Some of you may have noticed that a few things in church that used to be white are now green. The sudden change in decor means we have moved from Epiphany to ordinary time and in a few weeks we will change from green to purple as we begin Lent. This short pit-stop in ordinary time is called the Second Sunday before Lent and it is a time where we prepare for 40 days of penitence.
As we begin to move from Advent to Easter; from the crib to the cross, now is the time to think about what you would like to do for Lent. As a symbolic act of repentance, of turning again to God, many people fast – like giving up chocolate, for example. But why do a symbolic act of turning to God when you can do the real thing?
In my fellowship group we are looking at the Ten Commandments for ideas of what to do for lent. It could be to set aside time each week to rest from work and to worship God (from the command to keep the Sabbath). It could be to set aside whatever tends to take priority in your life instead of God (from the command not to worship idols). It could be to make a commitment to phone one’s parents regularly and spend quality time with them (from the command to honour one’s father and mother). It could even be a resolution to spend less time in lockdown shopping on the internet for things you don’t need (in keeping with the command not to covet). The list could go on. If you would like to be part of a group where you can be encouraged, prayed-for and given the opportunity to ask any questions you have about God, then please do contact me. You would be very welcome indeed.
In our reading John returns to the beginning of all things. John shows us that, at the beginning of time, Jesus was present and everything that was made was made through him. Through Jesus, God the Father brought the whole creation into being.
At moments in our lives, many of us wish we could go back in time, to have a fresh start and to undo things that have happened in the past. Regret about the past is a problem we all face.
‘[On and on the pen of history] writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: all thy Piety nor all thy Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears [erase] a Word of it.’
We cannot change the past but we can be released from the guilt that is attached to it.
In our reading, Jesus is not shown as someone who can undo the things we now come to regret, but rather he is someone who can offer us a fresh start.
As John the Baptist will say: ‘Behold the lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world,’ Jesus takes away the guilt of our sins just like the sacrificed lamb at Passover caused the punishment of God to pass over the Israelites. As the word become flesh, as one of us, Jesus was sacrificed for our sin and our guilt taken away. Because of Christ, the slate is wiped clean, our debts are cancelled, and our souls made whiter than snow. In Jesus we are given a fresh start with God.
So, the message for this second Sunday before Lent is that all those who turn to Christ, who come to him in repentance, are released from the guilt of the past.
So we are offered a fresh start when we come to Christ. A fresh start that is available each and every time we come to him in repentance. And when we receive that forgiveness that is waiting for us, we are released into a new way of living. Just as the universe was created through him, so also our hearts can be recreated when we turn to him.
‘Jesus is the light of the world’ it says in our reading. As a light shows us the way when the day draws to a close, darkness moves in and we don’t know what to do, Jesus lights up a better way to live by following the commands of God.
So in preparation for Lent I pray that you would take hold of the fresh start offered for each of us in Christ and enjoy the freedom hidden within God’s commands as we move towards Lent for the glory of God and for our ultimate good. Amen.