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Sermon for Ash Wednesday

“Today I want you to write a poem.”

I was on an eight-day silent retreat and I was sitting with my retreat director. So far, she’d given me plenty of useful advice about how to spend my time, mainly focusing on particular Bible passages. But now she was expecting me to write poetry! As a mathematician and engineer, I felt quite ill-equipped to do so. All through that day, I silently complained about the futility of the task. But then suddenly, late that evening, some words came to me – I can only assume, from God. I frantically wrote them down and was actually really rather pleased with what I’d written.

Some time later, when I was asked to preach at St Albans Cathedral on Ash Wednesday, I felt prompted to base the sermon around my poem. Again, this was very unusual for me. But amazingly, it seemed to work. In fact, at the end of the service a young man approached me and told me that my sermon had “restored his faith”. As a preacher, I really don’t think you can get better feedback than that, and I offered a quiet prayer of thanks for my retreat director.

You can read my sermon (poem!) here.

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