Field of Dreams: if you build it, they will come!

Preparing for Lent
February 16, 2015, 12:59 pm
Filed under: Sermons

Sermon on Quinquagesima Sunday at All Hallows, Easton

pantocrator 1On Wednesday we shall begin the season of Lent. For many people (even if they are not particularly religious) it is a time for “giving up things”. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a not uncommon question. It is as if Lent were something negative, as if causing ourselves discomfort was something valuable in itself.

I have explained before that our English word “Lent” is connected with “lengthen”, the time of year when the days are getting longer- Spring, in fact. Lent is a time of Spring-cleaning, a getting ready for something very positive. During Lent we trace the outline of our Lord’s public ministry, from his temptation following his Baptism, right through to his Passion, death and Resurrection. All through his ministry of teaching and healing he was preparing himself, and his disciples, for the ordeal of Holy Week and the joy of Easter. We are doing the same, in our own way.

The word “discipleship” is becoming quite fashionable at the moment. It is worth asking what it means. It is connected with discipline, and that in turn is connected with the Latin word for “to learn”. Disciples are learners, followers of a teacher, trying to put his teaching into practice.

One positive thing we regularly do during Lent is to learn more of our faith. This year I shall be giving a series of talks on Tuesday evenings, and the overall title will be “Jesus in his time.” As Christians, we are disciples of Jesus, and his teaching was not just about how we should live, but also about himself, about what he himself was doing to bring God’s plan of salvation to its appointed end.

Jesus was crucified because powerful people of his time saw him as a threat, a threat that they could only get rid of by killing him. Why was this? In the talks I will ask, “How did the people of Jesus’ own time see him?” I shall start with the ordinary people, those who lived in Galilee and Judaea two thousand years ago. What impression did he make on them, as they went about their daily lives.

In the weeks that follow I shall take three groups of people who were particularly hostile to Jesus, the priests, the lawyers and the politicians: the “Establishment”, if you like, of his day. These were the people who were particularly wanting to be rid of him. But why? What was their in his teaching that caused this reaction? Surely not just the commandment that we should love one another, or turn the other cheek? Each of these three groups had its own agenda, its own particular reasons for rejecting Jesus.

Finally, I shall think about the first disciples, those who left their ordinary callings as fishermen or tax-collectors to follow him full-time. What was it in him that called forth such a response? What were they looking for?

To be a Christian is to be a follower of Jesus Christ- a person, not just a theory or a code of practice. The first confession of faith, for the first generation of Christians, was simply “Jesus is Lord.” Because Jesus is Lord, we have absolute confidence in him. We meet him, speak to him, in our prayers and in the sacraments. But if we are to present him to others, we should try to put ourselves in the shoes of those first generation Christians, and of those who saw his works and heard his words. Some believed, others rejected him. It will be the same today. But it is important that the Jesus the accept or reject is the real Jesus, not an imaginary or distorted picture of him. I hope our Lent course will help us to see Jesus in his time.

For ourselves, we all need to become more Christ-like, and that is where our Lenten discipline comes in: strengthening our self-control, deepening our prayer, increasing our practical love for others, our giving of time and money to the service of our neighbour, here at home or in other parts of the world.

It is when Spring comes that the shabbiness and dustiness of our homes is shown up by the sun. Spring-cleaning makes everything bright and shiny again. It is the same with the spiritual life. We spruce up our souls, our hearts and minds, in the light of Jesus our Lord.


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