A reflection for the 28th February 2021
'Second Sunday in Lent'

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Offered for Sunday 28th February 2021


Stephen

Reflections Script

'Second Sunday in Lent'

February 28th 2021


Just weeks before I was to be
ordained in Litchfield Cathedral in 1987.
Part of my Pre Ordination Training
(euphemistically called 'Potty Training')
consisted of a number of
lectures and workshops.

One such lecture/workshop the invited
lecturer was speaking about this that
and the other and not a lot in- between!
The room was filled with around forty students
all to be ordained when the question
was put to us 'what three things were
occupying our thoughts when we were 16, 17 18?'

After the obligatory thinking time
and buzz groups we were asked to
share our 'three things'.

Contributions from everyone in the room
revolved around education
from 'O' and 'A' level results
to choice of university and the
excitement and trepidation of
moving away from the family home.

After a few minutes of this
with me pushing my chair further
away from the group hoping not
to be noticed I was confronted
by the person up front who said
what were my three things
I simply replied for most
of my teens it was the three 'Bs';
Birds, Bikes and Booze
not in any order and the birds
were not the feathered kind!
There was a stunned look from the
person asking the question
and a ripple of applause
from the rest of the room!

Later on in the 'lecture'
we were asked what we wanted
to be in five years time?

Responses ranged from being in a
Parish as Incumbent after
finishing their curacy
to wanting to be a parent or
wanting to see if the job
could take them overseas!

For a second time I was rounded
on as I'd not, believe it or not,
made a contribution!
I simply said 'I still want to be angry,
if I cease to be angry
one of three things will
have happened;
one the second coming,
two, I'd have thrown off
this mortal coil or
all the injustice and inequality
in the world would have been
consigned to history!

As I write these words
the first two haven't happened
and I'm still angry!



Let us Pray


Our God and Father,
you have revealed to us
the secrets of the earth,
the sea and the sky.
You have enabled us to discover
the animal, vegetable and mineral
resources of this planet.
Teach us now to use them wisely,
effectively and to the
benefit of us all,
so we may in unity enjoy the
riches which you have provided,
in justice, peace and prosperity;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Amen.



Address


The set book for a school
English course was Bram Stoker's Dracula.
The teacher encouraged her class
to act out scenes, improvising,
Danny, Claire and Jack
reluctantly complied.

Jack bared his teeth and
menacingly approached
the other two, each
clutching a cardboard crucifix.

"Oh dear," said Danny,
devoid of drama and feelings!
"Here, here is...Dracula,
what shall I do?" cried Claire,
Danny with just a little
more realism.
"Er...show him your cross?"
So Claire shouted,
"You stupid, brainless vampire!"

Perhaps only in English can
"your cross" and "you are cross"
sound the same.

Mark 8, 31 to 38 contains both
meanings of "cross".
Jesus gets 'very cross'
when Peter rebukes him for
declaring he must suffer and die,
as he'd do on the cross.

Even though Peter has just
recognised Jesus as the Messiah,
he doesn't believe what Jesus
tells him about what his
destiny entails.

Jesus hears Peter's protest,
but recognises the source:
tempting Jesus once again,
just as in the wilderness.
"Get behind me, Satan."

In Matthew's version,
Jesus even continues:
"You are a stumbling block to me."

It wasn't Peter he was angry with,
but the temptation being
thrown before him,
to think in human terms
rather than accept his divine task.

Sometimes the Gospel is
difficult to believe.
Too good to be true,
that God should love us so much!
In Genesis 17 we hear of God's
promise to a 99-year old Abraham
and his elderly, barren wife Sarah,
that they will have offspring
and their descendants will be whole
nations of believers.

What starts as one or two people
believing can have huge results.
In the Gospel,
Jesus encourages his
followers to believe.
He needs their support for
the hugely difficult task
ahead of him.

And he needs them to proclaim
the Gospel after his death
and resurrection.

Otherwise, his sacrifice might
all be in vain.
No wonder he got cross!

For Jesus too needed to believe
in his destiny,
his task to reconcile
people with God.

On the cross, Jesus,
both human and divine,
would restore the balance of
the universe,
as sin was defeated by love.

He would bring about the
ultimate reconciliation,
between God who created
the universe and the
people God loves,
made in God's own image.

But because Jesus was also human,
it was a difficult cross to bear.
Remember his agony in the
Garden of Gethsemane?

And because Jesus was human,
he knew anger.
He threw the money-lenders
out of the temple,
for using God's house to
drain money from those who
could ill afford it.

And he got very cross indeed
with the hypocritical Pharisees,
who claimed to serve God
yet reduced faith to a list
of rules and regulations.

Being angry is part of being human
and it isn't necessarily wrong.
It depends on what you're
angry about, and what you
do with the anger.

Rather than being angry with
people, Jesus is angry with the
evil they do and the evil we all do.
And as Jesus prepares to
carry his own cross,
to the place of his execution,
he tells his disciples,
tells us, who believe in him,
to take up our cross, too.

Surely this means following
the example of Jesus,
of self-sacrifice and
total commitment,
to set our minds on divine
things as well as human ones:
love God with all our heart,
and love our neighbours as ourselves.

And once we take up our cross,
we do get cross; about injustice,
exploitation, war, poverty
both abroad and on our own doorstep!

Can we turn that anger into action,
in the way that Jesus did?
We can certainly pray, as Jesus did,
God's kingdom may come,
God's will be done,
praying daily for peace
and justice.

But we can also give,
as Jesus gave himself.
"This is my body, given for you."

We too can give: money, perhaps,
to the Church, to charities,
relief organisations.

But also time:
to visit people who are
lonely or unwell,
work as a volunteer,
write to newspapers or MPs,
approach Parish and
County Councillors,
perhaps even attend rallies;
and time to listen to those
who think differently from us,
who may even find it easier
to believe in 'Undead Vampires'
than in the one true life-
giving God.


In small ways and in big,
we can turn righteous
anger into action.
Believing in Jesus,
we can work in his name
towards a better world.

It begins with us.
So show you are cross!
But show your cross!



To Summarise

In English,
"cross" can mean both angry
and the symbol of our
Christian faith.
Jesus needs us to believe in
the miracle of the cross,
reconciling God and people.
Our redemption depends on Jesus
being both human and divine.

Jesus got cross because
being angry is part of being human,
and not always wrong.

Believing in Jesus,
we too can turn righteousness
anger into action,
and help God's kingdom come.



Our Blessing


God of peace and justice,
help us to change,
so that we work for a world
that mirrors your wisdom.
Give us the desire to
act in solidarity,
so the pillars of injustice
and inequality crumble
and those now crushed
are set free.
And the blessing...


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