Friday, 12 February 2021
Dear Friends in Christ,
In the Church’s calendar this Sunday goes by the wonderfully archaic name of The Sunday next before Lent. This means, of course, that Lent 2021 is about to begin. Lent is an age-old time of pilgrimage – a pilgrimage of prayer and discipline that prepares us to fully appreciate the true joy of all that Jesus did for humanity throughout his earthly ministry, and especially during the events of Holy Week and Easter.
It may seem strange to speak of ‘pilgrimage’ in our current circumstances. Pilgrimage is a word associated with the making of a journey … the one thing we are not allowed to do at the moment. A pilgrimage is a journey with the express intention of leading us into spiritual transformation. In fact, a pilgrimage does not need us to leave our homes at all, it just calls for commitment and resolution. Many of us are feeling quite desperate for an opportunity to travel away from our homes. Perhaps this definition of a pilgrimage sounds rather grim as it implies something so much more intense than our ‘normal’ setting aside of chocolate and alcohol … when we remember!
The pilgrimage of Lent is one of prayer and self-discipline. The pilgrimage of Lent involves fasting, the reading of scripture, prayer and acts of service. Through our engagement in this pilgrimage of faith we draw closer to Jesus. Fasting helps us to put our lives of excess in proportion, just as it helps us to understand the situation in which so many people are forced to live every day. Giving up some small luxury may not seem that significant but, as the days of Lent go on, and if we remain true to our resolution, our sense of loss will give us a tiny experience of what it means to go without the most basic of necessities on a daily basis.
The reading of scripture is something we are called to do every day. But … do we? I am often told about the ‘bits of the Bible’ that people don’t like reading. I am often told about the comfortable and familiar stories that give people comfort. But, the whole of the Bible is the inspired Word of God, not just the cosy bits. Lent is the ideal opportunity to spend some time reading a whole book, or two, of the Bible slowly and prayerfully. Such an engagement with scripture allows God to speak to us in a new way.
Lent is also a time to review the ways in which we pray. We have busy lives, the gaps created by lockdowns, etc. have been filled with a whole range of new activities. That busyness gets in the way of our prayer times. During Lent we are invited to make more time for God, more time to talk to God in prayer. And … don’t forget to listen as well as speak … give God a chance to answer your prayers!
In addition to fasting, reading scripture and prayer, Lent is also a time when we are called to engage in acts of service. During the past year there have been many acts of kindness and service. Lent gives us an opportunity to dig a little deeper. Even the isolated can pick up a phone and speak to someone who is lonely! As we have seen in recent days, acts of service come in many shapes and sizes. Every shape and size can be a model of God’s call in our lives. Let us continue to use our imaginations as we travel alongside our families, friends and neighbours in these ongoing times of challenge and estrangement.
I wish you all a holy, prayerful and spiritually transforming Lent.
With every blessing to you all,