Ash Wednesday (2 March this year) marked the beginning of the season of Lent. This time of preparation for Easter is an invitation to live simply and humbly. All the students in the school participated in an Ash Wednesday service and were invited to be anointed with ash. This ancient Christian tradition of a cross being traced on the forehead symbolises a commitment to turn back to God, or, as our school values put in, to commit oneself to truth, respect and service. The response was very positive, with many students coming forward to be anointed.
As we continue to pray for peace in our world, especially in the Ukraine, Lent is an appropriate time to be reminded of the importance of being generous of spirit and with our financial resources. Praying for and supporting those affected by floods in Queensland and NSW is part of this generosity too.
The 40 days of Lent (not counting Sundays, which are always viewed as feast days, celebrating the resurrection) are a time to focus on turning back to God and asking for forgiveness. God always welcomes us into his family and there is always a way back, no matter what we’ve done. Forgiveness is always on offer and always granted.
We have a job in response to God’s forgiveness, which is to make others feel welcome and to accept them into the tribe. Acceptance and inclusion are critical parts of the Christian Gospel. They are non-negotiables.
Jesus modelled this and taught it, as we see in the way he welcomed tax collectors and others who were on the fringes of his society. For example, when he invited Matthew, a hated tax-collector, to follow him, he was acknowledging Matthew’s worth as a human being (Matthew 9: 9–13). It is hard for us to understand just how much Matthew would have been hated as a tax collector for the Romans. His fellow Jews would have seen him as a collaborator with the foreign army and as corrupt, because tax collectors would often line their own pockets by collecting extra tax and keeping it.
Yet, Jesus welcomed Matthew and others by treating them with honour. He would often eat with such people. Eating together was a sign of respect, a sign of collegiality, and a sign of acceptance and inclusion. That is our challenge: we are to be a community, which does exactly what Jesus did, namely, welcomes the outcast and helps them feel a part of our community.
The Reverend Dr Theo McCall