Ash Wednesday

I am becoming clearer about the shape of this blog project. I keep thinking, sort of accidentally, of it as a project which is about the Bible. It isn’t, or isn’t really, or is only accidentally about the Bible; really, it’s about reading the texts, the ways in which we – but mostly me – relate to them. It’s about reading and reception. So here’s a post about reading (part of one of) the extracts offered for today.

Gospel: Matthew 6:16-21.

I’m pretty sure that it directs contradicts this if you decide what to give up for Lent and then go on your blog or on Facebook and announce it. It might be helpful to you – peer-group accountability does often help with will-power – but it can also seem like bragging, or be hurtful to others. (Consider the effects of all those ‘I’m giving up chocolate’ posts on someone who already has some form of disordered eating.) So I’m not going to tell you what I’m doing for Lent – although I will note that plenty of Quakers, who ‘don’t do’ times and seasons, were talking about pancakes yesterday.

(You’ll notice that I haven’t given up ‘writing blog posts’, though. I did consider it.)

What about the second part of this passage? Well known words: do not store up your treasures on earth… It has to be said that I do, in fact, store up treasures on earth, in lots of ways: I have an ISA and a bookcase and a purse; I also have a list of friends on Facebook and a CV and some poems which I memorised. Are those on earth, though? Especially if heaven is here and now, the distinction between the two doesn’t seem so clear. Some items on the CV, for example, seem quite earthly – getting published in such-and-such as journal or working at so-and-so is of this world. But what about the less tangible things which might also feature? Does spiritual work – like facilitating workshops on religious matters or running a study group or serving your (spiritual) community – count up anything towards the heavenly list? Although it might appear on my earthly CV, it seems to me that a lot of the benefits of these activities – the deepening of my own prayer life and (hopefully!) that of others, for example – might be ‘treasures in heaven’.

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Reading this, I wonder where my heart really is. When I’m not interested in my work, I often say that ‘my heart’s not in it today’ – and yet, if you look at the pattern of my life overall, my heart is very much in my work and I’ve placed my work at the heart of my life. Fortunately for me, this has been possible for the time being, and my present work takes me towards, rather than away from, my spiritual life. I can’t say that was true when I was on the till in M&S or struggling through ESA applications!

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