Letter from the Superintendent
Of ashes and hot cross buns
Spring is in the air; the days lighter and the temperatures higher (allegedly). Humanity smiles again and peace beckons (allegedly). Wars are ending and creation is rebirthing (allegedly). The lion and the lamb are lying together (allegedly).
Not just yet!
May be tomorrow.
For now, the Holy Spirit is in a disruptive mood. We are entering the season that begins with the end: the ashes after the fire; the carnage after the war; the trail of destruction after the natural disaster; the rancour after the argument. It is a season pregnant with tension but also full of hope that healing after the worst is possible. Yes beginning at the end is the way of Christ. But it is also a leading theory in leadership and management. Successful leaders plan with the end in mind, I am told. Hence mission statements, vision days, core values … For churches, worship leaders and local preachers, the dilemma of the MAM quarter is ever present. The starting ingredient is ashes, and the end product is … dare I say it … the hot cross bun! That is visualisation for leadership. For ordinary Christians, like you and me, that is hope in Jesus and trust in God’s Grace. Grandiloquent theologians call it eschatology … the end already accomplished at the beginning!
Beginning with the end in mind is the commissioning and calling on us through this preaching plan in the Stockton Circuit, a community of believers, worshippers, and actioners of faith. How are we proclaiming hope from ashes, life from dry bones, new beginnings from ancient trees. The mark of Ash Wednesday is a testimony to survival. But it is not the end! It is a witness to what survives when everything seems lost. We acknowledge that love may be reduced to dust but it is not destroyed. Surrounding you are signs of devastation in your own life and in the life of others. In the face of that terrible evidence arise and proclaim that love lives forever. We belong to the God who understands dust, who sees the ashes as the seed of new dreams, who creates and recreates, imagines, and reimagines from dust, again and again.
Life will continually strip us, sometimes with incredible cruelty. The season of Lent invites us to see what is most elemental and primordial in us: the love that creates and animates, the love that cannot be destroyed. This love we abuse and ignore and trample, but it endures. What can you do with the ashes in your larder in this season.
I commend this preaching plan to you all that it may be one of the means with which we keep the end in sight and keep anchored in God who is faithful beyond belief.
And God’s people said amen!