I have just returned from holiday renewed with a vigour to read. Reading is a good habit, it relaxes and stimulates, it enhances the imagination, it provides a different perspective on life. The Church also believes that reading is a good thing. The Christian faith is, after all, based upon a book – well a library of books in actual fact. Some of these books were written thousands of years before Jesus, others after his death and resurrection. So, the bible spans generations of people, different empires, various tribes and languages. The bible is a journal of love, war, treachery, deceit, ambition, lament, anger and praise. All these things and more!
I am not sure if we as a nation are very good readers of theological matter? I say this from personal experience having had two books published (co-authored with my wife), which have hardly flown off the bookshelves! But a good spiritual book like a well delivered sermon leaves a lasting resonance. Reading is an important discipline for a Christian life, no more so than in a penitential season such as Lent. We are fast approaching Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday, that’s this coming Wednesday. The ash from burning the Palm Crosses from last year will be imposed upon the foreheads of those attending church. So, people will literally mark the beginning of Lent, the time of preparation, of prayer, fasting, almsgiving and holy reading. This is the formula by which we prepare for the Easter mystery which shocked the world of the living and the dead, Jesus’ resurrection. This is not a cleverly devised story but an eyewitness account of an historical, earthly event.
Many books have been written to try and help us to unravel – what seems to us – as mystery, to make some sort of sense out of it. So, the good habit of sacred reading is recommended in Lent. Why not try something new, read a holy book this Lent. You might want to start with the bible itself, but be warned it should contain a health warning. This particular book has changed many peoples’ lives, your life could be changed, transformed, as a result of reading this sacred script between God and his people. There is a part in the words of one of the prayers offered at the Eucharist which proclaims, “This is our story, this is our song!” Meaning when we remember Jesus we remember that we are central in God’s narrative. We are God’s story, there is no chance of being forgotten or overlooked. When God reads his creation, he reads our lives, our struggles our hopes and achievements and pain. God reads us like a Ladybird book! We are that knowable, that believable, that real to God. God is, of course, a passionate reader. God becomes so engrossed in his novels and poetry, his creations, that he forgets time and space. God cherishes a good read. Our story is always open to God, as God’s story is open to us.
It is also possible with a disciplined eye for us to read the world with a greater intensity and clarity as we put on our Lenten reading glasses! Through prayer, fasting and sharing, the world can be read through a divine lens. The world might not be as blurred and uncomprehending as it sometimes appears. It can become more understandable, rich in texture with a compelling narrative like a golden thread connecting all people and all places. Enjoy a good read this Lent
Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, March 1st. We will literally be marking the beginning of this penitential season with the imposition of ashes during the Eucharist at 8pm at St Michael & All Angels, Summertown. Do join us for the Lenten pilgrimage to the cross, with open hearts and minds, this could be a significant journey of faith. For more information on events during Lent, please check our website.