Yesterday I read about the finding of the ‘Leekfrith Torcs’ shown in the picture above (linked to the Guardian site) – Iron Age artworks from the 4th-3rd centuries BC, found in a field in Staffordshire by two friends who’d got bored of searching there 20 years ago, but had just gone back to metal detecting. You can read the story here – it’s worth a look!
At the Eucharist today we read Matthew 4:1-6, 16-21. It’s part of the sermon on the Mount, and we read it at the start of Lent largely as a reminder that the fasting and discipline that matters to God is that which is within us – ideally without making a fuss about keeping Lent, just getting on with it.
Jesus talks about fasting, about charitable giving and about prayer. With each, it’s clear that you can get what you’re really trying for. If your purpose is to impress others, then you might succeed in that but your fasting, your giving and your praying won’t impress God, and it won’t do you any lasting good. It’s something I usually remind people about at the end of the service, as we leave church with ash on our foreheads. Lent is between us and God, not us and the crowds.
Looking for the treasure
When I read that passage this week, though, it wasn’t the first part that caught my attention for once. It was the ending.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.’ (Mt 6:19-21)
The hard work of self-discipline, study, prayer and giving which make up a good Lent can feel like a burden if we forget why we’re doing it. We’re looking for buried treasure.
We’re looking for the likeness and the presence of God within ourselves – and in others. We examine ourselves with God’s help not just to look for sin but to look for the self, made in God’s image, that is there deep within. We look for the signs of God’s Spirit at work within us, renewing his image and likeness.
We discipline ourselves with small things to help develop our ability to choose and live like Jesus; not driven by appetite and instinct but led by love and truth.
We worship and pray with others to encounter God in each other and beyond ourselves as we support one another.
Sometimes it can feel that we’re going over old ground again – ways of praying we used to find helpful but have forgotten, perhaps, or a habit of service that’s got squeezed out of life recently. But going over old ground can be just what we need, as those two friends found in Staffordshire.
There’s treasure there within you. You may have gone over the surface above it many times, without even realising that it’s there. Why not ask God to run a spiritual metal detector over the top of your life this Lent, and then get digging?