God our creator who goes before us
You draw us forward in faith
Like a pillar of fire across desert waste
A rock of assurance
As we journey this Lenten time
Preparation for Lent
Lent is named after the Anglo Saxon word, Lenten meaning the lengthening of days. In the first three centuries of the church a few days were set aside for strict fasting. By the 4th century this preparation time had developed to 40 days, like the 40 years of the Exodus that the people of Israel spent lost in the desert, like the 40 days of fasting of Moses, Elijah and Jesus. 40 days is a long time to go without food and drink. It's really the maximum a body could stand.
Jews prepare for Passover by clearing out all the yeast in the house by sweeping and cleaning and even use different cutlery and plates.
Lent is about self-discipline preparing ourselves to be closer to God through fasting and reading the scriptures and meeting together to pray. It has traditionally been seen as a time of personal meditation, a cleansing of the soul and also a time of preparation for those receiving baptism on Easter Sunday. It begins with a time of penitence, of saying sorry, on Ash Wednesday. Cross on forehead/ dust to dust.
In the Roman Catholic Church fasting is still practiced on Ash Wednesday and on Good Friday. In the Eastern Orthodox Church not eating eggs, meat and fish is still common throughout Lent, which is why painted eggs are given out on Easter Sunday. Nazareth. The colour representing Lent is purple and unbleached fabric and in some churches there are no flowers during Lent and all the crosses are all covered. Iona Abbey.
There are spiritual disciplines that can help us in our Lenten journey. Silence, prayer, reading the scriptures, fasting. Ignatian prayer. Retreats.
Our Muslim neighbours celebrate Ramadan with a month of disciplined fasting from dawn to dusk. What about us? How are we going to give this Lent to God, to allow the Spirit of Christ to work something new in us, to learn more about our faith, to seek God in prayer about our life together as a church, a community of God's people? The number 40 represents a change; we have 40 days to reflect and maybe to enact change, with God's help. Fasting allows us to clear the rubbish out of our lives and focus on God.
There are books that can help us on that journey, local Lent groups. There are organized times of prayer and reflection, coming together to commit ourselves to the discipline of Lent.
We may choose to go into a desert or we may be driven there like the Israelites. (I'm going to Iona). We may already be in that desert, or on the edge of it. It may help us to be with others or to be alone. Think about what you are going to give up, what you are going to take on to get closer to God this Lent. Whatever you do this Lent, do it consciously and wisely.
Matthew 6v 24v-34
In this passage from the Sermon on the Mount Jesus Jesus calls on his disciples to rest on God's mercy.As a believer Jesus calls on his disciples to have an absolute reliance, faith in God, rather than be anxious.
Anxiety about the necessities of life is incompatible with faith in God.
Here we have the fundamental answer to how a person may
stand right in the sight of God - the answer is, not by works, but by faith.
On one level, Jesus' idealistic ethic drives us to the foot of the cross for mercy. Having heard the words of Jesus and not acted on them, we are like the person who has built his house on sand, and great is our fall. With our own righteousness in tatters we are left with but one avenue of escape and this the righteousness of God.
So, we head for his house, knock on his door and ask to come in. In the day of the
great flood, his house will stand.
Jesus may be teaching us that like the children of Israel in the wilderness, the disciple can give up all because God will provide for the journey to the promised land. So, given that God has promised his provision (manna from heaven), the disciple can set aside anxiety and rest in "faith" on God's promises. The Lord's Prayer, says "give us today our daily bread" (give us the manna we need for our journey today), This the Lord will indeed do, although not always (often never!) in the way we might imagine. Jesus is the one who miraculously feeds a crowd from some bread rolls and
pickled fish. So, "stop worrying about what you are going to eat and drink".
Our lives in contrast are carefully planned?
Food and clothing are the essential but Jesus is concerned with more than just existing, So just trust God. It works for the birds and the weeds of the field, so it can work for us.Do not store up treasure on earth however the birds who we are compared with are still busy! Worrying doesn’t make you live longer?" In fact it shortens your life.
Flowers don’t worry about their lives! And God looks after them so how much more will God look after us. The description of the oven is, a wood-fired clay oven like a pizza oven.
We do not need to follow "the pagans" agitating about their health, wealth and happiness, rather, we need only to pray "give us this day our daily bread"
So make up your mind to stop worrying. God knows what you need and all these things will be added unto you. Instead first seek the kingdom and his righteousness, do the things that God wants and the rest will be added unto you, focus on the cares of today and leave tomorrow's cares for tomorrow. because we have enough trouble, today (wickedness, evil, badness) to preoccupy us.
Servant Christ help us to follow you
Into that place of quiet retreat,
Knowing that you will be with us,
Even in the desert wastes. Amen.