Letter From The Rector
So Lent is upon us. I really enjoy this time of year, although undoubtedly Lent and Easter are the busiest periods of the year for clergy.
The sadness of Holy Week, with its focus on the horrific death of Jesus and what it means for us is something that allows us to contemplate God’s amazing love for us.
Then the quick change into the contrasting joy of the Easter season, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, reminds us that the story of Jesus is the story of God’s interaction with and for all his creation.
Perhaps you are someone who has a habit of making some sacrifice each year in Lent. Or alternatively you give it little thought, and you wonder what’s it all about. You might ask, ‘Is it not just a gimmick?’
Well, no it’s not. And if the death of Jesus has any meaning for you at all, I’d like to encourage you, whether you worship regularly or not, to consider how you will mature in your faith this year because of your observance of Lent and Easter.
During the six and a half weeks leading up to Easter, we prepare for Easter by taking our spirituality particularly seriously. Spirituality here refers to our practices, spiritual exercises and what we do to enhance our personal relationship with God.
Lent is marked by praying, thinking about our failings before confessing them and making decisions about how to live in a way that is more pleasing and acceptable to God.
Traditionally also, people have fasted in Lent. Today it can still involve giving up foods or activities that are in some way luxuries. This discipline makes prayer seem to have a sharper focus.
For some years after the resurrection of Jesus, his followers observed a complete fast from Good Friday until dawn on Easter Sunday. They went without any food and drink to mark out as special the time between Jesus’ death and the moment that it was first discovered that his tomb was empty.
In the 5th century, church leaders were keen to mark the lead-up to Easter with a focused period of devotion.
But it was not until about nine hundred years after Jesus that there was international agreement that there should be a season of serious prayer and repentance for forty days, plus Sundays, leading up to Easter Sunday. (Forty days was the time that Jesus spent in the desert at the age of 30, thinking and praying about what the future shape of his life would be).
We call the season Lent, after an old English word for spring and because it happens at the time of year during which daylight is lengthening.
Ash Wednesday is the first day of Lent. Many Christians attend church on that Wednesday, particularly to reflect on what it means to be human, and to seek forgiveness for the wrong they have done. Our Catholic friends have ash marked on their foreheads in the shape of a cross as a mark of being penitent. We too have a special service at 7.30pm.
Tradition has it that on the day before Lent begins, Shrove Tuesday, all the luxury foods that will be given up until Easter should be eaten. The custom is kept alive today by eating pancakes. ‘Shrove’ means to forgive. In much of the world the day is a carnival day known as Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday).
So now you know all about Lent, please would you give a little thought to what you might do to acknowledge and respond to Jesus’ death on the cross – for us all.
In the words of the last verse of the hymn ‘When I survey the wondrous cross’ – ‘Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were an offering far too small, love, so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.
What the hymn writer Isaac Watts is saying is, even if you owned the whole world and offered that to God, that would be too small a ‘thank you’ for his amazing love. The only thing that is an adequate response is to commit your life to loving Jesus, with all your heart, soul, mind and strength.
Therefore, can I ask you to do something this year to ensure Jesus is at the centre of your thoughts and that you are better prepared for him. Every blessing to you all, this Lent and always.