So who are my enemies? I had to think quite hard about this.
There’s no-one I really want to whop over the head with a baseball bat although I can think of a couple of people I wouldn’t want to be stuck in a lift with.
‘Enemy’ is a strong word which implies hatred and violence. And so I sat in the Ash Wednesday service this evening and tried to think who to pray for.
One of the readings was from Isaiah 58: – here are verses 6-9
6 ‘Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter –
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?
8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousnesswill go before you,
and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
9 Then you will call, and the Lord will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: here am I.
I ended up thinking that maybe the people to pray for are those who are enemies of life and freedom. Those people and corporations who stifle life, who actively seek to oppress and control, who have no concern for anything other than their own gain. People I get angry with.
And then we heard the reading of Jesus meeting the woman caught in adultery: (John 8:1-11)
2 At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts, where all the people gathered round him, and he sat down to teach them. 3 The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4 and said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5 In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?’ 6 They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7 When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, ‘Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.’ 8 Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.
9 At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. 10 Jesus straightened up and asked her, ‘Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?’
11 ‘No one, sir,’ she said.
‘Then neither do I condemn you,’ Jesus declared. ‘Go now and leave your life of sin.’
And then I wanted to pray for all the organisations who work with women who are controlled and often forced into prostitution (see http://www.one25.org.uk/ for example).
Not one of us can cast a stone; we have all done wrong and we know it. The preacher tonight encouraged us to think about the question “Go now, and leave your life of sin.” In other translations, Jesus says “Go, and sin no more”.
What are the things that we are asked to have ‘no more’ of as Lent begins?
“Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and trust in Christ. Amen.”