Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.
With the hearing of these words we begin Lent as a cross of ash is drawn on our forehead. It reminds us that nothing in creation is permanent in and of itself. All created things including you and me tend towards impermanence.
The physicist Brian Cox said 'As a fraction of the lifespan of the universe as measured from the beginning to the evaporation of the last black hole, life as we know it is only possible for one-thousandth of a billion billion billionth, billion billion billionth, billion billion billionth, of a percent.’ I think that that is much less than the equivalent of one second in one million, million years. Much, much less.
If that sounds depressing it should not be. We like the idea of our own self surviving death, but if not us then we can hope that life itself can continue. On our current understanding of how things work that will not be the case. Nevertheless we should not worry about the end of the universe. It is 13 Billion years old but comparatively speaking, at almost the beginning of its life. There is an unimaginably long time to go.
The Orthodox Monk Seraphim Rose wrote, Everything in this life passes away — only God remains, only He is worth struggling towards. We have a choice: to follow the way of this world, of the society that surrounds us, and thereby find ourselves outside of God; or to choose the way of life, to choose God Who calls us and for Whom our heart is searching.
I believe that God is the ‘Ground’ in which all our hoping, our forgiving, our loving, our compassion and indeed our very being is rooted. Not just, as it were, before all time and space came into being, but under and through all that is. ‘For in God we live and move and have our being’.
At the end of the 39th psalm the psalmist writes, Hear my prayer, LORD, listen to my cry; do not be deaf to my weeping. I dwell with you as a foreigner, a stranger, as all my ancestors were; Look away from me, that I may enjoy life again, before I depart and am no more. In other words Only you God are forever, we are your fellow travellers for a season only and then we die.
That sounds stark, indeed it is and yet at the end saying it, we give God the Glory. Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit.
It is in God that we place our hope, not in any survival of our own ego. Accepting the ego’s mortality, its impermanence I think, is the beginning of our hoping.
I believe that God entered that mortality and participated in our living and dying in the person of Jesus. It is in that participation, I believe, that our hope is grounded. To say more now would pre-empt our celebration at the end of Lent so I shall leave it there.
Vicar’s thoughts for March 2017