2 Before Lent


Press the play button to listen to the recording or click on the download link to download a .mp3 file to your computer. 


Genesis 1.1 – 2.3 / Romans 8.18-25 / Matthew 6.25-34


Every February, the church year features a period of what we call ‘ordinary time’, the chunk of time when no other season of the year is happening. There’s a great long stint of ordinary time from early summer (the day after Pentecost), all the way through to November (when we reflect on God’s kingdom in the run-up to Advent). But there’s also a slimmer section of ordinary time after the feast of Candlemas (ending the season of Epiphany at the beginning of February), until Lent begins on Ash Wednesday.

How long this shorter period of ordinary time lasts depends on when Ash Wednesday is, which itself depends on the date of Easter. In 1818, when Easter and Ash Wednesday were as early as they could be, there were only two days of ordinary time after Candlemas before Lent began. When Easter is as late as possible, and falling in a leap year, this chunk of ordinary time early in the year could be as long as 36 days.This year, it’s 24 days-so most of the month of February.

Some churches, for about a decade now, have kept a month of the later period of ordinary time, September, as a time for focusing on God’s creation, running up to the feast of St Francis of Assisi on 4 October. But the shorter period of ordinary time in February is no less appropriate for thinking about creation, for it’s exactly the theme of the readings on this Sunday, the second Sunday before Lent. In the creation story in the book of Genesis, we hear how God has made the whole creation good, in fact, very good.In Paul’s letter to the Romans, we hear that even though creation is good, it’s not perfect, and groans, as though in labour, groaning at its tendency to decay, groaning for the freedom of fullness and perfection. And in Matthew’s gospel, Jesus points to creation and urges us to get our priorities right, to strive for the kingdom of God and for righteousness, so getting all the worries of everyday living into their proper perspective.

It’s very appropriate that we have two periods of the year, two chunks of ordinary time, in which to reflect on God’s creation, for the environment needs to be our ordinary, everyday concern.It’s amazing that 18 months ago, green matters were still perhaps considered a fringe interest, something that certain people got excited about, and not really on everyone’s agenda.Since the Extinction Rebellion protests, and the scandal about the amount of plastic in our oceans, climate change has become a central issue and very much ordinary and mainstream.

And quite right, too. Creation is groaning far more than it should do or needs to because of the way in which we’ve treated it. We’ve thought far more than we should, and for far too long, about our own interests, exploiting the planet to our own comfort and advantage, and we need now to take with utmost seriousness the predicament in which we’re in. Those who argue against climate change are missing the point-we have a duty, not least a Christian duty, to live more sustainably regardless of whether or not the globe is changing, simply out of respect for what God has created and our need to live and tread lightly on the face of the earth.

The other day, on the radio, there was a trades union representative, talking about a proposed environmental policy.He was against it. If this is passed, he said, it means that I’ll only be able to fly abroad with my family once in a blue moon, once a year or once every five years or whatever it was. ‘You fool,’ I said to him from my kitchen. You blind guide. The planet’s in peril, and of all things, you’re worried about your foreign holidays. It was enough to make one weep.

If we’re to strive for the kingdom of God and for righteousness, just as Jesus bids us in the gospel of Matthew, that means taking with utmost seriousness how we live, and living in a far more co-operative and partnering way with the grain of the universe. Being environmentally responsible should be our ordinary state of affairs, our ordinary life, our ordinary time; after all, the liturgical colour for ordinary time is green. Creation will continue to groan and travail until we strive for righteousness in the way in which we treat it. The kingdom of God demands nothing less.

So let me leave you with a couple of questions: How could our world be more ordinarily green? And our church? And how could you?

Page last updated: 4th May 2020 1:30 PM
Bookmark and Share