COVID-19 update: The cathedral is not currently open for general visits or tours but remains open for private prayer and reflection 11-3pm (1pm-3pm on Sundays). From the 8th of March, two weekly public services will resume inside the Cathedral, Wednesdays, 12noon, starting 10th March and Fridays, 12noon, starting 12th March. Please continue to check the website for the latest updates. All services will continue to be online, and everyone is welcome to join.

Lent 1 Evensong

February 21, 2021

Categorised in:

John Smith was the only Protestant in a large Catholic village.

And on the first Friday of Lent,

While all of his neighbors were eating cold tuna fish for supper

John always left his window open

as he cooked up a nice juicy sirloin steak.

 

Every Friday it was the same until the fellas in the village couldn’t take it anymore.  They decided something had to be done about John.

Led by Fr Patrick they decided to go and convert John

And sort the problem once and for all.

 

The villagers seized poor John, took him to church,

And Fr Patrtick  sprinkled some water over him, saying,

“You were born a Protestant, you were raised a Protestantt,

 

But now, my child, you are a Catholic.”

 

The whole village was so relieved,

now their biggest Lenten temptation was resolved.

It would all be different next year.

And sure as eggs is eggs.

The next year’s Lenten season rolled around.

And  The first Friday of Lent came, a

nd just at supper time, when the neighbors were sitting down to their cold fish supper,

 

there came- once again- the wafting smell of steak cooking on under the grill…

The people could not believe their noses! What was going on?

I thought we fixed this last year.

 

They called each other up and decided to meet with Fr Patrick

over at John’s cottage to see what was what.

 

The group arrived just in time to see John standing over his cooker

with a small cup of water

sprinkling some water over his steak

and saying:

 

You were born a cow, you were raised a cow,

 

and now you are a fish.”

 

 

 

Just like John’s neighbours and telling bad irish jokes

It is our yearly habit at Lent to double back….

To revisit this story:

to see what has changed in us

…and what has not…

 

I don’t know about you but I sometimes find that annual return to Lent a bit discouraging because- like protestant John- I never seem to have changed

quite as much as I – or other people- would have liked.

 

 

And this year- when every day seems like Groundhog Day

there is an expectation in the air, in the news, that things might change-

life might be different on the other side of Easter…

 

Building back a better new normal…..

 

Is that really likely though?

I am realist and I ask myself- and you

What evidence there is for such a hope?

 

I don’t know.  Cows don’t turn into fish very often,

And bad things to good- even less so.

 

 

And yet- …… there it is.

An inescapable, tantalising prospect that it JUST MIGHT BE True.

 

 

For Christians- however sober our expectations of life are-

We are commanded to ‘always HOPE’.

 

The presence of God in the world-

and the real activity of the HOLY SPIRIT in and beyond the Church

provide us with inescapably GOOD reason to do so.

 

TO HOPE for a BETTER NEW NORMAL.

 

 

IN the lessons we find this cycle of despair and hope writ large:

 

First- the revisiting of our oldest story-

that primal tale of our efforts ending in disappointment and shame

 

And Second- the re-telling of that foundation story in light of Gods Grace.

 

First- the familiar old story- that is not about how the world was made

But what the world is LIKE.

 

And the second- a new end and a twist in the plot

That says God loves the world too much

To leave it as it was.

 

For us-

 

That second lesson with all its deliberate parallels

reminds us that no matter how much we may feel

that melancholic sense of being here before- especially now-

and no matter the foreboding sense

of the difficulty of overcoming personal weakness

 

of seemingly impossible task of rebuilding and reshaping the church

 

of the- off the scale- task of building back a better world.

there is GOOD REASON to think all this is possible.

Here’s why:

 

The Free Gift in the second lesson

is not like the Trespass in the first.

 

The salvific act is not like the one man’s sin

 

They may be opposites in the story

but they are not equals in their effect.

 

 

The second story- whilst mirroring the first-

Changes the possible outcomes completely

 

A new end is made possible for the world.

An escape from Ground Hog Day is granted.

And an invitation to put our hand confidently in the hand of God

and move forward with hope and determination is made.

 

First go around- the Irish poet Mihaul O Sheel writes-

 it seemed enough, to succumb to the telling,

wonder how a plot would unfold

 

A one-way journey towards whatever outcome.

 

But is a story richer the second time its told?

          And beginnings subtler seen in light of an end?

The answer for the Christian is YES.

 

Things are different now- this time around-

because we know we have GOOD REASON FOR HOPE.

 

We know the ending… and because that End is, for us, determinative:

we can experience Lent- and lockdown, and life in liberty

through the eyes of Easter.

 

That is why this Lent doesn’t need to be GROUNDHOG DAY

Instead it can be for us a JOYFUL and HOPEFUL RENEWAL

 

Because the risen Christ is not JUST at the END of this road

simply because that is where we first recognise him.

 

Christ is ALREADY HERE WITH US/

PRESENT TO US/

BOTH BEFORE AND AHEAD OF US/

 

It doesn’t make the challenges in us, in the church, in the world,

much less daunting , but it makes them WORTH taking on

with an optimism that- without God- would be entirely unwarranted

 

For the villagers in my story.  For Fr Patrick, for John, and for you and I St Pauls words should be our watch words this LENT in particular:

 

if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come:

The old has gone, the new is already here.