This will be super short this week – I am tired and I am suffering from brain overload…too many big things in my head. I have tried to write on several topics for this week, it is Lent after all….but none of them felt right. So here we are……
In these COVID times, perhaps this kind of brain fog or fatigue is to be expected. So, I am not looking to make demands of parishioners at St Paul’s. These days are demanding enough.
However, two things that are still buzzy around. The first is my hope that how you view God will be profoundly enriched or filled out in some way. I am increasingly convinced that grasping a fuller understanding of God helps us to truly be free to live the life we were created for and this personal transformation leads to societal transformation (more just, compassionate, etc) and vice versa (it is a dynamic relationship).
For myself, twenty years ago participating in the Holy Week liturgies and reading the scriptures was an epiphany – it was like viewing the familiar in a completely new way. As a result, it brought unexpected but very welcome healing – I have been able to love myself that little bit more as a result. It transfigured phrases like ‘the truth shall set you free’ from hollow, almost abusive, statements to something alive and liberating.
One of the truths, as I see it, that I want folk to encounter is the unwrathing of God (Brad Jersak’s turn of phrase) at this time of year. There is one of my favourite modern hymns is called ‘In Christ Alone’ and it has been the most popular hymn in the UK for years now…but the writers understanding of atonement is about satisfying the wrath of God, so I can’t sing that part and the writers refuse to change the words. I think this is because certain theologians from Augustine onwards bought into that theology – and it is reinforced in the church’s iconography. I will offer two quotes from book, A More Christlike God: A More Beautiful Gospel.
"Christ did not come to change the Father, or to appease the wrath of an angry judge, but to reveal the Father."
"The gospel is this: when we turn away, he turns toward us. When we run away, he confronts us with his love. When we murder God, he confronts us with his mercy and forgiveness."
Jersak sees Jesus being the exact representation of God, which of course is what 1 Colossians 1:15-16 says:
“He [Jesus] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thes or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him.”
Discovering the Jesus is the God who joins in the suffering in the world is deeply profound. It is worth meditating on this.
The second thing comes from the Ignatian tradition and it is to find a question that will help form your Lenten journey. Perhaps it might become a daily prayer. The one that I am thinking of is:
“What is the grace O God that you desire to deepen within me this Lent?”
This may well help to enrich your Lenten journey. I pray that you will discover what that grace is and grow in it.