Sermon given by Revd Caroline Risdon 1 March 2020
May I speak in the name of the Living God, who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. AMEN.
There is something very important, in the Church and in our lives, about remembering. The Christian calendar revolves in many ways around these times of remembrance- Advent and Christmas, Lent and Easter. They give our Church year its shape and its seasons- the season of reflection and hope in Advent followed by the joy of Christmas; the season of penitence and forgiveness in Lent, followed by the wonder of Easter.
Why do we remember these events each year? It is so that the events of history, or more particularly of HIS story, become our story. Not that we merely go through the motions of this or that time of year again. But that the story of Jesus and the followers of God becomes our story. That the events of creation and incarnation and salvation become events of which we are part day by day.
And on Ash Wednesday we began our Lenten observation with an act of penitence and with ashing. When the ash is placed on the forehead, the Priest say the words:
Remember that you are but dust and to dust you will return.
Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
This is the whole point of Lent. It is our opportunity to have a thorough and truthful reckoning with ourselves and God. Where are we in our lives of faith? And how are we? Is your spiritual well running on empty; or well nourished; or dry; or much the same as ever? These 40 days are a time gifted to us in the Church for study and reflection and action. It is, as Pat said in her sermon on Ash Wednesday, a good time for a spiritual spring clean.
And such a thorough and truthful reckoning of our current state of being has a purpose. It is not introspection for introspection's sake. Actually, the point is that we are enabled to move on. We take a reckoning of where we are with the Lord and we ask forgiveness. Having sought forgiveness, which is freely given, we take action to try become more like the people God would have us be.
There are plenty of things you can do if you want to use Lent to nourish your faith- pick one of the Gospels and read it; try a new style of prayer; join one of the Lenten study groups starting this week.
There are plenty of things you can stop doing if you want to use Lent to nourish your faith- try giving up habits that get between God and ourselves. There is no real point in giving up things like chocolate, coffee and social media. Truly, how can those things contribute to your spiritual well-being? But giving up gossip, or blindness to privilege, or entitlement, or self-satisfaction, or blaming others; these are ways in which you take responsibility and accountability for yourself in the eyes of God.
This is why we remember the stories from the Bible today. Both Eve and Jesus are children of God and both are tempted by material and spiritual hunger, power, and status. One is manipulated and gives in to her temptation and blames everyone else for her actions. One is manipulated and takes direct action to resist his temptation by remaining faithful to God’s word.
In a very real sense, what Jesus achieves in resisting temptation is actually freedom. He is freed from the slavery of control and power and from being enslaved to others. Adam and Eve become examples of lives that are dominated by captivity. They are held captive by their wish to control; to be gods of their own lives; to have power over one another and the earth.
These are the temptations we have to face today as individuals and as Church. So let us pray that we may take the opportunities afforded to us to put aright our relationship with God, with others and with ourselves.
Let us pray-
in these forty days
you lead us into the desert of repentance
that through a pilgrimage of prayer and discipline
we may grow in grace
and learn to be your people once again.
Through fasting, prayer and acts of service
you bring us back to your generous heart.
Through study of your holy word
you open our eyes to your presence in the world
and free our hands to welcome others
into the radiant splendour of your love.
Bless us, and all your people, with a Holy Lent,