Lenten Reflection by Mick Boyle Wednesday 10th March

Lent Talk – Bigger, Better, Stronger.

Travelling at 30,000mph the meteorite entered the earth’s atmosphere and started to disintegrate in the extreme heat. What was left of it, a rock a bit bigger than the size of your hand, fell to ground on a driveway in Gloucestershire last week.

This was big news for several reasons. First of all because it was the first time a meteor had landed intact, in the UK for 30 years, second because the rock it was made from, was new to scientists, thirdly – it was 4.6 billion years old.

This small piece of the universe may provide Scientists with information about how the universe was formed – billions of yearsago.

  • billion years ago, seems a staggeringly long time ago…but then what we’re really talking about is God time – and God doesn’t have a concept of time

I Am

Is now, and forever shall be.

The oldest rocks on earth are 4.28 billion years old…things have

changed a lot on the planet earth since then.

  • What are the things that really stand out for you which have been invented, created, discovered since you wereyoung?
  • What are the things we don’t have anymore?
  • Is there a yearning to go back to them?

Can you recall those nights you can’t get to sleep…and then you start thinking…which only makes things worse?

I always end up thinking about who made the universe…try as I might I always come back to God. I just cannot believe that everything we see and feel, everything we are, the wonder of nature, the miracles of Science and humanity, the unbelievably complex relationship between nature – is merely the result of an accident.

Animals, plants, the seasons, humans, landscapes – are all interconnected and related… when some things change, we sometimes have to find new ways to adapt, new ways of doing things.

  • What’s scary about change?
  • What’s scary about the ‘new’ as it may not be change?
  • How do people deal with it?

Nature, and I include humans in this, has an incredible capacity to change as circumstances change, to come back bigger, better stronger. But in practically every instance it means stripping away what we had in order to allow it to come back in a much better condition.

A good example – the pruning of a rose bush.

In the garden at the vicarage my favourite plant is the Budleia – but each year it is cut RIGHT back to the ground, and it comes back in an abundance of greenery and blossom. Bigger, better, stronger.

Another example is a heather moorland. For 25 years I worked as a voluntary ranger in the Peak District operating out ofHayfield, Edale and Glossop. To create a strong healthy vibrant moorland what do you do? burn it, set fire to it…and it comes back. Bigger, better, stronger.

Do you remember this…???

At this point a selection of slides were shown that were a record of all the church went through during the £500k renovationand reordering.

The narthex, the nave, the chancel, the room, the drains and the underpinning.

We never thought we’d do this, we were very worried, having to

rip our lovely church to bits…but now look what we have. Some areas bigger, but certainly better and stronger.

History has proved time and again that as PEOPLE, as communities we rebuild, regenerate, comeback stronger.

Black Death between 1348/1350– widely acknowledged by historians that it claimed between 30 – 45% of the population of the British Isles. Great Plague of London – 1665/1666 claimed 100,000 deaths out of a population of 460,000.

Four years ago, I was working in Hamburg and I was absolutely gob smacked by the quality of the public transport system – the frequency, the punctuality, the large spaces to operate in, the road layouts, the lack of traffic jams and the affordability. Wow I’d love a public transport system like this.

But the reason that came about was as a result of WWII when Hamburg was absolutely flattened – visionary planners were then able to plan a system to meet the demands of the future. It was cut down and it came back stronger.

And in the same way, this is what God does with his son Jesus during the period of lent.

He cuts him down, he destroys him, he tears down that temple – he nails him to a cross for all the world to see and for all the world to KNOW that Jesus was well and truly dead.

As awful as it is, we MUST have the crucifixion in order to have the resurrection. Only to bring him back 3 days later – refreshed, rejuvenated, stronger, re-vitalised filling those around him with hope for the future.

The world has had a difficult year to put it very mildly.

But we all need to move forward with hope, resilience, optimism and rebuild for the future.

The period of Lent is that opportunity to reflect upon how we can

move forward with optimism to strengthen our relationship with God – our families, our r friends and our communities.

I’d now like to read a piece called Emmaus Bound – it starts in despair and finishes full of hope and optimism.

How can Lent be like that for us?

Emmaus Bound.

As soon as the Passover curfew ends Cleopas and his wife Mary

two had-been disciples slip through a city gate beating a retreat, not looking backwards deserters fromthe battlefield

hiding their colours beneath pilgrims’ cloaks shattered and dejected

hemorrhaging hope

their longed-for Messiah rejected broken and executed.

Heads down, shoulders slumped little to say, future in the past homeless returning home disillusioned, downcast

when suddenly a figure joins them previously unseen unheard

simply dressed in a long-sleeved robe no pilgrim’s pack, no traveller’s load startled as if by aghost

their eyes not open to recognise their Lord this man seems to know nothing

of the dramas and traumas of these days a wolf in sheep’s clothing

or a true innocent abroad?

Yet something about him

a warmth, a presence, a calm slowly persuades them to talk share their grief and laments

to open their hearts heavy with regrets.

We had hoped that he was the one sent to redeem our people

and free us from slavery’s yoke…

We gave up everything to follow him but now there is nothing left…

We watched him crushed upon the cross everything is shattered, everything is lost…

But does it not say, the stranger begins, at the very dawn of day in our holy books that from thewomb of a woman

would come the one

to crush the serpent’s head

and lead us back through paradise gates born of a virgin, born in Bethlehem

from the tribe of Judah, heir to David’s throne a new Moses sent to lead his people home.

A herald would proclaim his coming on earth

a massacre of children signals the place of his birth

he would be called a Nazarene a great light rising in Galilee

he would heal the broken-hearted and set the captives free

give sight to the blind proclaim a year of jubilee.

But by his own people he would stand rejected for thirty pieces of silver

betrayed and falsely tried silent before his accusers

like a sacrificial lamb, tethered and tied he would be spat upon and struck

less than a man, a worm, a thing despised.

Hated without cause ridiculed and mocked he would be lifted up

his hands and feet pierced soldiers gambling for his rags crucified between thievesseemingly forsaken by God

he would pray for his enemies

until on the cross he breathed his last and die not one bone of his body broken

a soldier with a spear piercing his lifeless side

The stranger stops

and holds them with his eyes Your sadness, he says,

is part of a greater sadness

a veil of grief which has covered creation since the time of rupture and rebellion exile and damnation

but in this sadness

the seeds of new life, new birth the seeds of joy are sown

for from the harrowed earth the crucified one has risen the veil has been torn apart and the dawn of divine union

is even now breaking into the human heart.

So, open your eyes, look at the cross as a sign of glory, of fulfilment

not of defeat and loss

see in the Messiah’s sacrifice the ransom paid for human sin his atoning blood pouredout to heal us from within

he has removed the mourning shroud and destroyed the tyranny of death so, you foolishsouls, do not grieve but open your minds and believe!

For hours they listen and learn dawdling, digesting

hanging on his every word sometimes resting, seated by the way sometimes pressing on until the evening’s rays

bring them to their Emmaus home.

He makes as if to leave them some other home to reach but they beg and beseechhim

to stay and share with them

a meal a thanksgiving, a reward

for his kindness on the road.

Candles lit; wine poured

in flickering stillness, the trio pause then raising his eyes to heaven

the stranger takes the bread and as he lifts it high

his long sleeves fall to his wrists

and they see the wounds in his hands the holes in his palms impaled by nails their ownblindness pierced

in this moment of revelation, of Eucharist.

Gasping the two look at each other in awe but then turning back

their Lord has vanished without a trace his light, his presence no more

seated on the chair before them

but somehow alive now in the core of their being a lamp lit never to be snuffed out

illuminating before them a new path of believing and seeing.

Without discussion or hesitation, they leap to their feet

and turn their eyes to the City of God running back along the road they had so slowly walked before. Did not our hearts burn within us as he talked and taught

opening for us the scriptures the very author of the book.

At dawn they had left seeing only darkness now at dusk they return radiant with joyful hope back to the Upper Room back to the Twelve

themselves visited by the Lord.

Hearts reignited

eyes opened burning and bright

Cleopas and Mary run towards the light reversing the curse of Adam and Eve

who, blinded by sin and greed poisoned by pride

had been from paradise exiled. Ancient promise fulfilled

Mary’s boy has crushed the serpent’s head the Tree of Life’s tragic deathbed

now healed by Christ’s broken

blessed body on the trunk of the cross Spring-time from Winter’s frozen soil awoken heaven’s gates openedcommunion restored

Jesus Christ our Saviour, Redeemer and Lord!

ClosingPrayer Refreshing and renewing Lord,

you have led us through difficulties

and temptations and looked after us.

May we appreciate the benefits

you have brought us and the greatest gift that you could ever give, your Son,

to live among us and die for us.

Bring us back into a right relationship with you, Lord, in the knowledge that you never give up on us,

even if we have sometimes neglected you. This Lent, deepen our faith and strengthen ourunderstanding of your Son’s teaching

so that our trust in his witness to your love for us may grow.

Amen