Today is the first Sunday in Lent. Lent, if you remember what Erin told us last week, is a period of 40 days (not counting Sundays) leading up to Easter. We begin Lent with Shrove or Pancake Tuesday when the tradition is to use up all the rich foods in the cupboard ready for a time of fasting. This time of Lent is meant to replicate Jesus’ time in the desert before he began his ministry. It is usually a time of giving things up, but I tend to take something on – usually as a space to reflect or share.
During this time of Lent Kelly and I will be running the Claiming Our Faith series that will begin on Wednesday 11th March at 7.30pm and run every Wednesday night up to Holy Week. Everyone is welcome to this series. It is our hope that on Easter Sunday we will have some people ready for baptism, some for confirmation and the opportunity will be there for everyone else to stand and re-affirm their faith. You’ll get more details about this as it gets closer.
After hearing our story from Mark this morning, it might be pertinent to ask, “What or whom do we really love?” If Lent is a time for examining self or for some spiritual spring cleaning, the passage this first Sunday in Lent may help us get to the heart of the matter. How deep is our love? Do we love God enough to relegate everything else? Is it our love of God that motivates us in all areas of life?
The encounter of the rich man with Jesus is an emotionally charged story. It is possible the rich man thought he would be a useful addition to Jesus’ cause, a welcome asset. What a disappointment to discover that, though outwardly he looked like an ideal candidate, there was something lacking. What a challenge to find his worldly wealth was not as important as his spiritual health. Even his fine, upstanding habitual life, observing the commandments, did not go quite far enough. There was something more required, something less tangible but more pervasive, an attitude to be embraced. And, I imagine, it must have hurt Jesus to have to be the bearer of bad news. But Jesus did not hold back on the truth, he did not let the man down gently.
In love, Jesus told him that still there was one thing lacking; and not just a little thing. In love, Jesus refused to compromise. He told the man that he must sell all he had, give the money to the poor and then come and follow. As servants of God today, we often settle for less than that. We often offer less than that.
This is just the beginning of our Lenten reflections – what or who do we really love?