Whoa! That was a huge week. School holidays, Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Stations of the Cross, some massive Easter liturgies and then finally - Easter Sunday. It seems to have all gone so fast! Before you know it - it’s Easter morning and you’re neck-deep in chocolate eggs and self-induced tummy aches...
You know which one I mean, the forbidden A word, the A*****a word. Got it? OK I’ll say it once (Alleluia). Shhhh -don’t say it out loud! Oh, you were thinking the H word? Well, it’s the same – and they are both forbidden so don’t say them – you can’t even think them. Didn’t your mum ever tell you it’s just as bad to think them?
Well not quite. It’s not that extreme but the A word has been dropped from our liturgies, for Lent that is. I’ve nearly been caught out a few times at mass, the gospel reading where usually we go nuts with the A word. I get it half out, realise no one else is singing it. It’s all good, just a well timed cough and no one will suspect a thing, except maybe I’ve caught some transcendental cold.
But why take it out in the first place. If there is one thing I know about a Church (hopefully there is a few), it’s that we don’t do something without a good reason. You see A*****a means ‘Praise ‘Yah-weh’, Praise God! Heaven declares this constantly, there are angels singing without end praises to God
‘After this I heard what sounded like the loud singing of a great multitude in heaven “Alleluia! Salvation, glory and might belong to our God,”’
But the choirs of angel armies don’t stop for Lent, so why are we put into a Lenten exile?
Because of our sin. We don’t want to talk about it, it’s not fun to talk about, can’t we just think about how great God is, not how crummy we are? That’s a natural inclination, and it’s one that stunts us in our faith. And that is why our Church gives us this time, strips away the praise, not just in the A word, but did you notice the Gloria has gone to? The bells? The flowers? The statues. Our Church leads us straight into a place to look down and at ourselves.
What a smart thing to do.
This Lent, I’ve really been thinking of it as a journey. Where do we go when we contemplate our sin? It leads us to the cross, the most incredible sacrifice, where our sins were taken.
‘If anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father – Jesus Christ…
He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins… for the sins of the whole world.’
1 John 2:2
But let’s not make the mistake of thinking that the Cross is the end of the journey. No way – there is more to come, there is the resurrection, there is the Easter Miracle! Death is not just overcome but it is transformed into life. Where there was death is now life, despair now joy, grief now celebration. The journey shows us that God doesn’t want to just take away our sin, he wants to transform them into something so much greater – something to us to rise from, to share in His resurrection.
So there is a time coming where, we will sing ‘Praise Yah-weh’ again, when we will quit with the naval-gazing. But our church gives us 40 days to stop and think, where will I be transformed? What death, what sin will I give to Jesus, what will I give Him to take into the tomb? What will I be celebrating when the stone is rolled away?
I forget this all the time, this 40 day exile feels like the norm and I forget there is a transformation coming. So I wanted to do something intentional to remember why we’re not saying the A******a word. Here’s what I did…
You will need:
Piece of paper
I wrote down the A******a word, and I’ve buried it, hidden it in plain sight in a cup I’ve got on my desk. Every time I look at it I remember what’s in there. And I start to get excited, it’s not long now till I get to say it again. Come Easter weekend, I’ll unbury it, put it up on my wall and go nuts. But till then I remember why I’ve buried it. I remember the resurrection that comes from the grave. And this Lent, I will take a journey.
Lent is one of the most beautiful seasons of the church, but unfortunately it kinda gets a bad rap of being all about 'missing out on stuff.'
Starting on Ash Wednesday and finishing on Holy Thursday (the Thursday before Easter), Lent is about preparing for the massively important time of Easter – the time Jesus stepped in for us and takes the weight of our stuff-ups. You might have heard people talking about giving up things for the 40 days of Lent (not including Sundays – the Sabbath day), not eating meat on certain days, and hardly eating anything at all on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. This serves a few purposes, but primarily it’s about realising the things that have distracted us from God and his plan for us and turning our hearts and minds back to focus on Him!
As Pope Francis continues to capture hearts around the world with his simple message of LOVE and SERVE all, especially the weakest and poorest, we think it makes a lot of sense to use Lent to focus on GIVING OUT instead of GIVING UP. Every day of Lent this year we're gonna look for ways to GIVE OUT God’s untamable love, not just to serve others, but to help US remember how much Jesus gave out for us, and refocus on the simple call that God has for our lives.
Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling. Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms-
- 1 Peter 4:8-10