Thought for the Week March 21st 2021
5th Sunday of Lent
I am a person who genuinely likes to house clean! I like it when things are neat and tidy and free from the dirt and grime of everyday life, as it gives me a sense of order that creates a deeper inner calm once it’s finished, especially after several hours of labouring at it. Of course I also know that the chaos and clutter of our everyday life will mean it will need doing again sometime soon and so, like many, I know there will be at least one day of every week where I will have to focus my attention on getting everything back to how I like it. Now I have to confess that my cleaning standards are, on reflection, somewhat superficial in that if it looks clean then that will do, I do not move heavy objects like sofas or beds every week, as that takes a lot of effort and I have enough to do already, life is busy, therefore what the eye cannot see the heart will not grieve about.
So what has this to do with Lent?
Well, for me Lent is represented by that big heavy sofa we have in our house, there’s no ignoring what is required, the time has arrived for it to be moved to find out what is lurking beneath, to reveal the residue of my spiritual life that I have been conveniently avoiding for an awful long time. This deeper, introspective Spring clean, is something I find quite challenging and is not always a pleasant experience, because rather than just a light flick with the duster of contrition that I usually offer most days, I want to get right into the difficult to reach corners of my life in Christ, the uncomfortable reality of not always being who He wants me to be, the moments where I could have done more but instead denied Him, the shame and guilt of not living a life that is deserving of what He did and still does for me.
My current Lenten journey is feeling even more of a challenge as lockdown has meant that I have not been able to go to church to do my weekly cleansing of the sin that David mentioned last week, the offering of my transgressions before God, seeking restorative forgiveness through absolution, one that revives my soul for the week ahead, because this would have been my weekly spiritual clean that gives me the deepest of inner calm that only the forgiving love of God can provide. It meant that at the start of Lent, I really was filled with trepidation as to what had gathered out of sight beneath my spiritual sofa during this enforced separation from my mother church and I desperately needed, wanted and prayed for a Lenten journey to reflect my genuine desire to find a straighter, more Christ like path to God. It has also become yet another reminder of why church is so important to the Christian wellbeing, whether it be the individual or the collective and I truly yearn for its return.
The words of Jeremiah found in the Lectionary readings for today (Ch.31 v31-v34), give a prophetic reminder of the purpose behind our Lenten observance as we enter Passiontide, taking us through to the unfolding events of Holy Week and culminating in the joy of promised salvation that is the Risen Christ on Easter Sunday. We are to bear witness to the completion of the final and absolute covenant between God and His people, a covenant like nothing that had gone before nor will again. All the preceding covenants, such as those with Noah, Abraham, Moses and David all required the usual two-way contract of God promising to do something for His people and in return that they do something for Him, but of course there was a flaw, the nature of human beings. God always keeps His promises but humanity is fickle and it seems God eventually recognises something needed to change and a new covenant is written, one that requires nothing of us, it seems more like a contract between God and Himself. God sits one side of the table offering endless grace, redemption and salvation to those who seek it and looking across the table He sees himself sitting there as Christ, representative of the people in the form of the ultimate sacrifice, made to cancel the debts of our iniquity, all is equal with nothing left but to forgive and to love.
Part of our Lenten observance is of course to recognise the cost of the New Covenant, written with the blood of Christ and obtained through the Passion of both His suffering and execution upon the cross, for if we become complacent of the reality of what He actually endured for us, of the love He had for each and every one of us in order to do it, then we can only serve to dilute and diminish the joyful message of salvation found within His rising on Easter Sunday.
The other important point to be found in the words of Jeremiah, is that the New Covenant is not written on any parchment or tablets of stone, God in His wisdom made it a living part of us, written upon our hearts, we carry it and Him with us wherever we go and I find that the most beautiful of sentiments.
Back to my spiritual sofa, which in a couple of weeks will be pushed back into place and I will go back to tidying up around it, hopefully at church sometime in the near future. When will I move it again? If I’m honest it will probably be Advent even though I know I should do it far more often, but I’m also honest enough to recognise that I really won’t because I’m busy or tired or for some other self-absolving excuse for avoidance. Interestingly though, it does now leave me wondering as to how often others might move theirs.
all I want is to be faithful to you in my life,
but so often I fail.
Free me from my many sins
and guide me to the life I will share with you.
I wait for your promise to be fulfilled
with great hope in my heart
and your praise on my lips.
God of love,
I know that you are the source of all
that is good and graced in my life.
Help me to honour the covenant
forged in your love and sacrifice,
walk with me and show me the path
into the new life of grace that you offer me.
You know what it is I need to prepare for your kingdom.
Please bless me with those gifts.