You shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

At the beginning of my story of how I became to be stood before you today I was lying in the dust at the bottom of a deep pit that I could not get out of.

I had lost myself. Who I was. What I was meant to do with my life. Everything around me felt meaningless, life was automated, I had no hope or vision for my life.

On a New Year’s Eve I decided it was time to start praying again. You see I’d not gone to church as a child or as a youth. But I’d always known deep in my heart that God loved me and was my best friend. I would lie in my bed at night feeling lost and alone, yet soon a feeling would come over me and would not feel alone anymore. In the darkness I was enfolded in a mantle of protection and my heart ached to feel that again.

That night before I went to sleep I cried out to God for help, to show me what to do, to help me from this seemingly inescapable pit I was in. I went to sleep on that New Year’s Eve and I had a dream.

You shall cry for help and the Lord will say here I am

I dreamt that I was walking with Mary and she placed her arm around me and her cloak. We walked and she spoke, I rested my head on her shoulder and she led me to a temple. I walked inside and it was so brightly gold, brighter than I’d ever seen anything before. I looked at Mary and she pointed to a huge statue of Jesus. I looked up and it was so big I could only see up to his waist. I turned and said to her how big it was and then she pointed at his feet and a cross began to glow in bright light. It became brighter and brighter until it engulfed me and I woke up.

I woke up the next day feeling changed inside. I began the journey of transformation turning away from my old life and walking in the way Jesus was calling me to follow. It lead me to wanting to have my children Baptised, I was one of those Baptism families who just turn up not knowing what to expect, and so I became part of the church into regular worship.

You shall cry for help and the Lord will say here I am

Then one day as I watched the Priest at the altar break the bread, I heard God call me to serve him as a Priest. How could this be? Why would he want me?

There in the dust of that dark pit I felt myself being breathed into by the word of God, and slowly I rose up on that wind of the Spirit who guided and pushed me out of the pit and into the hands of Jesus.

The gospel reading today tells us of the woman who was dragged into the temple by the Scribes and Pharisees to be used as an example to test Jesus.

The woman stood probably naked with her feet in the dust of the temple floor.

You shall cry for help and the Lord will say here I am

And what does Jesus do as he listens to their accusations and their eagerness to punish her.

He starts to write in the dust.

And here is the beauty of this Gospel scene as we approach Lent and start to walk in the steps towards the cross.

When we are stood naked with all our sins on show, and we are feeling like we are being judged, that we are hopeless, that we feel that we are too far gone to be able to even approach God.

Jesus is there in his perfect love, bending down to us, re-writing the next steps of the story of lives.

you shall cry for help and the Lord will say here I am

Jesus re-writes what we think of ourselves, he re-writes the narratives we have slipped into, Jesus in his perfect self-giving love pulls us close to his heart and through him enables us to start again, afresh in the new life freely given by his forgiving love.

Jesus takes us by the hand, picks us up out of the dust and stands up tall next to us and speaks love and truth to us, he saves us, no longer are we just people of dust we now stand in the image of Jesus who became human, and died for us, his blood spilling into the dust, so that humanity and heaven kissed each other and returned to being as one.

you shall cry for help and the Lord will say here I am

And the thing is Jesus doesn’t just stop when he stands besides us he keeps on re-writing our stories. The gospel says that as he speaks to the scribes and the Pharisees, he once again bent down and wrote on the ground.

Over and over again we are made anew.

I shared a bit of my story with you today as a message of hope that when we cry out for help and turn to the Lord, the Lord will say here I am.

Soon we will hear the words in the receiving of the Ashes, “you are dust, and to dust you will return” and I’d like you to try and picture Jesus coming along aside you and writing in that dust a new start for you.

It is in the re-writing of our stories by Jesus that we are transformed but also we are sent out to encourage and support others.

Jesus told stories to teach, and the Apostles shared their stories of how Jesus taught them.

Today we begin to walk together through Lent, towards the cross, repenting of our sins and committing ourselves a fresh to following our God who loves us, who bent down and came to dwell with us, who died for us, who continues to stand with us through everything and anything.

We are dust and Jesus writes in us his love and plan for us, let us turn to him again and again in faith and trust over Lent.


Light and salt – Love and tears

Father, may these spoken words be faithful to the written word and lead us to the living word, Jesus Christ our Lord.

I don’t add salt to my food. This might seem strange to some, especially my mother who would see it as outrageous. But because of this when I eat something that has been seasoned it can taste extra salty to me. I haven’t grown accustomed to the salt so it attacks my tastebuds with such sharpness and makes me take notice.

I thought of this salty sharpness when I read the Gospel today.

When Jesus speaks of salt, how can something taste salty again if we have become accustomed to it?

I believe that this is a question which addresses the foundations of our faith in Him.

If the Gospel we hear has no effect on us, if it doesn’t stir up our hearts, if the same stories pass through us with no impact, what do we do?

How can we re-taste the sharpness that we experienced when we first believed?

The way we approach our prayer life, the way we approach scripture, the way we make time to ponder on the mysteries of our faith help us to construct the foundations of a spiritual dwelling that Lord builds with us.

Without the Lord’s guidance, our attempts to construct a faith that operates on our own terms is in vain, it is folly, the saltiness of the Gospel has lost its sharpness and it is nothing but a building of straw trying to sustain the wind.

Jesus uses another analogy, another description for us to see how wonderful it is to be filled with Him, with His good news, with His love.

Jesus says that we are the light of the world because we are filled with His light, His love, His commandment to love God and each other.

This light cannot be extinguished but when our hearts are not aligned to the heart of Jesus, if our hearts do not move, we are not open to love we are nothing but a shaded light.

And yes at times it is hard to love, whether this is through experiencing hurt, through grief, through cynicism, through apathy, and through the unfairness of life, but we can take comfort with Him who proclaimed the victory of love with open arms whilst hanging on the cross, we glimpse the light of his love through His wounds of love.

It is through the raw open wounds that the light of love is seen, it is in our own wounds where our hearts are exposed where we glimpse the grace of God through the love from others, it through the saltiness of the tears of love shed by our blessed mother Mary which proclaim the sharpness of this gift of love.

Love and tears – light and salt – our journey towards the cross begins to come into focus, we walk steadily in faith to the place where love is outpoured, where we believe, yet in our hearts we may not fully understand.

St John Henry Newman speaks of “believing without reasoning”, this is not the throwing away of logic, but the spontaneous movement of the heart that allows the invisible deep sense of Gods love to speak into us.

Yet in our minds it is hard to let go of our reasoning to allow the heart to speak, most of us wrestle with day to day life and a modern desire to have all knowledge tidily stored in neat boxes, we know deeply yet struggle and grasp to find reason for the mystery of the gift of love.

Paul in his letter to the Corinthians addresses the tension between heart and mind, he says,

“I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified.”

That is the light and saltiness, I know nothing among you except Christ crucified, the love and tears.

Paul continues his letter knowing that his humanness can give no logical or reasonable explanation of the faith imparted to him, It is only through the Spirit that guides our minds, it is only when humanity and divinity are working together that our light shines out on the hilltop.

If we have the Spirit within us then we have the mind of Christ, and the heart of Christ, the indwelling of Christ, which we receive afresh as we approach the altar and consume him in the Eucharist.

God with us, the incarnation, breathes life and wisdom, the prophets cry out in love and tears to show us how to reactivate the saltiness, to uncover our light through the way we align our hearts with God’s love, with love in action,

“Is not this the fast that I choose:

   to loose the bonds of injustice,

   to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

   and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

   and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them,

   and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break forth like the dawn.”

There is hope also for us, because as we proclaim love in action, we are also sustained, fed, watered, strengthened, and given a promise of renewal and growth.

As we know the Church feels to be in a precarious situation, yet we are given the solution to growth and rebuilding, to uncover our light, to reclaim our saltiness, through love and tears, for hearts breaking for the needs of all of God’s people by aligning ourselves, moving our hearts, to the heart of Christ, through the foundations of prayer, reading scripture, and tending to our neighbours, all entwined in love, the freely given gift of the Holy Spirit.

We can be brave and dare to believe without reasoning, to say yes to call of the Lord, to take courage.

These few weeks before lent is a brilliant time to start thinking about how we can approach this season differently, it is time to ask the Lord what he wants us to do, and ask Him how we can do it.

We are light and salt, love and tears.