Lent 1

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Readings: 

Sermon: 

Mark’s Gospel always gives me the impression he was in a hurry to write it.  His paragraphs often start ‘And then…….’ Or ‘Now, after this…..’ and today’s  reading covers three important events at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in just seven verses. Jesus’ baptism, his forty days of temptation in the wilderness, and Jesus’ proclamation of the good news from God. He dispenses with conversation and just gives us the facts.

Now here we are at the beginning of the forty days of Lent and if Mark was preaching I would expect him to say something like, ‘Now we’ve got forty days to prepare ourselves and prove we are worthy, repenting our sins and giving up all pleasures, so get on with it!’ A bit of an exaggeration perhaps, but it does emphasise that Lent is about penitence and denial, foregoing pleasures, which has translated into giving up chocolate or cakes and biscuits.

So is it the time to give up our pleasures in sacrifice to the Lord, for testing our fortitude and resolve in resisting temptations? We might wonder as we reach the milestone of a year under the restrictions of the Covid pandemic, what else can we give up? We’ve lost so many freedoms and choices, life for many has already been grim and barren. Six weeks of giving up even more of the few pleasures that do remain could be pushing our fortitude and resolve too far; and does giving up chocolate really earn us brownie points with God?

Isaiah had a different take on things in Chapter 58: 

Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself? Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush and to lie in sackcloth and ashes? Will you call this a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and break every yoke? Is it not to share your bread with the hungry and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly; your vindicator shall go before you, the glory of the Lord shall be your rearguard. Then shall you call and the Lord will answer; you shall cry for help and he will say, ‘Here I am.’

We are called to serve the Lord as his disciples, to spread his good news, to be his hands and feet and voice in the world; so we need to be imaginative about what we can ‘do’ for our Lord in Lent, something nearer to what God’s expectations of us might be. We have been changed by our faith and by doing something towards changing the lives of others we might encourage more people to follow us and follow him.

During the past year we have seen an outpouring of charity, love and kindness within our communities; restaurants cooking free meals for NHS staff or the jobless who can’t feed their own children; volunteers taking shopping and medications to the elderly shielding at home; people donating clothes, toys and books for children at Christmas, or children drawing pictures and writing cards for the isolated; many putting themselves on the frontline to help others. People of all faiths and none helping out – we Christians haven’t cornered the market in good works, but maybe as we begin Lent this year we can ask ourselves ‘what more can I do to love my neighbours in the name of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the world?

AMEN

Questions:

  • What have we done to help others?
  • What more could we do during Lent?


Page last updated: 16th February 2021 5:03 PM
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