Sermon by Fr Peter Wolton, 10 March 2017
Sermon 1st Sunday of Lent 2019
Today is the first Sunday of Lent. Our Ash Wednesday service this week reminded us that Lent is a time of penitence (feeling of regret for having done something wrong) and fasting:
The Ash Wednesday service encourages us to observe a holy lent and sets out how we might do this:
· self-examination and repentance
· and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.
How in our busy lives are we supposed to do this – how do we put aside the false gods of the modern age to do this?
I am not going to advocate “sackcloth and ashes” but this morning I would ask that we consider some of the Holy Lent ingredients in more detail – self-examination, prayer and a touch of self-denial too.
Also that if we look around us, I suggest we can find some real nuggets to encourage us on our Lenten journey, in a place that may surprise you.
Church leaders can sometimes provide strength and direction – but this morning I want to suggest that you look not to your church leaders. Rather look around you.
Because one of things I have learnt since being ordained, and from which I receive enormous encouragement is you. Yes, you! There are elements of your lives that bring Earth closer to Heaven. You are quietly doing amazing things in your lives, spiritual and temporal, making differences to others and looking out for them.
This is something I would like to acknowledge at the start of Lent, because with any self-examination it is good to have a source of encouragement and examples we can look to.
The ultimate example we can look to is Jesus. By meditating on his life and teaching we are reminded that he is the source of life and salvation. But it is also helpful to see how a strong Christian faith can influence a life of people who live today.
This week I read the obituary someone whose life seemed to be an example of this.
Peter George, a divorce lawyer whose strong Catholic faith and traditional values were very much at odds with image of a slick City lawyer. His first question to his client was whether they were prepared to give their marriage another chance.
He sought conciliation rather than going to court. “We talk as we walk to court” he said.
He attended Mass daily.
And as befitted someone who had received a Benedictine education (His rugby coach was Basil Hume who as you probably know became a Cardinal) the obituary emphasised the importance of balance in his life.
For St. Benedict stressed the need for balance between work, prayer, community and hospitality.
Peter George’s obituary highlights how in his work, he balanced God, the court and the client.
And between work and home life, he was advised on his wedding day. “Sometimes you will have to give priority to one, sometimes to the other, but when it is evenly balanced, always come down on the side of home.”
Thinking about Peter George’s approach to life led me to reflect on our Deuteronomy reading this morning:
“So now I bring the first fruit of the ground that you O lord have given me.” When we reflect on our day, whether at home or at work, how would we feel bringing the fruits of our labour to the altar of God.
As part of our self-examination during Lent, perhaps we should ask “Will the fruits of my day be pleasing to our Heavenly Father?” And also how we balance the different elements of our life.
To return to you, our congregation, I sense that there are many Peter Georges among us, who are living out the Gospel in your lives. So I see Lent as a time to build on, and celebrate what is good, and there is much that is, and but also to address that in our lives which is not.
How then do we observe a Holy Lent, in a way that makes an appreciable and lasting difference to our lives of faith during the six weeks of Lent?
I’d like to close by making three suggestions:
1. Regarding Prayer, I ask that you make a special effort to deepen you daily prayer life. Some of you tell me it is difficult to pray. If you find yourself in that position, organise yourself (this may require some self-denial) to sometimes come to morning or evening prayer at SG (Mondays to Thursday). James in notices (Jenny Thorn)
2. Also we have our Lent Course on Tuesdays “Broken.” (James will be saying a bit more about this in the Notices).
3. And, to stress the encouragement we can receive from others, I ask you to come to our “Why me?” addresses that take place at St. John’s during our Sunday evening services in Lent. It’s a chance to learn more about our United Benefice family, to deepen our family bonds. If you have plans to do something else on Sunday evenings in the next few weeks, could I suggest that this could be a chance for a little “self-denial” that we are encouraged to make in Lent, change your plans and come to these talks. Tonight, our first speaker in a series of five, is Clive Rowe.
This is the fifth year we have run the series, and if you have not been before, I can only say that those who have heard them in past years have found the talks a source of solace, stimulation, encouragement and very helpful.
A real aid to living a good and holy Lent.