Vicar’s letter 2018 Feb/March/ April

Dear Friends,
Feb. is a very short Month, before long we will be moving into March (and hopefully some spring warm weather). Having just celebrated Candlemas in the Church calendar which bought our Christmas celebrations to an end, we will soon be entering the season of Lent – a period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) leading up to Easter. Lent is a time for reflection as Christians prepare to remember and celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (14 Feb.) a day of penitence or cleansing of the soul. Many Christians will attend Lent services, and be marked with a cross of ashes on their forehead. This is a sign of mortality, based upon the idea from the book of Genesis that humankind came into the world from dust and will return to it. It is a time to express sorrow over sin, and a reminder that Jesus brings freedom from sin. Traditionally the following 40 days, which mark the time Jesus spent in the desert fasting before his public ministry, are characterised by self-denial, prayer and reflection. For many, Lent has become a time to give up luxuries such as chocolates, cakes, crisps or sweets. Others give up caffeine or alcohol as a test of self-discipline. Others will cut back on time spent watching TV or using Face-book and social media. Within churches purple becomes the symbolic colour in Lent. Purple represents mourning, and so anticipates the pain and suffering of the crucifixion, and secondly it is the colour associated with royalty, and celebrates the resurrection and sovereignty of Christ. Lent, I believe, is an important period, giving reason and purpose to the life-changing good news of Easter. I would encourage you to enter this season of Lent wholeheartedly…. yes, give up something if you wish, enter a period of self-denial and self-examination. But don’t just do it for the sake of it…. Instead use this season to be intentional in developing your relationship with God; take time to go deeper with God. Spend time praying, reflecting, remembering. You may want to read one or more of the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) to focus on Jesus, his life, passion, death and resurrection. However, we use the period of Lent it’s important to reflect upon our journey if faith, to use this period of self-examination and denial as a means of growing deeper into Christ. As I look back over the last 12 month of my journey it’s been challenging and painful at times. What we have discovered though is that the more we focus on God and draw upon his resources the stronger we become. Our God has shown us through all the trial and tribulations that he is faithful and can be trusted. I pray that during lent that you will ask God to fill you afresh with his Spirit, taking you deeper into his love and giving you a greater passion to share the good news of Jesus, for what the world needs most is GOOD NEWS (Jesus is GOOD NEWS). Countless people have discovered in him a sure ground for faith beyond anything the world can offer. Whatever you choose to do this Lent, I’d encourage you to join with us at St Matthews or St Cuthbert’s for our Sunday services, and come along to one or two of the special services that will be held at St Matthews throughout Holy Week. I’m praying that this Lent, God will draw each of us deeper into his love, as we prepare to remember and celebrate the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus – through whom we receive life in all its fullness. (John 10 v10) With every joy and blessing in Christ Reverend Mark.