Reflection for Ash Wednesday 17th February 2021

The Rev’d Roger Elks

Click here to read the text of the reflection

One of the few services that are still open in lockdown are opticians. And I’m looking forward to next Monday to getting a new pair of glasses because these readers are not all that I need. I really need the varifocals, I broke my last ones and the eyes have changed anyway. But as we get older our ability to see outside ourselves gets worse, doesn’t it? And we need these blessed things to help us. As we also get older, our ability to see inside ourselves gets better. We see outside worse, but we see inside better. We see ourselves better as we get older, don’t we?

Our Reading this from John, Chapter 8, beginning verse 1.

Liz and I were looking at some old photos last night; I am doing some archiving, and of course there are some pictures of me looking younger with darker hair. As you can see, it’s not so dark now and it’s quite long. Another thing I’m looking forward to after lockdown is getting a haircut. When I was young, I saw things much more black and white. My hair was much darker, now, I see things grey, like my hair. It’s a good metaphor of how I see things not so black and white. The thing is, you see, things are still black and white. Sin is no less sinful. And as we begin Lent, this time of penitential thoughts, it’s a time when we say sorry to God. Things are still black and white. Sin is sin. But we realize as we get older that in this black and white world that God has created, we are grey.

Jesus said, let anyone who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her. And the implication here could be that he’s talking about the same sin of adultery. Verse 9 “at this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first until only Jesus was left”. You see, this story and our ability to see ourselves in more truth as we get older, affects how we see others. Words are all very good at condemning others. But when it comes to actually doing something like throwing a stone, we realize, if we’re honest, that we are part of the sin. There is still right and wrong, but it’s God’s right and wrong, not ours, and God is far more gracious than we are.

So who are you in this story? Are you the woman caught in adultery, in sin, and needing grace? Or are you a teacher of the law or a Pharisee – needing grace? And when we learn that we all need to receive grace, then we can learn to be an agent of God’s grace to others. “Then neither do I condemn you”, Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin”.

Our Collect.
Holy God, you know, the disorder of our sinful lives, set straight our crooked hearts and bend our wills to love your goodness and your glory in Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

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