I am still scarred by the graphic description of Jesus being flogged, being forced to wear the crown of thorns and then being brutally nailed to the cross, as conveyed to me by the head teacher of our primary school when I was in ‘top infants’ – perhaps 7 years old. I was reduced to tears and desperately wanted him to stop. The message that he wanted to get across, was Jesus had gone through all this for me. Rather a tough thing for a small child to understand. I took this to mean that all of this was my fault. I asked a friend’s father about it afterwards. Mr Corley offered the idea that Jesus died to open the gates of heaven. I responded with “If God can do everything, why didn’t God just open the gates of heaven himself?” To which there came no reply.
One of the delights of being in Northern Lights MCC is to learn from each other. Most of us come from churched backgrounds, even if we left our home church in our teens and have only come back to worship as older adults. We bring a range of experiences and understandings from a wide variety of Christian and other traditions. There will be aspects of our faith which we hold dear our whole lives long and other areas where we have changed what we believe. The final theme in our Lenten series is ‘Growing up – the process of change’. Part of being a mature Christian is being able to change and grow in our faith and our understanding of God. Sometimes, we will use our reason and this will change our belief. Many of the shifts in attitude towards ordaining women or fully accepting LGBT folk into church communities is about applying reason - we think it is the right thing to do. Sometimes, our beliefs change because we have an experience or spiritual encounter with the Divine. We may feel God, or hear God or somehow ‘know’ God in a profound way. We experience an internal shift. This deepens what we understand about God in a way that we might not be able to describe, but we know to be true - a new way of understanding a sacred mystery. May this Lent bring you such a moment of revelation.