Once again, we enter Lent, a season of preparation. Traditionally a time of abstinence, the 40 days of Lent will lead us to Holy Week and Easter; the cross and resurrection, the heart of our faith.
Last Tuesday, Shrove Tuesday, many of us enjoyed a pancake (or two). To Shrive (shrove is merely past tense) is for a priest to hear confession, assign penance and absolve sins. Shrove Tuesday was, historically, the time to confess your sins and set your affairs in order with God, before embarking on Lent. It was also the last opportunity to clear out of the larder all the food forbidden in Lent. Food which, before refrigeration, wouldn’t keep. Pancakes, in all their many forms, are a good way to eat up these odds and ends. But while we can all enjoy a pancake, what about confession?
Talk of Sin and we probably think of sins; perhaps drunkenness and bad language, greed, theft, lust. Whilst these are sins, we often forget the bigger picture; sin is simply transgression against divine law; any transgression which pushes God out. Sin is what spoils our relationships with each other, with the world around us and, above all, with God. Our need for forgiveness of our sins, God’s desire to restore broken relationships, is what brings Jesus to the cross. For a relationship to be restored we must first acknowledge we have broken it; that by thought, word, deed and inactivity, we have sinned. That is confession.
Just as our larders can get clogged up with all sorts of ingredients which, if we are honest, are merely wasting shelf-space; so can our lives. Do we take our spiritual diet as seriously as our physical food?
We don’t need a special day to confess our sins to God; nor do we need a special person to hear that confession; though in our busy, crowded lives both can sometimes help.
On Good Friday we will, once again, be invited to stand at the foot of the cross and acknowledge our share of responsibility for putting Jesus there. In Lent we are encouraged to prepare for that moment; prayer, study, abstinence, are just three ways we can do that. Whatever way you choose, alone as Jesus was, or in fellowship with others; can I encourage you to take time this Lent to ask God to show you what needs cleaning from your spiritual larder; and to give you the strength to do it.
Rev Philip Payne First Sunday of Lent
The Notice Sheet for 26th February can be found here