Magazine Leader - Feb 2013

From the Vicar

February brings us to another Lent.  I encourage you to keep the start of Lent by coming to church on Ash Wednesday, which is 13th February.  It is early this year, because Easter is early and Easter is linked to the Passover, which was (like so much in the ancient world) calculated with reference to the phases of the moon.  A difference of opinion in these calculations led the Western Church (catholic) and the Eastern Church (orthodox) to keep Easter on different dates.  This year our Easter will be on Sunday 31st March, but the Orthodox Easter is on Sunday 5th May.  In 2014 both Easters are on the same date, 20th April.  Easter was linked to the Passover because it is the central celebration of our faith and what we saw as the ‘old story’ of God’s saving love (the escape from Egypt and the passing over of the angel of death) has been superseded by our celebration of the rising of Christ from the dead.  Easter was the original Christian celebration for, when Christians still worshipped in the synagogues, they now kept Easter as the heart of their faith.  Easter became the time when new Christians were welcomed into the Church through baptism, after a period of fasting and preparation.  It was this time of preparation that became known as Lent and it became linked with the period that Our Lord himself lived through in the wilderness, before his public ministry began.  Lent became a useful time for all Christians to keep.  Fasting can be helpful, if it becomes a giving up of something that helps us find more time for God.  Taking seriously the need to grapple with our faith, and with what God is saying to us, is something that can be done through joining one of the study groups that are being run by our different churches.  It becomes a time of renewal as we share with other Christians and look afresh at what our faith means to us and how we live out that faith, in Christ’s name, for the sake of the wider community.  The new life of the Kingdom, that we celebrate at Easter, becomes a reality as we give our lives for others in a way that is a real expression of our faith, that every person we meet is someone for whom Christ died.

During Lent, the flowers will be gone from St John’s, the church will be arranged to be as least ornate as possible and many of the hymns will be sung in a minor key.  Traditionally we omit the Gloria and we avoid the word ‘Alleluia’, which will re-emerge at Easter.  It is all a part of living out a rhythm of life that can help us in our spiritual journey of life.  I invite you to join with me in sharing the experience of Lent.  Giving up some of the trappings of our worship, and indeed some of the luxuries of life, can really help to focus on the things that matter and, especially, on the Christ who seeks to make his home in our hearts.  A quiet and gentle openness to the risen Christ can in turn lead to real joy as we exclaim, from the experience of our lives, that Christ is risen. We also need to set light to some of the controversial issues that threaten to divide the Church and rediscover that unity which comes from the shared experience of living as sinners for whom Christ has died.  Then, when Easter comes, our vocation is not to be the gatekeepers of heaven (with responsibility of deciding who is allowed in) but simply to be that community which celebrates the new life of the kingdom and, with lavish generosity, holds open the door for all to come in.

Nigel Lloyd


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