Weekly comment from the Clergy

 The Second Sunday of Lent

24th February 2024 

Traditional societies equate age with wisdom and accord the elderly due respect. It's a paradox of modern western life that, whereas most of us wish to live into old age, our culture no longer accords it great respect. On the contrary, in the many facets of social media, glamour, wealth and success are equated with youthfulness. So, for an older community especially, tomorrow's Old Testament reading (Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16) should be heartwarming. Here we have an elderly couple Abram and Sarai, frustrated in life and with no further expectations, being told that they are the key to the future, God's future, and that nations will flow from them. At various points in the story both Abram and Sarai (renamed Abraham and Sarah as recipients of God's promise) laugh in disbelief and yet God does not break faith with them.

This theme, God and God's purposes being disclosed through contrary means - age over youth, weakness over strength, failure over success - is a thread running throughout the scriptures culminating in the gospels. It is most apparent in Mark where Jesus only finally admits his identity as the Son of God when he is rejected, humiliated and condemned to a criminal's death. It is the central argument of our Lent book by Rowan Williams, Meeting God in Mark in which Williams suggests that God's ways are so contrary to our nature and instincts that they never can be fully mastered, hence the need for repentance, turning again and again to the light of Christ.

We might well ask ourselves how these contrary kingdom values have been, and are, reflected in the church and in our own lives. It is a sobering reflection. Yet, in that startling end to the gospel text (16.8) in which the women at the tomb run away afraid and tell no one, Mark reminds us that it is never too late to discard false images of the divine and to connect with the paradoxical God revealed in Jesus. May we be blessed with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Every blessing,

Charles Booth

The Pew Sheet with notices and daily readings (including a daily reading from Mark for Lent) is attached. Copies of Rowan Williams' book (Meeting God in Mark) are available in church (£8). Please note that during Lent we are redoubling our efforts to support our local foodbank, The Community Larder in Ferndown. Offerings can be placed in the Blessing Bin at St. Mark's or placed by the font at All Saints'.

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