Saturday, 25 February 2012

Praying together with Jesus, through Lent

Having said that Jesus is enough, then it follows that we must be with Him at all times and in all places.

Much in contemporary spirituality, majors on His presence with us, but as usually expressed it suggests that he tags along with us as we live our lives - a sort of spiritual first aider, always there for us to comfort and guide us as we live our lives. But in Baptism we make a fearful and glorious exchange - Our life for His. As St Paul says "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me".

As I suggested in a sermon a couple of weeks ago, Mark's gospel reveals very clearly how there is no way that Jesus can be with us except we follow him. Jesus is always on the move - they have a choice, stay put or be with him. Jesus appoints the Apostles, the seed bed of the church, to be with Him. Peter realizes that a life centered on the self, even a Christian faith centered on the self is of no avail as, when others are drifting away to find a more convenient 'god' who will be with them), "to whom can we go? You have the words of eternal Life!" We have to be with You!

So in Lent, we have to be with Him. Where is He? Out in the wilderness, praying. And what is He praying? As the One who embodies "The people of God", both past and future, he is praying the prayers of the people of God, the Psalms. These have been our prayers these past three thousand years, but they are ours because they are His.

Lent in the West, and especially in the protestant churches and parts of the Anglican church, has largely become an individualised experience. The question from the pulpit, "what will You do for Lent?" is voiced and heard in the singular, not the plural. We are presented with a plethora of courses and books and ideas for a Creative Lent, but there is little sense that we should 'do Lent together' - little by way of opportunity to gather and pray and share our joys in fasting and almsgiving.

It is of course a little late to 'put something on' as the horse has already bolted and is fast approaching the first furlong marker, but there is one thing we might do together, and with Jesus, and that is to pray through the Psalms. The Orthodox church does this every Lent and with determination, reading through the whole corpus together, twice a week. Assuming though that perhaps such strong meat may be somewhat indigestible for our presently weakened constitutions, might I suggest we apply ourselves to read them through in their entirety over the next five weeks?

Doing this we would be together with Him. Where else might we find Life?

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