Lent Reflections Day 2: Readings Psalm 77, St John ch 4 vv 1 -26


On Getting it Wrong

Well, my first post and it was so wrong. Wrong in that it was information overload. Wrong in that it was heavy on arcane fact, and rather light on reflection and contemplation. Wrong in that although it was heavy on fact, I actually omitted any information an why yesterday is known as Ash Wednesday.

So why was this? Because yesterday was all about time management, or rather the lack of it. As a result I wrote my post more because I felt I had to, rather than having anything to say; having failed to allow very much time at all to be still, empty my mind and listen to God. I wrote with one eye on the clock as I needed to be in the Cathedral by a certain time for…..yes you’ve guessed it….The Ash Wednesday Holy Communion with imposition of ashes.

But God, no doubt watching in detached despair at my feeble and disorganised start, came to the rescue. First he gave me (and everyone else present) the gift of a wonderfully contemplative, serene, and deeply powerful service; for which thanks to all the clergy involved in providing that. Then he provided me an opportunity to offer service by having the second lesson dropped on me at five minutes notice, whilst heeding my supplication not to make a complete mess of it; and finally, in that lesson (2 Corinthians Ch5 v20 – Ch6 v10)  he showed me a passage of Scripture that I hadn’t really thought about, or indeed been too familiar with, and from which I learnt much.

So today’s factoid is that Ash Wednesday is so called because of the practice of covering oneself in ashes as a sign or mourning or repentance Daniel Ch 9 v3 states “3And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes”

Having dealt with the factoid, what have I learnt from yesterday?  Above all else, to make time for God.  Also, to think and reflect about what I’m actually trying to do here. One thing I’m sure I don’t want to do, and absolutely shouldn’t be doing, is to be showing off my supposed “knowledge” of Church history and liturgy. First, because I know I don’t know as much as I think I do, and secondly as 1 Corinthians Ch 13 v2 reminds me “2And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.”

As a result, I have tried to spend today making time to be still, and to try and listen to God. I can’t claim that I find that easy, but isn’t that the point of Lent? In the hustle and bustle of today’s “me” world, taking time to simply stop, get out of the rat race, even if only for five minutes, and look at something more important than job, impossible car repair, or getting a blog on the net. 

Finally, Day two of Lent: “So what do I do if I’ve already broken my fast?” (I haven’t by the way). Well as I see it, giving stuff up for Lent is about using that self-denial as both an act of repentance and self discipline, but more importantly as an aid to reflecting about how we can become more Christlike and walk just that bit closer in His footsteps. God, knowing the secrets of our hearts, is not about to turn you into a pillar of salt/smite you with fire etc if you succumb to that piece of chocolate/glass of wine/rare steak. All you have done by breaking your fast is demonstrate that you need to work a little harder at the repentance and self discipline, and spend less time arguing with yourself as to whether chocolate powder on your cappuccino counts as chocolate.

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3 Responses to Lent Reflections Day 2: Readings Psalm 77, St John ch 4 vv 1 -26

  1. Heidi says:

    This is makes for a really interesting read. As you know, the main focus of my spiritual journey for the past several years has been Quakerism, and I have become adept at sourcing and utilising the pockets of interior and exterior silence tucked away in even the busiest of weeks. In contrast, I found myself hungry for words, for structure, for symbolism and for shared and direct prayer. On a more profound level – so profound it took me some time to recognise it – I realised I was ravenous for Christ. Lent, for me , is about resurrecting my relationship with him, through the the Anglican practices that shaped my faith in my formative years.

    I have been working towards this new beginning since a profound experience at Midnight Mass this Christmas past, and decided to mark Lent, and my new journey, by taking Holy Communion (with ashing) at the same church. It was an early morning service, without music, and the congregation of 60 or so fitted neatly into the choir.(It is an enormous and rather beautiful church, the largest in Essex). This gave me a view of the stripped altar, which I had never seen before. As a child I was always moved to tears by the skeletal sight of the bare table in my parish church, but this was solid oak and very intricately carved, almost as opulent as the cloth of gold that usually covers it. But in using it as a focus for my contemplation, I was much struck by the two relief panels on the front. One depicted the arms of the Carpenters guild responsible for the woodwork of the building in which I sat – a set square, compasses, and a hammer and nails. The other depicted the trappings of the crucifixion; a cross, a sponge on a stick – and a hammer and nails. This led me to a meditation on his early life, growing up as the son of a carpenter, and his own likely facility with wood and the saw. ( The workmen who made the altar clearly saw the connection between his work and their own.) And I was drawn to muse on two things – firstly, the notion that just as Christ was broken by tools that would have been entirely familiar to him, the tools with which we make our own sacrifice are around us every day; the small, things, the mundane things, the things we might underestimate or overlook. Secondly, the sounds that he heard as he fulfilled his earthly journey were the sounds that surrounded him in childhood – the chink of nails in a bag, the thump of penetrated wood. And that was my start to Lent – a potent reminder of the magnitude of small things, and the knowledge that the lessons of our youth stay with us all our days.

  2. Tracey says:

    I agree, we all will slip, we are human after all, and those slips remind us that we are not perfect and that we do need to take more time to let God into our lives. I haven’t given anything up for Lent, but am using the time to reflect deeply and to sit a while and Listen from Within to what God is trying to tell me. XxX

  3. Gosh!! thank you both for such thoughtful comments. Heidi, I have huge respect for the Quakers, especially their silence, but I recognise in your search, much of what I started to look for a few years ago. Unlike you, I have remained, just about at times, within the Anglican Church . Despite more than once seeking instruction in the Roman Catholic Church, after much prayer and reflection I have remained true to my roots, and the teachings of my childhood. My aim to walk as close as possible in Christ’s footsteps; accepting that I shall fail (which is hard), but in being prepered to make the effort to continue to try.

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