February 2020 Benefice Letter

Lord, may Lent be a time of inward searching

that makes me more able to look with compassion at the needs of the world.

Amen

Dear Friends

The jollity of Christmas seems a long time ago as we now journey through Epiphany exploring the revelation of Christ to the world. Christmas Season ends on February 2nd with the celebration of Candlemas and we then have a short interlude before Ash Wednesday and the start of Lent on February 26th.

Into your presence we come, Lord

a few moments of quietness in a busy world that demands our attention

Lent has come to be defined by the demands of Holy Week and Easter. In Lent we are called to be something different ~ the question is, can we rise to that challenge?

In times gone by, Lent was the principal time for baptism and for the reconciliation of those who had been excluded from the Church. That is why we have the powerful Lenten themes of self-examination, penitence, self-denial, study, charitable giving and preparation through to Holy Week and the three Great Days of Easter. A tough forty days: days which remind us of the forty days that Jesus spent out in the wilderness, being tested by Satan.

How might we approach the challenge of Lent this year? The poet Ann Weems suggests that

Lent is a time to allow a fresh new taste of God!

Perhaps we’re afraid to have time to think, for thoughts come unbidden.

As Lent and Spring unfold, for communities close to the Church there is a heightened anticipation surrounding Easter. With Easter before us, what might inspire us to experience Lent in a new way?  It doesn’t come easily to live as Jesus lived in the desert but in the letting go and giving up of ‘things’ in Lent perhaps this might bring ‘a fresh new taste’ to our everyday experiences.

I want to focus on one common practice associated with Lent: fasting.

Fasting is a common undertaking in the Bible, both in ancient Israel and within the community of Jesus. Fasting can be about more than food. What about fasting from social media, alcohol, texting, makeup, gossiping, sleeping in. The goal of fasting is to experience ‘a new taste’ in our day-to-day lives, to spend the time and energy we would normally spend on whatever you’re fasting from focused on … well, what about a fresh new taste of God. We need to remember also that fasting is a discipline and one that is not meant to elevate us, but to humble us. Is that a challenge enough for us?

There is time to reflect on this before Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday. Will you join me in the challenge?

Blessings for February

Jonathan