May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be acceptable in your sight.
So here we are on the first Sunday of Lent?
The traditional thing for lent is giving something up,
chocolate, or something we will miss.
Last year I tried a “bad words” box, but I have a teenage daughter, a stressful job and I commute on the M25 and I support west ham. So the odds were stacked against me.
Also on reflection I had sort of boiled lent down to giving something up, I wasn’t thinking so much about how we should approach lent, or how this tradition added to it, why was I doing this, and all the other things we do?
Then I got the sermon on the first day of lent and thought maybe we could here today think about that, maybe we could wonder, whats it all about? Not just the tradition of giving something up thing, but “what is lent about”?
Whenever I hear the word tradition, I hear rowan Williams, he says it’s something we should take notice of but not be bound by. That’s very true some traditions are very old, and very grounded in great theology, and some need to be sort of rounded out, are we doing this today for a good reason, what was the reason it became tradition, is that reason still around today, have we forgotten why we do a thing, have we simplified the tradition too much, or made it far too complicated.
Our new testament reading which is why we sort of deny ourselves in lent has Jesus fasting that’s where your pining for chocolate comes from, or the being off caffeine or beer or bad language and that hitting the buffers on the m25.
It shows that a famished jesus was for forty days was “supposedly” tempted by food and by power,
I think jesus wasn’t even looking at them, the bread that rots, and the power that fades had become something much less than what Jesus actually had his eye on. He had his eyes on what is spoken about in the other two readings today. The inheritance prepared for us, things that have been made ready for us, the generosity of the love that saves us. He had his eyes on a greater story than anything the enemy had to offer.
The story today shows us is that when we are focussed on our lord, the enemy loses his power, his words and deeds become empty to us. That really when we have our eyes on our lord the enemy will just depart until an – wonderful phrase – an opportune time, and we as fallible people will give him an opportune time. But that’s why he came because he knows we will do that, we will wander off, lose focus, forget the promise and see the thing in front of us.
Maybe THAT ’S what lents all about, Focus, maybe its all about Focus?
The tradition of denial is less about the denial in and of itself, but about clearing away distractions finding our true north, following our leader, our king, our saviour, and our shepherd?
That we should copy Jesus not so much in denial but in that focus on him that lessens the noise and the distractions the world brings to drag our eyes away from him.
SO how do we do that, how do we get to that point of being that focus on our lord?
Lent is a 40 day march
Christ being hunted by Herod, parables of fig trees that have to be looked after to bear fruit and children that sin, mary washing jesus, kings that arrive on a donkey, the betrayal of our closest, to the worst death the world knew, to the greatest victory ever known.
it takes time to work through the story of it. Maya Angelou said stories are a persuasive means of relating to the human spirit, and stories take time to tell
I think perhaps that might show us a clue about how to do this thing called lent,. Lets go on the journey. In these days leading to Easter, “be” in the moment of the story, don’t lets let ourselves off with “Sunday’s coming”, its all going to be alright.
Be focussed on him, where he’s going, why he’s doing what he’s doing, stay with the narrative.
We should celebrate as he comes triumphant, on a donkey,
imagine yourselves washing feet, or having your feet washed,
In the last supper be a disciple that’s not got to the point of this story, and listen to Jesus as he alludes to whats coming. When Jesus is arrested imagine the fear of being his disciple, knowing your now an outlaw.
and when the crowd says, “let him be crucified” and we know hes innocent?. Let yourselves feel a little outrage at an innocent man being murdered for messing up the system, for saying things that challenge the powers that be, for making claims that undermine earned status.
What will the affect of that be, if we immerse ourselves in the story and take it step by step?
Maybe that might lead to a different sort of lent, one where we see what it means to be his disciple in a way that’s much more true, to the story that’s being told,.
I think doing that will show us what a man called deitrich bonhoffer
means by what he calls “costly grace”, bonehoeffer
knew what he was talking about as he stayed true to his faith and the ethics it
espouses to the point where he was imprisoned and mudrdered by the nazis.
“grace” by the way is “Grace is unconditional love toward a person who has done nothing to deserve it.”
We are all recipients of grace,
But Bonhooeffer says there are two types cheap and costly,
Cheap Grace essentially is grace where we know we are forgiven and carry on how we like, it’s the grace without the following, grace without the discipleship.
But then he talks about the flip side….
Costly grace is the gospel which must be sought again and again, the gift which must be asked for, the door at which a man must knock. Such grace is costly because it calls us to follow, and it is grace because it calls us to follow Jesus Christ,
it’s that idea of keeping your focus on him, following him, being a disciple, re centering I think Is what lent is might be all about.
By doing that, Lent can make the distractions of the world recede to the point where the enemy
loses all influence and simply melts away, help us receive a love that brings us back,
brings us home, that makes, fishermen leave their nets, tax collectors to just
get up and follow as boenhoffer says … not
because he thinks that he might be doing something worthwhile, but simply for
the sake of the call.
because they know, he leads us to safe harbours, to lands prepared.
Lent should help us remember, and remind ourselves all the way through, that it’s not about what we give up,
It’s about keeping our focus on him
so we know what he gave up for us
and what we are being given