Shrove Tuesday 2016
So, tomorrow is the first day of yet another Lent. I find that the seasons of Lent and Advent provide a wonderful and necessary focus for my monkey-mind. During Advent my focus is on waiting and watching, antidotes to both the fast-food culture of today, that has so often spilled over into our spiritual lives, and to our sense of inertia as we grapple with the tension of being people of faith moving to the rhythms of grace rather than the pressures of our culture.
Then there is Lent, with it’s traditional emphasis on prayer, giving things up and giving to those in need. As I’ve got older I try to do these things throughout the year, but I find it really helpful to have a season when I really try to focus. More than anything, I try to use the time leading up to Easter as a time for a kind of spiritual check-up…am I more like Jesus than I was this time last year? What new things am I struggling with? What sins and habits are diverting me from being like Jesus? What do I need to change to get back on course? Who do I need to forgive? Who needs my help?
This year I’ve chosen John Pritchard’s book, “The Journey” to be a guide and companion during this time. The book provides a creative journey with Jesus to Jerusalem and the cross, as told through the eyes of John, probably the youngest follower of Jesus.
Today I read the introductory chapter, in which he sets out what he is hoping to achieve through the book. These words in particular caught my eye:
“He had a way of speaking that turned everything upside down in a way that made it seem the right way up. He cut to the heart of faith, bursting through tired ideas and pointless rituals. Sometimes he fretted over the slowness of people’s response, but still he kept to his patient programme of travel, teaching, healing and prayer.
Until the time came for him to turn towards Jerusalem and to say to his friends, ‘Let’s go.’
“The Journey”, John Pritchard
Sometimes it’s not just individual believers that get off track…it’s the whole church. We all have a lot of praying, giving up and giving away to do if we’re to make up for our terrible mistakes of the past so that we can re-capture our reputation as a group of people who look a bit like Jesus and behave a bit like Jesus in the way we treat each other and those who don’t know Jesus yet.
On Sunday someone in our church shared a passionate word of prophecy which included the scripture “For the time has come for judgement, and it must begin first among God’s own children. 1 Peter 4:17 (NLT) Our minister later suggested that among other things the time had come to stop focussing on the wrong stuff (which is often stuff that divides us and gets us off track) and to put Jesus back at the centre.
Britain in 2016 could use people like that.