power of God. It may appear like a fairy story, or the sort of marvellous experience that only happens to other people. But the experience of God in these epiphanies need not be so dramatic – God is to be found in the stillness and quietness of your own prayers, in the Eucharist, in the Rosary, in exposition. God is to be experienced in the dark and the quiet as well as the bright mountain top, and that experience of God, with all the comfort, all the reassurance it offers is no less valid.

But what draws me to this episode is not the dramatic. At the end of the great experience, Jesus, Peter, James and John came down from the mountains and returned to the plains and the city. It would seem a little odd at first glance to concentrate on that text, rather than the glories that preceeded it, but this morning, this is what I want us to focus upon.

After the glorious vision, their glimpse of heaven, they had to return to their daily lives, however humdrum, however exciting, however ordinary, and they had to get on with the job in hand – being Jesus’s disciples.

The Mass offers us a Transfiguration, a metamorphosis, it offers us the bread and wine changed into the Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The Mass offers us the mountain-top experience in the beauty of liturgy and the glories of music. The Mass is the meeting point between normal human beings like Peter, James and John, like you and I, and with God Almighty.

And after the Mass… well, you just have to come down from the mountain, go home and get on with the job in hand – making the Yorkshire Puddings, and being Jesus’ disciples.

The key thing therefore, is not necessarily what happens on the mountain-top, as wonderful as it may be, but what that Transfiguration experience does for us the other days of the week.

The methods through which we get on with the difficult and demanding job of being one of Jesus’ disciples are written out for us in the reading: The Transfiguration Story in Luke has the commands: “Stand up”. “Do not be Afraid”, and in Mark we have “This is my Son, Listen to Him.”

“This is my Son, Listen to Him.”

Many of you are now aware of the involvement of myself in a number of Christian Youth Camps, and I am sure you can sense that I see them as a relevant, even essential part of my ministry, both here and to the wider church. This year, I have been asked to be one of the principal preachers at the May festival – a festival for more than 600 young people and as I am sure you will agree – quite a scary prospect for which I will desperately need your prayers.

For the hundreds of young people who gather for the Chichester Diocese Festivals in May and in the first week of the Summer holidays, and the many more who come to a small village in Norfolk for the National Youth Pilgrimage to Walsingham, it is like a Transfiguration experience, as we come away from our parishes, gather together as eager disciples and are given a glimpse of the glory of God in lively and exciting worship, in fun and fellowship, prayer and games, opportunity to encounter God and to study his word and meet with hundreds of other Christians. It is truly a mountaintop experience, and it can be seen in the excitement and enthusiasm of the many young people I and others have helped along this journey over nearly a decade. If you yourselves were to witness any part of this, you would see why I put in so much work into these each year and why it is such a crucial element of the Church’s mission: it is why I ask you to release me each year for this important work and to pray that young people in this parish will be able to go to them and experience this transfigurative experience themselves.

And after the week of camp, well, just like the disciples, the young people have to come down from that wondrous experience, and return to the cities and the plains, to their own churches, and not be beaten into conforming, but to get on with the job in hand of changing and enthusing us, teaching us from their transfiguration experiences, for they have so much to teach us all.

Their experiences can feed our own worship, and together we can grow to worship God in a Mass that truly reflects his glory. We follow a Jesus who is not just for Sunday best, and not restricted to those who think themselves worthy of being a Christian, but we follow a Jesus who came to earth with the sole purpose of saving us all, regardless of how good or bad we think we are.

The Mass is at the heart of this. I passionately believe that what happens here, in the presence of God, what happens on that altar, through the grace of God has the power to transform, to transfigure – not just the lives of young people, but the lives of us all. There is power in these sacraments, in the real presence of Christ among us.

The Mass is not therefore an optional experience. It is not something that you can show your approval or disapproval of the minister conducting the service by coming or not coming. It is not a spectator sport, but the coming together of Priest and People and Almighty God at the sacrifice.

It is the stuff of your life lived out in the cities and the plains, away from the mountaintop. If you think that your Christian life can be expressed without the mass, then you are very much mistaken, for this is the food for the journey, the well-spring of our faith, the completion of Christ’s saving work on earth until he comes in glory. The power of the eucharist is the most powerful agent on earth, for nothing else has quite the power to enable, to transform, to transfigure, to save.
This is why I passionately believe that the mass is the centre of our worshipping lives here at St Thomas the Apostle, why we begin our PCC meetings and our Annual Meeting with mass, and why if you are coming to the meeting, you should come to the Mass that precedes it, and why we proclaim the saving power of Christ through this most wonderful, most mysterious, most unfathomable sacrament.

So, my dear friends in Christ, enjoy and participate: fill yourself here at this altar with the experience from the top of the Mountain, and then do like Peter, James and John and go back into the real world and get on with it.

“This is my Son, the Beloved, Listen to Him.”

Amen.


Sermon – Lent 1, Year B

Sermon – Lent 1, Year B

In the name of the +Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

“I can resist everything – except temptation” said Oscar Wilde.

Of all things in this world, temptation is something that we are not short of, and something which most of us, like Oscar Wilde, find difficult, if not impossible to resist. From the quick fix or the short-cut to the last apple doughnut in the window of the bakery on Palmyra Road, temptation confronts us on every side.

After his baptism Jesus went into the wilderness to prepare for his ministry. He needed to spend time alone with God and he also had to overcome the temptations of Satan. In this Lenten season we too withdraw into the wilderness. We try and spend more time in prayer and to fast from something we enjoy. We hope that in this way we will be purified and better fitted to overcome our daily temptations.

After this period, when Jesus began his preaching ministry his message was the same as we heard on Ash Weds: ‘Repent and believe in the Gospel’ (Mark 12v15).

Repentance – remember the greek word: metanoia – to turn around and face the opposite direction, both physically and spiritually.

Repentance is not a fashionable idea today. Many see it as negative or unwholesome to call people sinners and say that we should only look at the positive things about ourselves. Yet, to ignore our sin is to hide our eyes from reality.

If we examine our lives in the light of God’s commands, it is easy to see how far short we fall (Romans 3:23). This being so, we need to take action: recognising our sin is the first stage towards healing: just as in any twelve-step recovery program, the first thing one needs to do with a dependency upon alcohol or drugs, or an eating disorder is to recognise that you have a problem, and after recognising that, it all becomes a lot easier.

In the same way, when one suffers from a condition such as mine: diabetes, one could try and ignore the problem: drink all the beer, eat all the cream cakes (how appropriate for a sermon in Lent), but by ignoring one’s diabetes, one asks for trouble. The step to being able to control one’s diabetes, much like controlling your sin, is to accept the reality of it, and the impact it has on your life.

Repentance does not mean castigating ourselves, and wallowing in our sins: it means admitting them freely and fully before God an asking him to help us change in the future. This is where the sacrament of reconciliation is most useful: that meeting between an individual and God with the priest as a mediator, counsellor and agent of forgiveness, where advice, penance and absolution may be given, and you – each and every one of you – has the opportunity to have the burden of your sin lifted from you. Some in this parish have already received that healing, and I urge you to consider it. I have many leaflets on it, and if you seek this Lent to take up something, why not take up the occasional use of this sacrament?

It is easy for us to think that our sins are too bad for Jesus to forgive us and change our lives. We may think that we are being humble in taking this attitude, but really it is a lack of faith.

If we trust God’s promises and power, we will be sure that he offers us forgiveness and that the blood of the lamb, the blood of Christ is powerful enough to wash away all our sins, however great, however burdensome to us.

We need to take sin seriously, and hate every sin as an offence against God – sin is a little like being pregnant, you can’t be ‘a little pregnant’ or have a mildly clean driving licence: we either have sinned or we have not, and we in the Anglican Church do not make the trivial distinction that the Roman Church makes between venial and mortal sin: it’s all sin and it all drives a wedge between us and God. Fr Nicolas Stebbing once remarked that “every sin, even the seemingly little ones, are like spitting on the face of Christ”.

And yet, my dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we do not despair: rather we rejoice because we have a Saviour, who died for our sins, and offers his merciful love each and every day, at each and every mass.

This lent, let us turn from our sin, let us repent, and pray that we may know Christ’s forgiveness.

Let us pray:

“Lord Jesus, we know that we are sinners, and that you had to die because of our sins. Lead us to true and holy repentance, so we may experience forgiveness in you, and long to lead pure and holy lives. We ask this in the name of Jesus, the Lord”

Amen.


Sermon: Ash Wednesday, Year B: A Short Introduction to Lent

Sermon: Ash Wednesday, Year B
A Short Introduction to Lent

n the name of the +Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

As Ash Wednesday is the introduction to Lent, I thought it might be useful to have a short introduction to Lent this evening.

Where it Came From

In the earliest Christian centuries, once the Christian mission moved past Palestine and the “god-fearing” Gentiles (those familiar with and disposed toward the story of Israel’s god, like Cornelius in Acts 10) and into the wider Roman world, it became necessary to catechize potential converts – to be intentional about teaching them the story of God, his people, his world, and his Christ, from beginning to end. Catechesis was a time of ethical reformation, as members of the church discipled these soon-to-be Christians in the way of God’s New Community. Baptism was traditionally only celebrated on Easter morning at the culmination of the Easter Vigil.

Much of the theological instruction for this one to three year period was put into the period of 40 days before this momentous memorial. Forty days echoes Moses conversing with God on Sinai before receiving the Ten Commandments, the forty years of temptation in the wilderness that refined Israel, and the forty days when Jesus entered the wilderness for his communion with God and to prepare for his own testing. Forty days is a time of refining and of being with the Lord.

At the season of Lent, Christian converts receive intensive theological education, accompanied by prayers, confession and exorcisms – it is indeed an intense time of being with the Lord. The rest of the Church also walks through this time of penitence and learning and self-examination.

Walking with Jesus

It also has a place in the overall narrative of Jesus’ life: At Epiphany, we commemorated his appearance to his people, and realized that he is the light that scatters our darkness.

At his baptism, he was revealed to be the Son of God, bearing divine favour for the people.

At the reception of John’s baptism, he identified himself with the faithful remnant of Israel, and began to reconstitute the nation in terms of loyalty to himself by his calling of the Twelve; now enter the story of the last days of his ministry, when he begin to orient himself and his disciples to his vocation of suffering and death for the sake of the people.

The story has taken a dark turn, and we join the Master as he sets his face resolutely toward Jerusalem. In solidarity with him, we begin the time of sorrowing for our sins and his suffering, walking into the darkness of our broken humanity in the hope of Easter’s light.

So the matter of Lenten disciplines or practices is this: what can I do to set my own face toward Jerusalem? What in my personality and my life with the Church in the world needs to be put to death, and what does God wish to be raised up? I think we find the answers to these questions by putting ourselves in an intentional posture of listening: making a quiet space in our routines to hear from the Lord.

This is not meant for Herculean efforts of spiritual zeal – like boot camp for Jesus – but for a time of greater intentionality. We learn to be quiet and make space, preparing for the conviction of sin, and to offer our brokenness for his healing, so that when we do speak and act, we will do so as a grateful and repentant response to the Trinitarian God who leads us into truth.

Lent is not about what you give up, but about what you embrace, for to embrace a better discipline is to embrace Christ. We are to be known as Christians not by what we reject, but by what we show in our lives, not by what we walk away from but from what we engage with.

There is prayer: daily prayer in the form of an office. One of our disciplines in our household this lent will be nightly compline – the late evening office before we retire to bed. You might want to expressly close the day with a reading from scripture or a set prayer – Mother Margaret and I can help you on this.

Centering prayer enables us to quiet ourselves in a deep, purposeful way, to stop the noise and stop the thinking and just stop … and wait for the Spirit of the Lord to come and do what it will. It’s about giving him space to do the deep works he needs to do, but doesn’t really need to tell us about.

There is study – the Lent course each Monday is an important way to spiritual preparation. It is not too late to come to that.

There is the sacrament of reconciliation. A few in this parish have engaged with that sacrament, and it is available at all times of the year, but especially so in Lent. I am happy to walk with people as they make their personal confession to God and seek advice, penance and absolution. There are a number of really good pamphlets which I can recommend on the subject to begin the process of freeing anyone from the burden of their sin. In the Anglican Church, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is not compulsory, but useful. In the words of Archbishop Michael Ramsay: “All May. Some Should. None Must”.

There is Spiritual Reading, and this Lent, The Church in the Marketplace by Archbishop George Carey is most recommended. Copies are circulating. Put your name on the list and read it. Read it now.

There is also the Mass. Attending to the holy mysteries, and receiving the mystical body of Christ into oneself – does that need explanation? Salvation, after all, isn’t only or even mostly in our heads. Salvation is performed, and salvation must be eaten.

The time of Great Lent is upon us. May it be a holy one as we walk into the dark places of ourselves and discover that the Lord Himself leads us into the stillness of our solitary fears, to sit with us, to heal us, and to absorb all of our darkness into the Darkness of his Cross and the Light of Easter Dawn.

May peace and blessing be upon you as you begin the journey of Lent in God’s Church. Let us journey. Let us prepare. Let us pray.

Amen.