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Seeing clearly and not being blind to our shortcomings

As we move into February, my mind turns to Lent. Ash Wednesday is on 14th February. Ash Wednesday and Valentine’s day seem to be in conflict this year! It only feels like a few weeks ago we were still celebrating Christmas and before that Advent. I describe Advent and Lent as the seasons of watching and waiting. However, we are waiting for very different things; Jesus’ birth and Jesus’ death and resurrection. The periods of waiting are quite different. Advent can be three to four weeks and Lent is just over seven weeks long. There is also quite a different feel to these similar seasons. There is excitement and anticipation with Advent, whereas Lent feels more like a build up to something we are dreading and probably wish to avoid.

Of course, in real terms, there was around thirty years separating Jesus’ birth and crucifixion. For most of those thirty years, we know very little about Jesus. We have the birth accounts and trip to Jerusalem as a child where he gets left behind. We pick up his story as he is baptised by John the Baptist and then goes into the wilderness for forty days. We follow his ministry, which brings him into contact with many people. Many who encounter Jesus are transformed by him. Equally, some people are polarized against Jesus and they do not believe God is working through him. They see Jesus as a threat against the God they believe they know and work to get rid of that threat. We follow that build-up of goodness pushing against a tradition that has become blinkered to any other possibility. It becomes a battle of light against darkness. On Good Friday, the darkness, finally puts out the light and the icy grip of death wins over life. The hope that we see in Jesus appears to be extinguished. Only on Easter Sunday does that hope rekindle and appear brighter than ever before.

As we approach Lent, we have the benefit of knowing the end does not result in a death that is not redeemed but, instead, God’s revelation of a new hope. Even with this assurance, Lent is still a hard path to follow as we are brought back to that basic conflict, of good being overwhelmed by intended darkness or, even harder, by misdirected people thinking they are doing the right thing. As we look around our world we see those same conflicts still tearing people apart and causing division. It was the same in Jesus’ time when he brought the hope of reconciliation. Lent is very much part of the process of reconciliation as we, individually and collectively, look at our short comings and try to align ourselves with God’s will for us and his world. Perhaps when we are blinkered by our traditions and only see things from our own point of view, we might be causing trouble rather than creating new possibilities?

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