Tag Archives: Joel

18 March: A time to be purified.

Apricots from the Garden of England – a title shared by the County of Kent and Eddie’s local greengrocer.

Eddie Gilmore has been reflecting on Lent with the help of a couple who run the local greengrocery shop.
A significant conversation for me was with the woman who runs my local green grocer. She and her husband are Muslims from Pakistan and they observe Ramadan, which means not eating or drinking during daylight hours for about four weeks. I was speaking to her one time in the first week of that holy month and she seemed quite joyful and serene (her husband slightly less so, and by Week 4 he was visibly feeling the strain!). She remarked to me, “It’s a time to be purified,” and I find that a lovely image for Lent: a time to be purified, from whatever it is we need to be purified from, whether that’s unhealthy food or unhealthy thoughts or images or habits or addictions. One of my favourite lines in the whole of the bible is one we hear read out in church on Ash Wednesday. It is found in Joel Chapter 2: ‘Come back to me with all your heart.’ What an invitation! However much we mess things up, God will be waiting for us with open arms. Come back to me with all your heart. And we’ll always be given another chance; if we don’t get it ‘right’ this Lent there will always be next Lent.

The woman at the green grocer gave me another valuable insight into Lent when she explained that Ramadan was also a time to do good deeds to those in the community in need. Again this has biblical echoes for me, in the book of Isaiah, Chapter 58: ‘Is not this the kind of fast that pleases me…to break unjust fetters and undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and break every yoke, to share your bread with the hungry, and shelter the homeless poor.’

As well as being filled with numerous occasions for temptation, Lent also happens to coincide, in the Northern Hemisphere at least, with the magical season of Spring. Indeed the word ‘Lent’ is simply derived from the old English word ‘lencten’ which means Spring season. As we enter Lent the world is quite literally exploding with new life. The snowdrops begin the show, closely followed by the crocuses and daffodils, then a little later some very brave early tulips. Meanwhile the first specks of yellow appear on the forsythia, the trees and bushes begin to bud, the days lengthen and the birdsong starts earlier…and finishes later.

So let us not in this Lent season be too harsh on ourselves. Let us perhaps instead hear anew the invitation to come back with all our heart. Let us find ways of reaching out to ‘the poor’, whoever and wherever they may be. And let us rejoice in this incredible annual miracle of creation.

To read more about Ramadan, we shared this post from the Missionaries of Africa, who live beside Muslims in Islamic lands.

A neighbourly gesture: solidarity between Muslims and Christians in Canterbury as we reported in another previous post.

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16 February: Shrove Tuesday

I don’t suppose we will be receiving ashes this year to start Lent, too much physical contact there! Lent will feel different, in fact we might feel we’ve had a year of Lent, not just 40 days, so why bother with Ash Wednesday, why bother with Lent at all?

Well, as one of the commands accompanying the ashes puts it: Repent and believe the Gospel. We are urged to repent, to turn our lives around. They’ve been pretty well turned around for us these past months, and many of us need no reminding that we are dust, and unto dust we shall return.

We know we are turning to dust, if only because we can spot the difference between today’s photo and one from 20 years ago; or we experience the slowing down, the failing strength, the memory full of holes, the comb full of hair. Honesty reminds us that there are habits we need to turn from, actions we need to turn to for the sake of our sanity and integrity.

And we just cannot do it. The prophet Joel (2. 12-18) may challenge us, ‘Come back to me with all your heart, fasting, weeping, mourning’; it’s the ‘with all your heart’ that’s the sticking point. That sticking point is known as Sin.

Artists from L’Arche Kent

Joel, after running through various ways that the people could turn to God, says that ‘the Lord, jealous on behalf of his land, took pity on his people’. God had issued the call for change, but it was his taking pity on his people that restored their relationship, not their fasting and lamentation. It’s so easy to convince ourselves that we are doing OK, if not actually doing well. But compromises, compromises, compromises: they tarnish our mirrors, deceive our eyes.

Jesus really did live a good life. Let’s use this Lent to follow him more nearly. And enjoy tonight’s pancakes!

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Filed under corona virus, Daily Reflections, L'Arche, Lent, Mission, Spring

10th February, Ash Wednesday: A Change of Heart

heart

(Image from www.franciscanalliance.org )

Joel 2:12-18, Psalm 50; 2 Corinthians. 5:10, 6:2: Matthew.6:1-8,16-18

Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent, marked by services of penitence.

The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer through prayer, alms giving atonement and self-denial.

Literally, it means a change of mind and heart and attitudes.  This point is vividly illustrated by the first reading when the prophet Joel tells us, ‘let your hearts be broken, not your garments torn’ (Joel 2:13).

What does change of mind and heart mean, and how can we do it?  There is a sense in which we cannot effect it – all that we can do is to be attentive to God and let him do the transforming. A real change of mind and heart means an inner surrendering of my own life to God, so that whatever I do, I do in his Spirit: with him, for him and through him.

Alms-giving is a generic term which expresses the practical nature of our love for others.

In today’s Gospel, Jesus warns us against play-acting good deeds in order to be seen.

Fasting from wrong doing is more important than from food. There is inner fasting of the mind, which is letting go of past resentment, breaking down the barriers which separate us from God.  Like fasting, alms-giving is both a means which helps us to pray, and also the result of prayer. If our prayer is genuine, then the spirit of God takes hold of us and we shall begin to feel more at one with him and with creation.  We do not just fast and pray for people but give them a practical proof of our love which makes us ambassadors for Christ, as St Paul tells us in the second reading. Our hearts, like Christ’s will be moved with pity, and we shall begin to feel for our neighbours as we feel for ourselves. May God help us in conversion of heart this Lenten season Amen.

 

FMSL

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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