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A Moving Lenten Message

by Gerry Lynch last modified 02 Mar, 2017 06:41 PM

Bishop Michael Perham preaches final Ash Wednesday sermon at Salisbury Cathedral

The Ash Wednesday sermon at Salisbury Cathedral was preached by a Dorset-born retired Bishop who has announced he is expecting to experience Lent and Easter for the last time as a result of a malignant brain tumour. 

The Rt Revd Michael Perham preached to a large congregation of 350 on the importance of traditional Lent practices including fasting and prayer, and said that acknowledging the wrong things we have done can be a means of freedom and growth.

Bishop Michael, who was Bishop of Gloucester from 2004-14, was born in Dorchester where he attended Hardye’s, and was later Team Rector at St George’s, Oakdale in Poole. He announced in late 2016 that he was having a final round of treatment and did not expect to live another year. 

Excerpts from the Rt Revd Michael Perham’s sermon are below.

Bishop Michael said that in a distracted and consumerised society, traditional Lent practices like fasting and prayer were needed more than ever.

“An age where there is more food on the supermarket shelves than ever before needs to learn the wisdom of fasting.  A world where we rush from one excitement or another, or one duty to another, needs space and silence that leads to prayer.  A culture of indulgence needs abstinence.  A society that has lost its moral certainties need repentance.  A generation that communicates by sound-bites needs spiritual reading.  A Church that celebrates a friendly, accessible compassionate God needs music that pulls us up short before the majesty and the holiness of God.”

For prayer resources, the Bishop commended the Diocese of Salisbury’s Praying Together for Lent, available at http://bit.ly/prayingtogether, and use of the Diocese’s regular Cycle of Prayer.

“We have been given a most wonderful resource, Praying Together, Lent 2017. Look what this treasure of a book provides. Lent invites us to read and meditate on God’s holy Word. Praying Together gives us a short bible passage to read and a thought on which to pause and reflect for a longer or shorter time. Praying Together encourages us in a section each day to think a little about self-denial, about fasting, about acts of charity, not big dramatic gestures, but simple disciplines that feed the soul.

“A whole diocese in common prayer for one another each day. It’s a powerful thought. Better still, a powerful reality. And it is all about praying together.”

In contrast with conventional notions, the Bishop said that acknowledging the things we have done wrong could be freeing and a means of growth:

“We focus hard on our sin today, not so that it may depress us or open wider the gap between God and ourselves. We focus hard on our sin today, both so that there may be real self-knowledge, self-awareness, which is the pre-condition to growth, and also so that we may, having identified our sin, hand it over to Christ, let go of our burden, receive forgiveness, so that, set free, we can walk with him through the desert to the cross.”

The full text of Bishop Michael’s sermon is available here.

A set of photos from the service is here.

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