Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we, worthily lamenting our sins and acknowledging our brokenness, may obtain of you, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness. Amen.
This Ash Wednesday got off to an unusual start for me as at 9 am I was sitting in the dentist’s chair looking at the view of the city of Vancouver. Of course, my visit wasn’t to look at the view but to determine what to do with the crown that fell out on Monday evening.
The dentist had good ideas and soon enough he replaced the post to which the crown was re-attached. This is likely too much information but there is a point to my story. When everything was finished (no pain cause where there is no sense there is no feeling), I thanked the dentist and the assistant for their work and also said thanks for the story to start my Ash Wednesday sermon.
We had been talking about the year and remarking about the changes to our lives. I said that I had to learn to brush up on my technology skills in various parts of my job; this happened again on Tuesday as we submitted a grant application to the Diocese.
However, the main source of mirth was when he told me the post was made of carbon fibre. I said that it was great news that there was now carbon fibre in my mouth as we could run our church services from there. So this is on account of the new fibre optic cable needed to run our church services via Zoom from church, as we did and hope to do again one day. Alright, carbon fibre to fibre optic is a stretch but the clock was ticking and my sermon needed to come together.
This year of course has started the way most of last year was, in other words, rather strangely. As we missed Good Friday, Easter and Christmas for in-person worship so we are missing Ash Wednesday and last on the list will be Vestry. When that annual meeting rolls around in ten days or so we will have completed the cycle and will have more or less held an entire church year virtually rather than in person.
And although we long for more contact and being at church we know those days remain in the future still and we are tasked to make as much as we can of our life as followers of Christ.
The upside is that some of us, not all of us, have more time on our hands. It is clear that those in health care or teaching and other professions have a stressful and very full working life. Some are caring for others at home, and while some households are rather full of people and business, others are too quiet. Whatever our particular situation Lent is a gift to us this year … to use this period of 40 days to think more deeply about our life in Christ.
Some of our congregation are busy and others are stretched and stressed, others are all three. But this is a moment to give yourself a gift, of some time for yourself and ultimately for God.
There are so many different ways of doing this and every person’s circumstances are different and what works for person A will not work for person B. But here are some options …
They are no shoulds … just options, and I hope you will find something that works for you.
It might be sitting quietly for five minutes at some point in your day and try to lay aside all that you have to do and even what you want to do. Perhaps you will fall asleep; if you do, you clearly needed the sleep.
You might say the Collect for Ash Wednesday (which follows this sermon) once a day as many days as you can each week … no prizes for getting 7 out of 7, no punishment if you miss some days, just start again if you can.
You could come to our on-line service five minutes earlier than usual and use the time to be quiet before you enter the wonderful world of Zoom.
You might say a Daily Office (Morning or Evening Prayer or Compline) from time to time; there are a multitude of options out there, and let me know if you want some assistance to find something.
You could look at the readings for Sunday in advance and reflect on those for a few moments; sometimes the rector sends out the correct ones!
You might attend Compline on a Monday night, starting at 7.45 pm; just a ten-minute quiet service.
You could come to the Lenten Study or read the daily offerings from that book or from Forward Day by Day; let Betty Higginbottom know if you need either. By the way, don’t ask about the Lenten Study books yet as they haven’t arrived … but we will let you know when they do.
You might look up a spiritual writer like Henri Nouwen or Richard Rohr, or the SSJE brothers and sign up for their daily offerings … usually short and only taking a few moments to read.
So a few options, going for a walk, or spending time with nature in your garden or complex or near to your home are other ways to go.
Remember no shoulds, no musts, just gentle options that might enhance your life and of those around you.
Lent has been going for 1700 years now and I’m pretty sure it has a long way to go in the future. Use this gift (of Lent) that we have all been given, rest and relax, wonder and ponder in the care and protection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ.