Click here for this week’s pewsheet.
Last Tuesday we were asked at the Lent Course to take stock of our Lenten journey. It had been nearly four weeks since the beginning of Lent. As we all experience it can feel an awful long time and the energy that might still have been there at the beginning of lent often has faded a little by now.
With this Sunday we enter Passiontide. These last two weeks before Good Friday we are on the home straight of Lent. How did we set out on our Lenten path? What has made us stumble on the way?
The Readings this Sunday remind us that stumbling is all too human. Israel stumbled their way through the desert for forty years.
But God is faithful. God is in the process of setting up a new covenant. Although we might stumble Jesus hasn’t and so we have hope that we too have a share in the new covenant promised to.
In this hope we can regain strength to continue where we might have left our Lenten journey. Let this Sunday be a time where we can refocus on our path with James so that we are prepared and ready to enter into the joy of Easter.
As a fitting preparation for Mothering Sunday, my week has had a considerable focus on children through two school chaplaincy-related events. The first arranged by Gordon Parry (as part of his ‘day job’) for our Diocese looked at the changing context and expectations of chaplains. The second, held at Worth School and led by a brother from the Taizé Community, reflected on faith development for teenagers. One message that came through strongly in both sessions was the need to listen, listen and listen again to what young people are telling us about their experience of the world, about their experience of God and (if we’re lucky!) their experience of the church. It needs the sort of listening that a loving parent does for their child. It is a kind of listening that gets beyond the ‘surface chatter’, the glib “It’s fine” to the deeper experiences of loneliness, insecurity or uncertainty. As I reflected on this I was greatly encouraged by the knowledge of our commitment as a parish to young people and families. I felt a profound gratitude to those who have stepped forward to support (in so many ways) the vision of our church family providing a safe place (physically and emotionally) where all can feel valued and confident in exploring and growing in the realisation of God’s love for them, discovering their self-worth. A mother-like church. As Jesus hung on the cross, in his last agony, he took care to form a new bond between his mother and John. We are the inheritors of that promise and command: to be as mother and son to each other. Whether or not our experience of mothers (or motherhood) and families has been positive, we can identify with the ideal of a relationship of unconditional love. It is God’s gift.
The Ten Commandments was said at the 8am Service today. Rules and especially these rules are important for us to flourish.
I grew up playing football in the park pretty much all summer. We would put jumpers down as goal posts, select captain and teams and kick off.
Games would last until either until the score became ridiculous one-sided or we had to go home to tea (generally late! – sorry mum) or more often when someone ignored the vague rules we played to – football without any rules isn’t much fun; goalkeepers picked up the ball miles from their goals, they changed the size of their goals depending how they felt, the pitch would stretch across the whole of the park as their lines to follow and handball and fouling could be the norm.
How much better it was when we played for our clubs when we followed the rules – marked out pitches, standardised goals and a referee. This allowed the game to flow, skills to develop and a better experience; and so it is with life – we live in a culture that demands freedom and fights against any rules. However, a society without any rules doesn’t allow us to flourish or protect each other.
Obviously the other extreme is following the rules so tightly that they become oppressive – a whistle happy referee (with no idea of the advantage rule) kills any chance of an exciting and free-flowing game. Jesus showed that a faith based only on following the letter of the law, like the Pharisees, was not the way to live a life abundantly.
He did not abolish the law but challenged us to see it through the lens of loving God and each other. That is still our challenge today not to ignore the rules but also not to become Christians that create a faith suffocated by rules. To play the game, knowing like Jesus – the advantage rule!
Click here for the pewsheet for this week.
Tip: If the size of this, or any other PDF document appears too big to read, here’s what you do:
- Open Adobe Reader, for example, by opening a *.pdf document you have on your computer.
- From the Edit menu, click Preferences.
- With Page Display selected in the left hand list of Categories, on the right hand side of the window, choose a Page Layout and Zoom level that suits you, for example Single Page and Fit Page as shown here:
- Now any time you open a PDF, it will open at this zoom level.
This week we continue on our journey through readings expressing the special relationship of God to God’s people. Last week we heard of God’s covenant with Noah and all humanity, today we are reminded of God’s covenant with the descendants of Abraham – next week we will hear of the covenant with Israel.
In Old Testament times covenants were agreements between kings and those people in their sphere of influence. They regulated rights and responsibilities in the relationship and to give some form of security and stability a bit like modern day armistice agreements or peace treaties. God asks obedience of Abraham and in response promises thriving and abundance of life.
Unlike the covenants of the time, God’s promise is an invitation given freely. Abraham is already 99 years old when God makes this covenant with him. It is not Abraham’s proven obedience but God’s choice to grant this covenant. Abraham does not prove his obedience (if he ever had to) until chapter 22. We are invited into this covenant. We do not have to bring anything in advance, we can trust that God give us just enough strength to be able to respond with obedience.
Why do I write all this? Because there are so many times I catch myself chastising myself for not doing enough to respond to God’s invitation.
God does not need our doing – he wants us (as human) being(s). Jesus brings this to a point in today’s Gospel. “For what will it profit [us] to gain the whole world and forfeit [our] life?” For today this is our biggest challenge.
Click here to see the hymns and anthems that we will be singing at St Nicholas’ church services throughout March and the first week of April (Holy Week). Hope to see you at some of our services.