Lent 2024 begins on Wednesday 14th February. Palm Sunday will be on 24th March and Good Friday will be on 29th March. We celebrate Resurrection Day, the greatest day in the Christian Year on 31st March. The dynamics of this period separate Christians from the usual conduct of our society. Scotland play Ireland at rugby on 16th March. The Australian motor racing Grand Prix is scheduled for 23rd March. The Oxford and Cambridge Boat Race falls on 30th March. Admittedly, it does not affect us in Scotland so much. Hearts entertain Kilmarnock that day also. Horse racing pundits will be anticipating April 13th – it is the date of the Grand National which it has been held on the Saturday of Holy Week in the past.

How odd then for Christians during this period to travel on the ‘Via Negativa’, the ‘Negative Way’, the spiritual path of self-examination, partial denial, repentance and enhanced devotion to our Lord Jesus. We reflect His teaching which is the opposite of the values and standards of the world. ‘Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.’

Not only so, but Jesus taught the kind of selflessness which He Himself exemplified. ‘Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?”’(Matthew 16 : 24 - 26)

Jesus also taught His followers that they were not to go about with miserable faces. “When you fast, do not look sombre as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.  But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” (Matthew 6 : 16 - 18)

We Scots Presbyterians have had a reputation in the past for being grudging and unsmiling people. The English author PG Wodehouse wrote “It is never difficult to distinguish between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” (Blandings Castle) But recently the death of Alastair Darling showed the better side of our nature and character, that which contributed mightily to the advancement of the British Empire over centuries, uprightness, decency, competence and humility.

Incredibly, in spite of the hazardous nature of Jesus’ life and circumstances, He exuded positivity. “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16 : 33) He also practised joy. “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. (John 15 : 9 - 11) May it be so for all of us this Lent and Holy Week

Robert Anderson 2017

To contact Robert, please use this email address: replies@robertandersonchurch.org.uk