So, Christmas is a distant memory now, there are signs of spring around us already, and life is zooming by. We're into the special season of Lent, early this year, and Easter is fast approaching.
This year Ash Wednesday the day Lent begins, fell on Valentine's Day for the first time since 1945 (though it will happen twice more in the next 11 years). It made an interesting juxtaposition of celebrating romantic love on the one hand and on the other hand beginning to engage with a season of serious reflection and penitence. And yet it wasn't entirely unfitting.
As many of us gathered at Bracon Ash Church on Ash Wednesday, it was a privilege for me to make the sign of the cross on people's foreheads with ash, as a sign that we were each wanting to accept all that the cross of Jesus has secured for us, and to live our lives more fully and deeply in its light. The cross reminds us of the depths of the love of God, and so fitting after all for Valentine's Day. This kind of self-sacrificial love is what motivates us to pursue change in our lives through this penitential season.
On Ash Wednesday , we considered the journey of the Pharisees from Jerusalam to Galilee in search of Jesus. They had heard about this new teacher and miracle-maker, and wanted to see for themselves. There was no hint that they were against him at this stage - just really wanting to find out more. They arrived, observed what was happening and had questions, which they put to Jesus. We too might be approaching Jesus this Lent with questions about what we see around us, about God, the Bible, church. What those Pharisees didn't anticipate is that Jesus immediately saw right to the heart of the real issues that mattered for them, and he challenged them very strongly about what they were missing, with questions of his own. It was a surprisingly penetrating and uncomfortable encounter for those unsuspecting Pharisees, who were faced with having to make a decision to change or to resist. As we truly approach Jesus ourselves, it is possible that we too might discover a need for change.
As you observe this season, by giving something up, taking something on, saying extra prayers, attending one of our mid-week groups, or whatever, I'm praying that you will truly encounter the God who sees, who knows and who helps us to change. This is a time when we are mindful of the things we all say, think and do that hurt others and hurt God. It's a time when we may well feel the need to say “I'm sorry.”
In any healthy relationship, those two words are important. They are also two words which can cause healing, build bridges and enable relationships to be repaired within communities as well as between individuals. They are two powerful words which, when truly meant, are never easy to say, but are essential if relationships are to move forward.
As Christians, we also believe that when we speak those two words, God always responds with forgiveness.
“An apology is the super glue of life. It can repair just about anything.” Lynn Johnston
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