The end of last year was so full that I didn’t dare take a look at this year’s calendar before I left on leave, for fear that i’d be too overwhelmed to take holidays. So while I knew easter was early this year, i didn’t realise that Lent began this week.
To be honest, it feels quite good to be taking a step back from it. One thing that became clear at the end of last year is that if what we’re doing here is to connect in with the community, then we need to follow the rhythms of the community, rather than the rhythms of the church. Lent is a peculiarly religious season – which is not a bad thing at all. While the community might need Lent [that’s such an arrogant statement to make! thinking we know what the world needs…], the reality is that they’re actually not going to engage with it. But the seasons of the church year are [at least partly] about practising how to live faithfully: learning how to grieve, how to get ready, how to celebrate, how to be thankful, how to remember, how to say sorry. And i think there are many in the world who want to learn how to do those things.
The Australian government is making a formal apology to the indigenous people of Australia at the end of next week – it’s the opening act of the first meeting of parliament since the election at the end of last year, where we voted in a new government. The apology is for the government policies and actions that led to thousands of indigenous children being forcibly removed from their parents and communities. The ramifications of the government’s policies, enacted just a few decades ago, are immeasurable. An apology isn’t enough, but there’s no healing possible without it. It has the potential to be a turning point – repentance, in the true definition of the word.
So i’ve been wondering, this morning, if this apology is what the Australian church has been preparing for when we’ve practiced Lent in the past. and i wonder if the act of confessing and apologising is a skill that many in the community are wanting to practice and participate in as well.
And i’m wondering how the community can do that, in a way that isn’t simply a one day wonder… I wonder how we move out of opinion pieces and debates and position papers, and actually into confession and apology… to join the waiting and the wandering in the desert of a people who don’t yet know how or where we’ll come out of it. As the season of Lent shows, it’s the kind of process that takes 40 days. Actually, it takes longer, but it’s only after 40 days of living it with every breath that you realise it’s a lifetime’s work.
it’s good to be back.