Sermon preached on the First Sunday of Lent (9 March 2014) by the Reverend Canon Philippa Boardman, Treasurer

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12:30pm Eucharist
4:00pm Last entry for sightseeing
5:00pm Evening Prayer
5:30pm Cathedral closes

Sermon preached on the First Sunday of Lent (9 March 2014) by the Reverend Canon Philippa Boardman, Treasurer

The Country and Western singer Mac Davis may not be a household name but his song 'O Lord it's hard to be humble' is a classic.

Don't worry, I'm not going to sing it, but here are some of the words:

Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
when you're perfect in every way.
I can't wait to look in the mirror
cause I get better looking each day.

Some folks say that I'm egotistical.
Hey, I don't even know what that means.
I guess it has something to do with the way

that I fill out my skin tight blue jeans.......
Oh Lord it's hard to be humble
but I'm doing the best that I can.

'O Lord it's hard to be humble' could be the theme tune too for the Pharisee we meet in this morning's second lesson. The Pharisees were an energetic, reforming sect within first century Judaism, but the particular Pharisee in this story told by Jesus, though a respected man of faith, is full of his own importance.

As he comes to the Temple supposedly to pray, he actually uses the occasion to

bolster his own position with his talk of fasting and tithing

belittle the faith of others by scorning the thief, the adulterer and even the tax collector praying beside him.

But the tax collector (a man whose job made him deeply unpopular with his fellow citizens) shows a very different attitude:

'God be merciful to me a sinner' he simply prays

And it is the humble tax collector who Jesus commends as having been put right with God.


Humbling ourselves before God is one of the ancient disciplines of the season of Lent upon which we have just begun. But this is perhaps harder than ever in our highly competitive world, where we prize success and hate it when things go wrong.

Even within the Church, we need to confess that we are guilty of

bolstering our own positions

and belittling the faith of those who are 'outsiders' or in some way different.

Perhaps a challenge to us as individuals and to the Church this Lent is to see how we might humble ourselves, admit that we just might not have the monopoly on the truth and discover the value of admitting we have failed

'Fail Better' is the theme of an exhibition currently on at the Science Gallery at Trinity College, Dublin.

It's aim is to encourage debate about failure and how it can used in a constructive way.

Heather Hanbury, headteacher of a large London secondary school explains:'We are all scared of failing and having to admit mistakes to our peers, and this fear heightens as we grow towards adulthood, .

"You're not born with fear of failure, it's not an instinct, it's something that grows and develops in you as you get older. Very young children have no fear of failure at all. They have great fun trying new things and learning very fast,"

She says fear of failure can be crippling as it stops us from taking risks.

This automatically cuts off new opportunities in life.

"Our focus here is on failing well, on being good at failure. What I mean by this is taking the risk and then learning from it if it doesn't work," she says.

"There's no point in failing and then dealing with it by pretending it didn't happen, or blaming someone else, that would be a wasted opportunity to learn more about yourself. Once you've identified the learning you can then take action to make a difference."

Shedding the stigma that is associated with failing can also open the door to greater victories. Some say that when tennis player Andy Murray broke down in tears after losing the 2012 Wimbledon final it actually freed him from failure enabling him last year to become Wimbledon champion and end our 77 year British wait!

On this 1st Sunday in Lent learning to 'Fail Well' seems to me a profoundly hopeful approach

That as we draw closer to the love of God

as we are soaked in that love of God in prayer and worship

as we receive that perfect love that casts out the fear that cripples us

so we can begin to be more honest.

Not bolstering ourselves, not belittling others

but humbling ourselves before God.

So like little children we can be free to try new things,

open ourselves to new possibilities.

Reflecting that we may not have all the answers, that others may hold a piece of God's truth too.

To take a risk – opening the door to greater victories for God's kingdom of justice and joy.