Letter to parishioners, 5 March 2022

Saturday, 5 March 2022

Dear Friends in Christ,

Our journey through Lent has begun. The pancakes have been eaten; the commitments to fasting have been made; the foreheads have been marked with ash. The journey has begun as we witness the horror of mindless violence on the borders of the western world. As Christians throughout the world step out on the road to Jesus’ betrayal, humiliation and brutal execution we are witnessing a similar level of contempt for human life being played out in an unnecessary and ego-driven arena of human tragedy.

In earlier times Lent was commonly marked by the ‘giving up’ of chocolate, alcohol and the like. But … what about this year?

Sunday’s gospel reading is Luke’s account of the temptation of Christ in the wilderness. Immediately after his baptism in the River Jordan Jesus found himself being tempted. In the same way, our most intense feelings of religious devotion are pursued by the temptation to betray our commitment to faithful discipleship. Just think of those feelings of anger and hatred that sweep through our minds as we watch the images and listen to the reports from Ukraine!

Jesus was tempted to place riches, power and worldly glory ahead of his devotion to his Heavenly Father. Day by day, hour by hour, minute by minute, second by second we are similarly tempted. Jesus recognized the dangers associated with succumbing to such temptation. Too often we fail to show such fortitude and wisdom.

Jesus’ encounter with the devil ends with these words: Do not put the Lord your God to the test. In those words Jesus set up a clear signpost, a signpost that directs us along the road that ends in the joy of God’s eternal presence. This is made all the more evident as we look on at the current international situation.

As we journey through Lent 2022 we are called to arm ourselves, not with guns and missiles and tanks, but with the weapons of righteousness. St Paul catalogues the arsenal we should be drawing upon: purity, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God. This Lent we are called to fast from sin, to pray for and pursue peace, to love and serve all people, and to strengthen our faith by carefully and prayerfully reading our too often unopened bibles.

Our world is in the grip of fear and violence, We are being held in the thrall of one who has not been able to withstand the temptations of the devil. Let us pray that our Lenten journeys in faith will prevail, and that the light of Christ will dispel the darkness that is doomed because it fails to heed Christ’s words: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.

With every blessing to you all,

Revd Stephen