Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ash Wednesday

I'd like to travel with keener eyes than usual, and am challenging myself to look each day for a picture of some scene or symbol to reflect on to connect the church's Ministry of the Word for Lent with my current experience. I don't know how easy I'll find this, and began this day of penitence with a sense of barrenness, nothing creative or imaginative emerging.

During the Ignatian group meditation session, just one image emerged, seemingly unconnected with the chosen scripture reading from Isaiah 25:6-9

On this mountain the Lord Almighty will prepare
    a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine—
    the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
    the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign Lord will wipe away the tears
    from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace  from all the earth.
The Lord has spoken.
In that day they will say,
“Surely this is our God;
    we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the Lord, we trusted in him;
    let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”

It's the view from my study window of our garden. My attention is drawn not to the door into the back lane, but to the bird feeder. It's filled with seeds. It's been like that since before Christmas, but visits from garden birds have been unusually rare. Trees and bushes in neighbouring gardens were severely cropped two years ago, so there isn't the shelter from predatory local cats there used to be. When smaller birds visited, pigeons would also come in ones or twos and hunt for seeds dropping into the grass below. The garden has been empty of small birds throughout the winter, and only occasionally could the distant sound of a robin or a sparrow be heard. 

The bird table is a place where one of nature's little feasts takes place. Despite the food on offer here, there is no activity worth mentioning. It's a little deserted oasis. The first daffodil shoots in the bed below and crocuses nearby are signs that life forces are already at work contending with the cold and damp. All we can do is wait and see what changes happen as Spring arrives and Lent progresses. Waiting in hope of God's promises of renewal, and a return to the banqueting table. Not only for the birds but for ourselves and the church.

The church reminds me of the bird feeder, charged with so much nourishment, freely available to any who will draw near enough to taste and see. So many people are uncertain, cautious of approaching, perhaps fearful of being preyed upon, so many churches have been deserted. What needs to change to make the desert a place of feasting once more?

Wait for the Lord, his day is near: wait for the Lord, be strong take heart!

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