Putting together this article for the Messenger this month, I’ve also been preparing an address to be delivered in our Diocesan Cathedral in Dromore. There’s a longstanding tradition of clergy from the Cathedral Chapter preaching at services there. Having been part of the team there, it’s some years since I’ve spoken in Dromore so I’m looking forward to sharing in their Lenten service.
One interesting part of the tradition says that a fine can be levied if I don’t turn up.
I am not tempted to see what happens if I don’t go – although I think the fine was imposed in days when one pound was a considerable amount of money. I did say to someone that paying the pound and not putting in the hours of preparation might actually make sound financial sense – but would not be sound theologically!
Theologically – the idea of someone paying a price on behalf of someone else is a very potent one.
Jesus went to the cross as, well the prayer book used to use the phrase “Propitiation” meaning atoning sacrifice – but we could say that he paid the debt that we could never pay; we can’t pay that debt because we aren’t perfect in the way that Jesus is perfect.
Jesus was conscious of this as a defining principle in his mission and ministry. He went to the cross realising what this sacrifice would and spoke about it in several different ways.
He says in Mark’s Gospel:
“For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Mark 10:45
Peter reflects on it in his first epistle:
“For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.”
1 Peter 1:18-21
This Lent, Holy Week and Easter, think about the fact that Jesus was willing to do what you could not do for yourself. Think, too, about what that means. It means we can be “debt free” when it comes to our relationship with God. What a great liberty and privilege this is, and not to be taken for granted.
I hope you will be able to engage with the story of the cross and resurrection this year in ways that deepens your relationship and discipleship with Christ.
Yours in Christ