From the sermon preached by the Rector at St.Catherine’s Church, Birtles on the Sunday before Lent
In Lent (this year 14th February to 1st April) we mark both Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness, when – through temptation – he learned the limits of mortal existence,
and our Lord’s journey to Jerusalem for the last time.
The example of our Lord is that human suffering is given meaning by his own suffering. Say that to someone in pain or distress and they won’t always thank you for it. But suffering is the shared human experience that unites us all in our mortality, and suffering is an experience that our Lord entered into, and which was the path that led by the cross to human redemption.
At St.Catherine’s Church and at our sister church of St.Mary at Alderley, we have our Bible readings set for us according to the Book of Common Prayer. I would like to switch to the list of readings that is used widely in the Church of England now, known as the Common Worship readings. These give us more variety and we would not hear the same readings on the same Sundays every
year. It would mean that the Sunday readings would not always be as printed in the Book of Common Prayer but we would have more variety, and with variety comes more scope for learning from the Bible.
In the Common Worship readings, the reading from the Gospels set for today is the Transfiguration of our Lord. In the order of events in the Gospel, the Transfiguration happens just as Jesus is about to set his face towards Jerusalem ‘where the Son of Man will suffer and will die’. So, to set the order of events for us, the Common Worship readings give us the Transfiguration just as Lent is about to begin. In the Transfiguration, Jesus was revealed in his heavenly glory to three of his disciples. On the mountain top, the glory of God was seen in Christ.
The Gospel reading set for us by the Book of Common Prayer comes after the Transfiguration, while Jesus is on the road to Jerusalem. All the way on that road, Jesus is met by those who were considered the least among people: the ‘unclean’, the blind, the sick, the maimed – and he healed them and accepted them. The Christian Gospel shows that the depths of human suffering may be
intrinsic to this revelation of the glory of God in this life. It is this mystery that we acknowledge in our worship of Jesus Christ as Lord.
Serving those who suffer or who are outcast
Lent is meant to be a solemn time. We are called to live closer to our Lord – to live within boundaries as created beings of God and not as if we were immortal. And our Lord shows us that serving those who suffer or who are outcast may open our eyes to the glory of God and the truth of salvation in Christ.