Lent 2020

At Church, we have joined with millions of Christians throughout the world and have entered into the Season of Lent –  the time when we mark the beginning of Jesus’ stay in the wilderness – forty days and forty nights – fasting, praying, thinking, seeking and searching for God’s will, as he prepared to begin his public ministry…

I don’t know if any of you have ever visited or ever spent time in any kind of desert…

When I was a student at university, I had the privilege of working in Israel for six weeks and one of the highlights of my stay was a coach trip down to the Dead Sea and to the caves at Qumran where the famous Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

We only spent a short time there but just travelling through the desert and being at the Dead Sea – swimming in the Dead Sea, even – the lowest inhabitable point on earth – I was struck by the remoteness of the wilderness – the sheer size and sense of space; the aloneness – even when I was with a bunch of tourists; and, of course, most overwhelmingly of all, the relentless, all-consuming, all-enveloping heat…

Israel, generally in the summer, is a very hot country. Out in the wilderness, the heat intensifies; and my friends and I seemed to spend all our time drinking water to stop dehydrating; putting our sun cream on and seeking out whatever shade we could find whenever possible.

Yes – being in the desert was an awesome and humbling experience spiritually; it was also, on a more prosaic and practical level, very, very, very hot indeed!

Now, when we think of the wilderness, of desert places, most of us, I suspect, have certain distinct places in our mind. We probably think of the Biblical wilderness, or the great deserts of the Sahara in Africa – images from the film, Lawrence of Arabia spring to mind. Deserts and the wilderness are places, in our mind’s eye, that are long distances away from us – part of another land, another culture – completely distanced and removed from our western, urban way of life.

Any yet, we are all aware, we are in the midst of a climate crisis. Climate change, according to most scientists and environmentalists, is a reality; and if these scientists and environmentalists are correct, and at the moment, it seems like they are, then the hot, relentless heat that is usually experienced only in the desert, could soon be the experience of many, many more millions of people.

Just think of the lived reality of hundreds of thousands of people in Australia these past few months with all the bush fires which have been raging – caused by record temperatures day after day after day…

Our climate is changing, most of us believe. Because of human wastefulness and exploitation and our degradation of the earth, our planet is warming up, is getting hotter. And as a result, we are on a knife-edge – a tipping point, which, if we cross over it, will mean that we will possibly never ever be fully able to reverse our environmental destruction of our planet.

And whilst for many millions in our world, global warming means more and more areas in our world becoming deserts and wildernesses; for many millions of others, global warming means rising sea levels, unpredictable storms and rain and huge amounts of flooding. Just think of what we’ve seen in the past few weeks in our own country – the devastation caused by storms Ciara and Dennis.

Something is happening to our planet that seems to be unprecedented; and the cause of this change is, to put it bluntly, us – us human beings and our use and abuse of mother earth.

Now during the season of Lent, we, as Christians, are called to prepare for Easter by journeying with Christ – firstly into the wilderness and then walking alongside him on the road to the Cross.

Lent is a season of spiritual discipline – of examining our lives; and of  thinking of how we can change – can change for the better – so that we grow in faith, vocation and discipleship – able to reveal more fully the love of God to our friends and family, to our community, to the wider world.

Lent is a time when we are called to practice self-denial – to put God and others before ourselves.

And so, given that we are in the season of Lent, and given the seriousness of climate change and of global warming, the Church of England – including our very own Diocese of Lichfield – is challenging each one of us to look very truthfully and honestly at the way we live our lives; to think about what it means to be a disciple and to follow Christ in a practical, every day ways which make a real difference not just to the people we come across but to all peoples, to the whole world.

During our service on Ash Wednesday, we began Lent by receiving the sign of the cross in ash on our foreheads. And as we did so, these words were spoken to us: “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return…”. The words echo the creation story in Genesis 2 which describes God forming Adam “from the dust of the earth”; and so the crosses of ash which we receive are not just signs of repentance, they are also a reminder that we human beings are intimately linked with the earth. Everyone and everything is part of the community of God’s creation; and the redeeming mission to which Christ calls us, is not just about people – it encompasses the whole of creation – the whole created order made by God and redeemed by God through the death and resurrection of Jesus.

So Lent is also about reminding us that we are a part of the world – not separate from it; and that we have a duty to show God’s love to all that God has made.

We are all called to play our part in making a difference to our world. When we think about climate change and about global warming, it is easy to get defensive and to try and absolve our own guilt by blaming others – blaming governments, international businesses, the airplane companies, growing economies. And it is true, they are all undoubtedly part of the problem; but so too are we, so too are we. Because whether we like it or not, in today’s global society, we are all intricately connected with one another. And as individuals, our actions do affect others; and as a family, a community, a church, our corporate actions affect others too.

And it is because we are all so interconnected, that the Church of England is this Lent encouraging everyone to undertake the 40 day challenge Live Lent – Care for God’s Creation.

I’ve put details of this on our Facebook Page. You can also go on the Church of England’s web-site and sign up to receive a daily reflection and suggestion of how you, your family and your church can come together to meet with God, to rejoice in the beauty of God’s creation, and to commit to make a difference to God’s world.


That’s one way in which we undertake a spiritual practice this Lent.

Another aspect which we are thinking about at Furzebank is to do with our church kitchen. This year, we are seeking to become an Eco Church and to receive a bronze accreditation. There are lots of good things we are doing already – including recycling paper a lot more and trying to use much less plastic. However, one way we could be even better than we are now is by thinking about the tea, coffee, sugar and milk we buy for our church refreshments and the products we use to clean our church kitchen.

Can we possibly use our purchasing power to make a difference by buying more Fair Trade or Organic or RainForest Alliance tea, coffee, sugar and milk? Food and drink that is kinder to our planet and which ensures that the people and the animals who produce it are treated fairly and with respect. Could we clean our kitchen with plant based cleaning fluids which are far less damaging to our environment and which are less polluting to our water systems.

It’s a challenge because these products are more expensive – it will cost us more to buy them. But if we could buy them and use them more, we will be making a real difference as a church.

And not just as a church, perhaps you could do the same thing with your family at home.

Because the reality is that this Lent, at Furzebank, we will be raising a lot of money for Njarange through our Sunday School Lent Shop; but the truth is, it’s not just enough to raise money for Njarange. If we want to make a real difference to the people of Njarange, we need to act in a way to help bring a stop Climate Change. Because the truth about climate change and about global warming is that the people who are affected most by it, the people who suffer the most are those who are already the poorest and most vulnerable people in our world.

As we know, Njarange has recently suffered a devastating drought – as has all of Kenya and much of East Africa; and whilst droughts have always been more common in that part of the world, there is a feeling that the droughts are becoming more frequent and more severe and that this is due to climate change and to global warming.

The crisis for our planet is affecting the poorest people the most. So if we want to help Njarange, I would suggest, we don’t simply raise money to throw at the problem; we realise that we are actually a part of the problem; and that we need to act to make a difference to our broken and exploited world.

This can be seen in the excellent video produced by Christian Aid which talks about this issue of climate change and poverty….

So this Lent, let us rise to the challenge. Let us be willing to look at ourselves and our lifestyles and to make the spiritual decision to try to make a difference to our world – the world which God made, the world God loves so much and has redeemed through Christ.

Revd. Helen Duckett

March 2020

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