Ash Wednesday – Be ‘Heart Ready’

Paula Gooder – Let Me Go There – the Spirit of Lent – Introduction

Luke 4: 1-13

Today traditionally has always been a day to remember that we are but ‘dust and ashes’, a day to look our mortality in the face. We do so, not to make us miserable or morbid.

The reason is actually just the opposite, we do so embracing the love that was given, the life that was broken, the death of Jesus Christ, in order that we might live in freedom and know the gift of new life.

It seems quite appropriate that for the first time in over 70 years we mark also today Valentines…. For the cross is costly, it demanded everything, it was and is, always will be the greatest love story ever told.

Tonight, as we enter Lent, we are beginning to read and study together Paula Gooder’s Let Me Go There. Paula over the weeks that lie ahead, will take us to the place of desert and wilderness, exploring through several passages from the Old and New Testament the reality and ambiguity of the wilderness.

For the wilderness is a place of abandonment, fear, hunger, danger, toil and challenge but it is also a place of refuge, salvation, protection, homecoming and great joy. Paula will take us on a journey through the wilderness – an adventure in which danger and hope, jostle side by side.

And of course, wilderness is a place of vulnerability, it’s not safe, there will be lessons to be learned, challenges to face – there is no short cut. But the journey is a journey well worth taking, for it will strengthen us, show us new things and open to us a wide-open space of God’s grace and love and mercy.

This spaciousness summons us to lift our eyes from the humdrum ordinariness of everyday living, it invites us to strip back our cluttered existences to a bare minimum, so that we can discern more fully what brings us life, it will challenge us to look deep and hard at those things we try to avoid, and from there learn who we really are.

As we explore these wilderness themes, we can be confident that they will change us. But most of all, Paula wants us to reflect on Jesus’ own time in the wilderness. A time when Jesus was tempted, but choose not to give in.

Rather Jesus choose to do the right thing…to take the long patient road, put the needs of others before his own, and stay faithful and true to his calling as the Saviour of the World. He gave his all for each of us, that costly, cross shaped love.

And as Paula considers and unpacks Jesus’ wilderness experience she asks us to consider our calling as those who are called to take up our cross and follow him? To examine ourselves – what does it mean for us to follow Christ faithfully and steadfastly as a learner, a disciple, as a Christian living today.

These questions form the backbone – the focus – as this wilderness journey unfolds.

And so, we explore wilderness and the call to discipleship this Lent, not as a season of restriction, but rather with a wide-open spaciousness, in which we invite and welcome God to work by his Spirit, that we might learn new lessons, grow in faith and allow God to meet us in new ways. That bit by bit, day by day, we might learn and grow and become more and more like Jesus.

This Lent be Heart Ready…… to return to God.
Be heart ready… allow God space to work in and through you.

I finish with the words of a prayer attributed to Sir France Drake…. Paula quotes it in her introduction… it is a striking and bold prayer. It is a prayer I came across about 10 years ago, I’ve often pondered on it and even dared to utter it on a few occasions…..

Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely

Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity And in our efforts to build a new earth, We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly, To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show Your mastery; Where losing sight of land,

We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

(attributed to Sir Francis Drake -1577)