Don’t let your right hand know what your left hand is doing
I love the Olympics, particularly the Winter Olympics. It’s the coming together of athletes from all over the world to compete. The mad collection of sports all going on at the same time as part of the same event. The stories of the winners and some about competitors for whom reaching the Olympics is the ultimate reward they can hope for.
Among the stories that is emerging this year is the story of Elise Christie, a British short track speed skater.Short track is the one where the four or five in a heat are all together in one lane, bumping into each other. Elise Christie is competing in three distances, much as she did in the Sochi Olympics four years ago. But three years ago, despite being a contender for a medal, and making it to to the final at one distance, before being disqualified in each distance This year she made the final for her first distance but crashed out in the final. Watching her in tears on the TV I could only imagine how frustrating it must be to feel like fate is against you. The commentators, including retired short track speed skaters, discussed what she would need to do before her next set of races. One of the commentators was asked what the process of preparation would be – she would need to review the footage, accept what had happened and focus on the next race. One of the biggest challenges I think we face is being honest with ourselves. Like the hypocrites Jesus refers to in today’s Gospel, we can easily be full of bravado, convincing ourselves, or at least others that we are ok. Social Media is known for being full of people’s online selves – chosen for public consumption as the best possible image of one’s life. Lent as a concept is not about going on a body cleansing diet or simply giving up things to make us healthier. Though that can be a happy side-effect. The point of Lent is not about making us feel self righteous.
Lent is about taking an honest look at ourselves. And remembering we are dependent on God, not on our own choices, for true reconciliation. The Ashes we receive today, as part of our being forgiven from the sins we will confess, is a reminder of our mortality, of our reliance of God. It sets us up to mark Lent, not by celebrating how much more pious we are than our friends and neighbours,
but by remembering our shared humanity. That we are no more worthy than anybody else.
So in Lent, like Elise Christie, we have to look back at our lives honestly, accepting where we have made mistakes, and letting go where things are out of our control. So that we can look forward to celebrating Christ’s resurrection at Easter, fully aware of how much God loves us, to send his son to reconcile us to himself.
The Reverend Robin Sims-Williams