Springtime and Lent

As I write this blog, the first signs of Spring seem to be tentatively approaching despite the lingering cold and frost – the mornings are gradually getting brighter and the day-light hours longer. On the days when I work at The King’s School, I am now leaving my house in the light and returning in the light. The snowdrops have appeared in our front garden; and one of our trees already has buds – waiting to burst into glorious blossom.

It is at this time of year, that we begin to leave all thoughts of Winter behind with its festivals of Christmas and Epiphany and focus our attention forward. Ash Wednesday this year is on 1st March and it marks, of course, the beginning of Lent and forty days of reflection, self-examination and repentance as we prepare ourselves to celebrate the most profound and significant time in the Church’s year – Holy Week and Easter.

For many people, Lent is a time for ‘giving something up’ – a second chance to attempt once more all those New Year’s resolutions which we so eagerly made on 1st January and which we have so readily abandoned by 31st January! I know a lot of folk who mark Lent in this way and most of them would not necessarily identify themselves as Christians.  However, whilst abstinence and self-denial can be extremely beneficial for our physical and mental health, and is undoubtedly a part of Christian spirituality and practice; for those of us who do follow Christ, Lent is also about more than ‘giving something up’. Because for Christians, Lent is about entering with Jesus into the wilderness, spending time in prayer, setting aside moments for study and contemplation – confronting with Christ the trials and temptations that beset us both within and without; coming face to face with God and with ourselves; seeing, and not flinching from, the reality of both good and evil in our own lives and in the wider world; repenting of our own failures short-comings, of those instances when we have sinned both individually and corporately; and receiving God’s forgiveness, mercy, grace and love.

Lent is a time for our spirituality to develop; an opportunity for us to grow more fully into the likeness and fullness of Christ; a season for ‘taking on’ extra faith commitments as well as for ‘giving something up’. That is why at Furzebank, we will be holding a special Ash Wednesday service at 7.30pm to prepare ourselves spiritually as we enter into the season. We will also be holding our Lent Study Group as usual – working through a course written by Hilary Brand entitled The Mystery of Everything.  It focuses upon the ways in which the mysteries and complexities of life, and the acceptance that there are no easy answers, can help to enable and grow our faith, and can lead us on in our spiritual journies. The course will be held in the Worship Centre on Tuesday evenings at 7.30pm and will begin on 7th March. However this year, the Course will also be taking place at other days and times throughout the Benefice. Groups will be held at Emmanuel on Tuesday evenings at 6.30pm and on Thursday afternoons at 1.30pm; and at Holy Trinity on Tuesday afternoons at 2.00pm. Folk are welcome to move across the churches and to meet new people; and if you miss a session, you can hopefully catch-up elsewhere!

If Study Groups are not your thing and you wish to develop your faith in a more practical and ‘hands-on’ way, you may find the on-line material produced by the group 40acts to be particularly helpful. 40acts is a national Christian movement and their aim is to encourage Christians to live lives of generosity – by seeking ways to do good for others, giving back to the world with small acts of kindness, and sharing God’s love and grace. Throughout Lent, they provide daily challenges which you can undertake on your own, as a family, at church, at work or at school. I have used their resources with students and staff at The King’s, and also in my personal discipleship, and I would highly recommend them. Their web-site is to be found at: www.40acts.org.uk – why not check it out!

However we choose to spend Lent, may it be for us all a season of growth, of spiritual refreshment and renewal, of setting time aside to reflect on what really matters in faith and in life, and of committing ourselves, once more, to following Christ on his journey to the cross and to the resurrection glory of Easter Day.


February 2017

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