sermon for Lent 1(including Ash Wednesday)

It is possible that Lent could be bad for our health
Some find Lent challenging. Some find it dull, others find that they can really grow in faith through it’s discipline. (note discipline is the same word as disciple)
But we must begin to realise that not every Christian is the same, and one size does not fit all.
The purpose of the Lenten discipline of penitence is for growth and strength. It is not to make us feel beaten up, or even beaten by the things we have failed in, before God or our neighbour.
It is well known that to pick away at a scab will never bring about its healing, and the national college of psychiatrists also say that to overly dwell on the things that make you anxious or sad, can bring about serious mental health problems.
We need to see things in balance, to be able to see the light as well as the dark.
We must avoid letting ourselves be overcome by sadness.
For some people there are things in the past that can really take over the present if they are allowed to or even (in Lent) encouraged to.
Let us be careful!
Of course “Lenten Discipline” fits so easily into the mind-set of a society that looks for blame and punishment. (as we have noted before)
It fits in well with the way many of us have grown up… could try harder, could be better, room for improvement, fail!
(And of course it is also easy to mutter under our breath that if it was good enough for me then it is good enough….)
But we should remember something very important. God is love. God loves us.
As the wonderful hymn states (hymn 454) Love is his word, love is his way, living and dying, rising again, love only love is his way.” (I strongly suggest you read this as your communion prayer today)
We must approach our Lenten journey (I will now use Journey instead of “discipline”) with LOVE writ big before us. (every step of the way)
Stephen Cherry Dean of Kings, Cambridge, said this week,
“It’s the real you that God loves, even if you find yourself disappointing.”
Lent is more about understanding the way God’s love works in you than about a trial for self-improvement, or worse still an impossible target of “reaching for perfection”
The Journey takes us forward, it moves us on, the horizon changes.
Cherry also said that “To do justice to Lent we need to remember that at the heart of Christian spirituality we do not find the quest to be good, but the struggle to allow yourself to be loved by God as the mortal and the sinner that you undoubtedly are.”
True enough let us be real about sin.
I am a sinner, I have fallen well short. And yet… It’s the real me that God loves.”
As we move through this service may it lead us on oe’r our maybe tempestuous seas and may we be guarded from feeling failures or useless before either God or our neighbours.
May the Spirit of God descend upon us this Lent and fill our hearts with heavenly Joy and may we blend Love with every passion that we feel so that we grow feeling provided for, pardoned and guided and may nothing take us from the Peace and the Love of our God.
May the Journey of Lent take us on, as we look to the New Life and Love ahead.

“In a daring and beautiful creative reversal, God takes the worst we can do to him and turns it into the very best he can do for us.” (Malcolm Guite in the word in the wilderness)