I brought it to Leamington with all my other worldly possessions ten years ago. It's still here, lurking in the shadows at the back of the garage, looking reproachfully at me every time I put the car away.
Eighteen years ago, it moved with me to my previous home, to spend eight years in the garage there.
I can't remember when or where it first came into my life. In my defence I was less thoughtful, less aware, less responsible. But I'm sure it was entirely my doing. And the trouble is, whatever I do with it will only compound the problem.
One sack of peat isn't the end of the world, perhaps - although it might be if we all helped ourselves to resources which take so long to replenish. But I've already contributed to the destruction of unique habitat and biodiversity by buying it. Peat grows at 1mm per year but we're using it at an average overall rate of 50mm per year. I think I knew it was unsustainable and environmentally unsound when I bought it. Since then we've realised it's also a very effective carbon sink - and using it releases that carbon into the atmosphere as the greenhouse gas CO2. So using it, or giving it away for someone else to use, will actually make the problem worse, not better.
The sack of peat is a good illustration of the way we can carry the sins, divisions and regrets of the past around with us for many years, not knowing how to get rid of them without making matters even worse. So such things fester and rot within us, absorbing our energy, limiting our freedom to be whole, disabling our growth and creativity. What can we do?
The Church, in its wisdom accrued over two thousand years, has the answer. It's called sacramental confession. In some churches it's required regularly of communicant members; the view in the Church of England is that 'all may, none must, some should.' So for some it's a regular part of their spiritual discipline, whilst for others it's enormously helpful to address that one-off guilty secret which so hampers well-being and spiritual growth. The person meets with a priest in privacy and in confidence, not as a sinner confessing to someone perfect but as one sinful person to another: because as St Paul wrote, 'All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.' The priest will advise the penitent person and in most circumstances give Absolution, which is the assurance of God's forgiveness. Occasionally, the person is asked to carry out some specific action before absolution can be given.
Some are surprised to find the sacrament of Confession within the C of E. It's referred in the Book of Common Prayer, and also in the law of the church, which (after a section on public confession and absolution) states:
'If there be any who by these means cannot quiet his own conscience, but requires further comfort or counsel, let him come to some discreet and learned minister of God’s Word; that by the ministry of God’s holy Word he may receive the benefit of absolution, together with ghostly counsel and advice, to the quieting of his conscience and avoiding of all scruple and doubtfulness.'
Part of the preparation for Easter, particularly during Holy Week, is to seek God's forgiveness for the long-term sins which have wormed their way within us, as well as for the petty shortcomings we all experience regularly. Is it something for you to consider this year?
Meanwhile the Collect for the 12th Sunday after Trinity is a good one to use day by day, placing our forgiveness into the context of God's mercy, love and generosity and so reminding us that we can have confidence that our sins may be forgiven.
Almighty and everlasting God,
you are always more ready to hear than we to pray
and to give more than either we desire or deserve:
pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,
forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid
and giving us those good things
which we are not worthy to ask
but through the merits and mediation
of Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.