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Bright the Vision Restoration: speaking truth: seizing the moment

Lent 1 BCP

05 March 2006 11:00 | Fr. Roderick Leece

‘Bright the vision that delighted once the sight of Judah’s seer’. I chose the title ‘Bright the Vision’ as a general theme for Lent because I wanted our preachers to be looking forward…though any vision for the future of course must learn from the past and try to avoid its mistakes. We are told by the prophet ‘where there is no vision the people perish’. When he saw our series ‘Bright the vision’ advertised here at St. George’s, an old friend from my first parish rang up and asked if it was all sponsored by Specsavers…and kindly suggested ‘Crown him with many crowns’ for next year…possibly to be sponsored by DAM – the Dental Association of Mayfair.

I suggest three little thoughts, which are pertinent to our life here at St. George’s, and on a wider canvas. Restoration. Speaking the truth. Seizing the moment.

By restoration I mean not only being healed restored and forgiven body and soul for the glory of God, but also discerning what restoration might mean without turning the clock back. We are fortunate in the dignified traditional language we use here, modified intelligently after the pattern of the whole of Christendom - though not completely as far as the lectionary (our readings) are concerned. There is a mood abroad which is open to the idea of restoration (though people might in fact think they are doing a new thing)…take for example the rise in popularity of organic food…what is that but a return to old ways and methods…though adapted for modern efficiency and health requirements? The liturgy here has acquired a glorious patina of beauty and sobriety, as word music and prayer lift our hearts to God, and it needs constant attention and gentle restoration for modern day use. We face too the physical restoration of this building for the glory of God in the immediate future. But the old days of coming to faith by observing the habits of Christianity on account of family or peer influence are almost gone, and as old-time ‘natural constituencies’ are vanishing both politically and theologically, so a vision of restoration requires the building of new and flexible alliances. Any plans for the future must be made together with other local Christians, as inherited boundaries and constituencies become increasingly meaningless.

When it comes to speaking the truth (as we see it) we need honesty to be clothed with sensitivity and courtesy for other views, without being cowed into silence – a worrying development in recent times. There are better ways of saying what people felt needed to be said recently in Denmark, and better ways and better times to intervene on behalf of the Palestinian people than the rather student union common room way the General Synod recently chose. Most ideas (even those other people might find offensive) can be expressed at the right time and in the right manner. As Christians we talk about things people like to avoid…the reality of sin and death. I was struck by a thought for the day a few days ago, when the speaker told the audience that he had heard (the day before his broadcast) he was going to die…it was a rather dramatic reference to Ash Wednesday…

‘remember that thou art dust, and unto dust shalt thou return’. Lent is a glorious gift for a reality check, a time for truth, as we put our egos into proper context - using the disciplines and time honoured methods for a detox of the soul:

Prayer which opens us to God and allows an awareness of the reality of his plan of salvation…fasting which purifies the stains of creeping self indulgence and clarifies the mind as well as reawakening a hunger for God…giving alms which makes us more sensitive and available for others as we share what we have. Lent is an invitation to journey with the Lord to encounter reality, and during our own Exodus we are called to conversion – to belief that the good news starts with Jesus…and thanks to him the reality of sin and death is conquered…the deserts of our lives will finally flower and paradise will be regained. You might plan during your Lenten pilgrimage to take up the opportunity for sacramental nourishment as we add the Wednesday early evening Eucharist to our pattern of services.

George Clooney was in town last week promoting his latest film (Good night, and good luck) and spoke intelligently about the need to seize the moment when it arrives…well aware that there is precious limited time of success and influence to effect change. Jesus, though (by tradition) he falls three times on the way of the cross, doesn’t stumble as he faces the devil’s temptations…his moment arrives and he is prepared: ‘Get thee hence Satan’. The point George Clooney made was that there is only one chance in our professional lives or one main chance when we have reached the height of our potential. That is when our integrity will be tested. Last year’s Caravaggio exhibition had a haunting portrait of St. Peter pointing to himself and wishing the moment away…did he know Jesus?…a look of sadness as he is cornered…and blows it. There are those who compare the Archbishop of Canterbury to Tony Blair – both of whom arrived on a wave of hopeful anticipation and had their chance…a moment to seize…and….

But there were other moments for St. Peter, as we know, and in his great love God offers endless chances and constant forgiveness to us perennial chancers on our own salvation…to us who blow it. But it is for us to take him up on his offer and seize the moment…’Get thee hence Satan’.

‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’.
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