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.

Amen.

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