FROM THE curate
What is your favourite pancake topping? Is it traditional lemon and sugar, or maybe jam? Perhaps a sweet tooth craves golden syrup or treacle, or you go for a more continental pancake with a well-known brand of hazelnut spread? Or perhaps, like my daughter, you just don’t like pancakes!
With lighter evenings that signal our moving towards the end of winter, February this year also brings us the delights of Shrove Tuesday, before Lent begins. It seems the journey from the stable to the cross is particularly swift this year.
I guess the answer to my opening question will illicit many varied responses - I wonder what culinary creations I have omitted (but please don’t feel obliged to write in!)? We all have varied tastes and we are all wonderfully diverse - a reflection of the amazing creativity of God. Sadly, difference can become negative when this leads to people being marginalised and made to feel outsiders. Society is still full of inequalities. The year that we celebrate women having gained the vote 100 years ago, has seen within its first weeks headlines dominated by harassment of women and pay inequality.
The Nativity is a narrative of outsiders: an expectant homeless mother far from home; shepherds on a hillside; travellers from far away; a refugee family fleeing to safety. As we journey into Lent, we encounter this Jesus who was the homeless baby and refugee, as one who is physically outside of society - in the wilderness.
A wilderness may be hard for us to imagine, with the majority of our rural areas not being too far from urbanised areas. It is symbolic of isolation, walking the depths of a harsh reality. As Jesus walked in the depths and the isolation of the wilderness, it reminds us that whatever wilderness or depths we tread, God walks with us there.
Crowds followed Jesus, yet we read in the Bible of someone who didn’t fit in - the nomadic, wandering figure who confused many and frustrated authority figures. Many of us experience what it is not to fit in, or feel we don’t fit an image that we “ought” to.
A strength of our parish churches are that they are open to all, there is no mould to fit: the door is open (beyond a Sunday) to those who may be experiencing something of a wilderness moment, or who are searching, or just looking for a quiet space, a warm space, a listening ear, or a cup of tea.
I think the church might be a bit of a pancake, ready to receive whatever variety of toppings are placed upon it! Come and have a taste of what’s on offer…