The last Sunday of Lent.
Readings: Philippians 3.4b-14
4Even though I, too, have reason for confidence in the flesh. If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: 5circumcised on the eighth day,
a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; 6as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness
under the law, blameless.
7Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ.
8More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I
regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through
faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith.
10I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, 11if somehow I may attain the
resurrection from the dead.
12Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.
13Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own;but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14I press
on towards the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.
1Six days before the Passover Jesus came to Bethany, the home of Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 2There they gave a dinner for him. Martha
served, and Lazarus was one of those at the table with him.
3Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. The house was filled with the fragrance of the perfume.
4But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (the one who was about to betray him), said, 5‘Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and the money
given to the poor?’ 6(He said this not because he cared about the poor, but because he was a thief; he kept the common purse and used to steal what was put into it.)
7Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone. She bought it so that she might keep it for the day of my burial. 8You always have the poor with you, but you do not always
This last Sunday in Lent is quite a day. As usual I looked at the news headlines to see what we needed to
Today is the 20th anniversary of the shootings in Dunblane where 16 primary school children were killed.
Today is the 5th anniversary of the tsunami and earthquake in Japan where 18,000 people died.
Today is five years since the first unrest in Syria. It is calculated there are 42,000 refugees in Greece at the moment following the war in Syria, and that's just in Greece.
Anniversaries are an opportunity to gain perspective. And our readings are all about perspective. One of the reasons for doing different things in Lent is in order to gain a perspective. I
find, for instance, that it is possible to go without things, my world does not crumble, its ok, and that experience of going without, leads me into solidarity and to pray with many across
the world who go without all the time.
Likewise, The Lent Looking Outward lunches have been an opportunity to think about what is going on in the wider world, and in different worlds. What does go on in someone's life such
that they cannot leave drink or drugs alone? How can we find a path through the labyrinth of dementia? What is life like in Papua New Guinea if you're a secondary school age
The Lent Quiet allows us to still ourselves before the greater reality of God, and to think: what is important? What does my faith amount to? What does the Lent desert say to me?
Lent is the time for us as Christians to ask questions of ourselves.’Where am I in my faith journey?’ ‘What is new for me?’ ‘ What have I learnt?’
I'm doing a little bit of work with Norwich Cathedral at the moment. I'm working to help train a team in how to reach out to visitors in the cathedral, how to engage them, not just with the
building, but with the faith that the building stands for. I've talked about this in our own PCC's relation to our churches here too. I don't want out visitors to be unaware of what our faith is
So this week when we got together as a team at the cathedral we did some spiritual exercises. We mulled over some questions, we plotted our 'faith life' on a graph to see what our
closeness to God has been like, and how it has been affected by events in our lives.
Or you could ask yourself: if your relationship with God was a marriage, how would you describe things to a marriage counsellor?
Our faith is not a static thing. It's not a set of beliefs which we adhere to, (that’s just part of it) Our faith is a way of life that we start walking in. Isaiah says to us today: 18Do
not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. 19 I am about to do a new thing;
Don't get stuck in the past, says God, I am the living God, I am always moving on to tackle new situations, to express myself creatively, to constantly reach out to those who don't realise
help is at hand.
In our Epistle passage from Philippians, Paul is trying to sum up what is at the heart of his faith journey.
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead,
It is movement. Moving on in understanding, and in experience and in serving others.
Paul says a very powerful thing.
I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death.
Really Paul? You want to share the sufferings of Christ?
But Paul has been turned around. He was a passionate Jew, wreaking havoc on this new Christian Faith, dishing out violence and murder. and then he literally saw the light. Now his
passion is equal but opposite, he will do anything in order to serve the Jesus he persecuted so violently. He wants to know everything there is to know about this God, about the power
that sets people free, as he has been set free, and even about sharing in the suffering.
Pauls perspective has been radically altered.
I wonder…..what is the most important thing to you?
The exercise we did in Norwich showed us how our life changes, how we have different phases with different perspectives, different things that are important to us.
All of the people we remember today with these anniversaries, who have lived through great suffering and tragedy, have a different perspective on life.
Ignatius of Loyola was a Spanish soldier, all he wanted to do was fight, he loved the glory of battle, the chase, the hunt, the adrenaline the surge of courage, the extremes of combat and
camaraderie. And then he was seriously injured, he received a thigh wound that took a long time to heal. All he could do was sit and read, and he read all the romances he could lay his
hands on. And then he read tales of the saints...
And slowly it dawned on him that the saints had got it. They had given up everything, because they had discovered the most profound truth, the most profound love, the most profound
And so Loyola became a spiritual writer, his works are used prolifically today. He constructed a series of prayer exercises that help us find perspective and our own pivot, the thing our life
I wonder what is your most profound experience?
I am a bit like Loyola - not for fighting, I can't bear violence- but I love adventure, I love discovering new things, new places, meeting new people, doing new things...
So when I realised God's call was for me to be static, to live a life set apart to help others come to God, and to stay in one pace, and not even to have two days off in a row so my possibility
of travel is seriously limited, it felt quite odd. How could that be freedom for someone like me?
What I would have loved to do, and if I could do it all again perhaps that's what I would pursue would be to become a national geographic photographer, Sent off into all sorts of places
around the world to discover how people live, what their environment is like, what birds and animals they live with. Adventure, seeing the world.
But once I was on a train, reading national geographic as it happens, and God said inside my head and heart, I have chosen you for adventure, you too will climb peaks, and discover
depths... but in people, and you will go alongside them.
And it's true. Even these last two weeks I have heard profound stories, of people's difficult experiences. I hear people's stories all the time, it's a really important part of my work to listen;
and it's a sacred moment because all our lives are sacred before God.
This week I have sat with Molly and John as Molly lives her last days.
And I have sat in the garden holding out a palm full of seed and our robin has flew down and perched on my hand and taken some seed. The pressure of the slender feet of that tiny
creature on my skin, his vitality and boldness, and providing him with something he needs. All these have been profound moments.
Ignatius Loyola encourages us to take up the practice of recollecting the day. At the end of the day we take stock of what has happened. What was good? What was the mountaintop
experience? What was difficult? What was the trudge? What did you notice from God? What was your people adventure today?
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in
It is in our everyday lives that God is, and will appear.
In our gospel reading today Jesus is just a week from going to Jerusalem, on what he knows is his final journey and his final work. And he calls in to see some of his best friends, this
family of brother and sisters in Bethany have given him refreshment and company and love many times.
Mary has sat at his feet and Martha has served him and Lazarus has undergone the most profound experience of being raised from the dead. This family knows Jesus is God. And so
he goes to give them his company and words for the last time as the incarnated Son of God. And they give him a dinner. And Mary does something instinctive, as she often does. She takes
a whole jar of expensive perfume, perhaps saved for their own death and burial, perhaps bought for Lazarus' second death? And she breaks it open and anoints Jesus feet. Incredible
moment. The perfume fills the house, and everyone knows that smell, that beautiful but profound fragrance of life and death, that speaks of a person's story coming to it's
And most people in the room understand someone of what is going on here, smells are very powerful, they take you somewhere. And although it is absolutely spot on, it!s not a
comfortable place to take people, and not a tactful thing to announce Jesus ' death when he's still there in front of you. Only Judas verbalises the discomfort, he is horrified at the waste
of money, and piously declares it could have been used for the poor.
Jesus affirms Mary's act, devotion to God is at times the most important thing to do in our everyday lives.
And so as we come into this end time of Lent, this Passiontide, what us our perspective? where are our lives?
What is good?
What is difficult?
Where is something profound, something of God?
Notice this, above all, and lay hold of it and do what you need to do to develop the opportunity to meet God in your everyday life. Start a time of quiet, just a moment or two of reflection,
understanding where you are before God. A short pause, an opportunity for life.
Every one of the people who will be aware of these profound anniversaries today, have moved on. Today they remember and today they see their life now, many transformed by this
experience and who have transformed others in the process, many still bewildered.
I will make a way in the wilderness, God says to us, rivers in the desert.
forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings
Understand that Jesus went through this final part of he Easter story willingly and determinedly to bring us life, to bring us water in the wilderness as our OT reading suggests. See
that that is a resource for you, to bring you life, profundity, adventure.
Susan Bowden-Pickstock, Rector of the Saxon Shore Benefice