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The Revd Neil Heslop

“Let their way be dark and slippery”, says the Psalmist in this evening’s Psalm.

And sometimes that is just how life can feel. That we are in a dark and slippery place, hanging on just by our very fingertips and toes.

That great and fearful sense of – I can’t move’. It’s too scary. Life is too dark, things are too slippery.

And this can happen in various aspects of our life – our relationships, our work, it can affect our self-worth, and our health – all parts of our life – and it can become all consuming.

Yet cling on we do; most often because we fear something worse.

And within us, in this dark and slippery place, we can cling on to a deep distrust. A deep distrust of ourselves.

The late Fr. Harry Williams CR, of the Community of the Resurrection Mirfield, a priest and a man who was no stranger to personal suffering, speaks of this as a self-distrust that conjures up the wild beasts. Sometimes they’re sheer terror, panic, which makes us feel about the most ordinary un-dangerous things ‘I can’t do it’. Or the wild beasts are the rages roaring inside us, triggered off by something ridiculously insignificant.

These are Lenten images, Passiontide images. Images on the way to the Cross. Images that say to us if we are honest ‘I am frightened of what I am’. ‘I am frightened of me’. And without meaning to or even knowing that we do it – we cover it up and we try to keep most of ourselves locked away because controlling things like this makes us feel safe.

But what can we do? What can make things any different?

Well sadly – joyful cries that say – don’t worry – Christ is risen alleluia aren’t much help at a time like this. The people who were with Jesus in the Garden, and those who could bear to stand at the foot of the Cross had no concept of alleluia Christ is risen. Jesus himself asked for the suffering to be taken away from him and cried from the cross – my God why have you forsaken me.

And these feelings are very real. The darkness that fell over the earth on that afternoon is still some people’s reality even now.

But there is one thing that we can do. And its something that the very human Jesus did as he was killed on that Cross. We can open ourselves up to something larger than us. And this something larger is God.

And the way to do this is to love.

Now love is a big thing – and just like darkness and slipperiness – it can be overwhelming, and baffling, and even in its own sense terrifying. Sometimes – often actually – we need to practise what we do with our love because we don’t always use it right. We don’t always get it right.

And sometimes we need to take tiny steps when we practise.

When our way feels dark and slippery, when the wild beasts of sheer terror, panic are on us and we feel ‘I can’t do it’ – when we are frightened of who and what we are – when we notice this we should stop.

Stop and find something to say thank you for. Find something no matter how tiny that is good in our lives – stop and say thank you to God for that thing.

Take a few minutes – even a few seconds if that is all we can manage – to find some tiny thing to give thanks for – and suddenly – we find ourselves in a whole different place.

It might be that we say thank you for a good friend; or a good work colleague even if things at work are horrible at the minute.

Say thank you that you have got some lunch to eat.

Say thank you that you will be sleeping in your own bed tonight and not out on the street or in a hospital ward.

Say thank you for the pot plant on the window sill. Anything – Everything. It’s important. It really is.

And if you can’t – if you really can’t – then take a second to say thank you to God that you are breathing. Offer all of those breaths to God as your prayer. Let every breath be a prayer because all God wants you to do in that moment is keep breathing.

Sometimes we have to unlearn what we have been taught in the past. Many of us were taught somewhere along the line that we shouldn’t pray for ourselves, and that we shouldn’t ask God for things we need – and we have carried that around for a lifetime.

But we should be able to talk to God about anything and praying for ourselves, asking Gods blessing and asking for healing is one of the ways of opening up to love, opening up to that thing that is bigger than us. It is absolutely right to be open and honest and straight forward and intentional in our prayer and our conversation with God. Jesus was in the Garden – he prayed so openly and honestly and asked if there was any possibility that his suffering could be taken away.

We can be sure that God will always listen to us with compassion. Do come forward tonight for prayer and the laying on of hands at the appointed time in the service. Receive for yourself or on behalf of another in need. Bring your whole self – including the parts you like to keep locked away because you are frightened.

Come to Jesus who suffered on the Cross and knows how it feels to be in a dark and slippery place. Just come – and one day – in time – we will be able to say Christ is Risen Alleluia.

Amen