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Hallo again to all.

It is Lent. Each of us observes Lent differently. Oft described as a 'time of penitence', poets such as John Donne seem to get our attention in this season:

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,
Which was my sin, though it were done before?
Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,
And do run still, though still I do deplore?
When thou hast done, thou hast not done,
For I have more.

Yet somewhere deep inside, we occasionally catch ourselves wishing that other people would repent for something evil that they have done. Repentance and forgiveness might be two views of the same thing. Repent of a sin; forgive evil?

On the first day of Lent this year we read a BBC news story about a man who lost a leg to a shark's attack but had forgiven the shark. We know that the shark did not repent, because it is a shark. We don't even think that a shark can be called evil. Eating people or biting off their legs is just what sharks do. The victim, who lives in South Africa, has become an advocate for shark preservation. He asks 'who better to speak up for sharks than a shark attack survivor?' Is the shark dangerous? Yes. Evil? No.

Someone we care about was victimized as a child by a man who last year pleaded guilty to several counts of doing bad things to children. From what we have read about this case, he did more sniveling than repentance. He has fewer opportunities now to be dangerous, but he is still evil. All over the Anglican world there have been dramatic explorations of whether bishops who knew of child abuse but did nothing to stop it were as evil as the perpetrators themselves. But this man is definitely, in our opinion, more evil than the shark.

Our third Lenten consideration is a mother of three children, who died recently. She spent decades lavishing attention and material wealth on one of those children while utterly ignoring the other two. She considered that bizarre behavior to be her right as a mother, to make such choices, and we are quite certain that she went to her grave believing that she had no need of repentance for the way she treated anyone. Dangerous? Not sure. Evil? Almost certainly. Certainly more evil than the shark, which made no value judgments about who or what it ate. The spiritual loss suffered by the ignored children was probably greater than the physical loss of the shark victim's leg.

Most of us go through life believing ourselves to be neither dangerous nor evil. When we sin, we believe that we are aware of our sins, and we muddle through some sort of repentance or penitence and think that's good enough. To so many of the unchurched, Lent is the season in which we give something up. 'What did you give up for Lent?' For us, Lent is an annual reminder that we need to look inside ourselves and make choices about whether to do something about what we might see there.

See you next week. For better or for worse, it will still be Lent.

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22 February 2015

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