The word ‘Lent’ means ‘Spring’, and my hope and prayer is that this Lenten season can be for us truly a ‘springtime’ of the human spirit and a season of the renewal and strengthening of our life together in Christ.
Our Holy Week Booklet provides short meditative descriptions of the Holy Week services.
The renewal of our life together in the Body of Christ outwardly begins with the renewal of our understanding and our desires inwardly. This is what Lent is about: inward renewal, bringing to God our hearts, our desires, and our secrets, that they may be cleansed and lifted up (Holy Communion Service, The Book of Common Prayer, p. 67). Lent has nothing to do with earning God’s favour. We have God’s favour. The whole world has his favour, for ‘God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son…’ (St John 3:16). We know his love because we see it in our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, even if sometimes we don’t see it anywhere else. ‘God commendeth his love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.’ (Romans 5:8; see also I John 4:9). As Philip Yancey says in What’s So Amazing About Grace, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more, and nothing we can do to make him love us less. The barriers to God’s love are on our side, not his. It is in our hearts and our lives that the hard ground, the rocks and the weeds are found. (The Parable of the Sower and the Seed, from St Luke’s Gospel, chapter 8, beginning at verse 4, the Gospel for Sexagesima, BCP, p. 134). Lent is a season for finding those barriers – those patches of hard ground, rocks and weeds – and doing something about them. It is all about preparing the way for new life. It is all about receiving God’s free gift.
Five hundred years ago, the great Swiss reformer John Calvin wrote a lot about how God chooses us and makes us His own. A writer challenged him publicly to explain how it was that he, John Calvin, knew that God had chosen him. Calvin replied with some of the simplest and most beautiful words ever written by a Christian. ‘Christ is worth a thousand evidences to me.’ In other words, the proof that God has chosen me is not in me, but in Him. If we want to know God’s love for us, we don’t look within to see signs that we are worthy or that we have been chosen. We look outward, away from ourselves and toward Christ, as Peter did when he got out of the boat to walk on the water in order that he might be with Jesus. (St Matthew 14:22-33)
May God bless to our use this Lent. May it be a kind of springtime not only for us as individuals, but for us as a congregation and a Parish. Let us take up the invitation to set apart ‘a season of thoughtful and prayerful discernment to be undertaken together as a congregation’. May God humble us, make us more receptive to Him and more open to one another, and lead us into deeper fellowship with Him, with one another, and with our neighbours, through the weeks and months ahead, through Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and beyond.