The word “Lent” comes from the ancient English word for “lengthening” – the lengthening of days, symbolizing the pattern of new life which emerges during the season of Spring. Flowers, new-born lambs, baby chicks and Easter eggs all speak of the springing up of new life. The Church uses reminders of life around us as signs and symbols of the New Life won for us by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
Traditionally during Lent, penance, fasting, abstinence, and other spiritual disciplines were the outward sign of the inner conversion needed during the life of the Christian as a preparation for the high point of the Easter Eucharist. We remember the forty years the people of Israel wandered in the desert in search of the Promised Land. The forty days and forty nights of the storms and floods in the story of Noah’s Ark. But most of all, we remember the forty days that Jesus went into the desert before his public ministry, and all of these set our pattern for lent.
In the desert Christ was tempted and struggled to understand what he was being called to do, who he was called to be. We are all on a journey. We are on the journey of faith to a deeper relationship with God in and through Jesus Christ. It is easy to get distracted and confused on that journey. On Ash Wednesday we put ashes on our foreheads as an outer reminder that we need to “Turn away from sin and believe in the gospel”. The ashes remind us to “Remember that you are dust and unto dust you shall return”. Lenten practices are meant to be aids in this inner journey which we are all called to make; particularly prayer, reading scripture and attending Church.
Lent is ultimately about those words from the book of Joel: “Come back to me with all your heart, with fasting and weeping and mourning” (2:12). This is a time to renew our relationship with God. To pray more, to reflect more and above all to love more.
This past year has been a year of lent. We have lived in a way that is different. We have served and cared for others. We have sacrificed so much. But after lent comes Easter… With Easter comes the gift of God to go out into the world and make disciples… So, what will you do when this Lenten period comes to an end? Maybe now is the time to think about how you can introduce other people to Church other people to Christ… When we come to Easter and Pentecost when life starts to, hopefully, become more normal again what ministry is God calling you to as you emerge from the desert?
May You be Truly Blessed…
By Pastor Mark
This will be a strange Christmas. It will be unlike anything that we have ever experienced- It is going to be a period with much anxiety, sadness and fear.
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
As we celebrate Christmas this week let us reflect upon the coming of Christ. That first Christmas was also a time of anxiety and fear. The first Christmas was in poverty and isolation too where the saviour and king of kings had to be ‘placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them’ (Luke 2:7b).
This Christmas why not spend some time thinking upon that first Christmas and reflect on the words of the angels to the shepherds ‘Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people’ (Luke 2:10).
During this Christmas season we will have our challenges and stresses but as our scripture above says now is the time, we need to put our trust in Christ and hand everything over to the protection and care of Almighty God.
On Christmas Day we have a zoom service at 9am and an in-person service at 10am. We hope that you have a Blessed Christmas and a Happy New Year.
By Joseph Nelson
Like every other area of our lives, the life of the staff and students at Universities has been dramatically altered by the reality of Covid-19. My name is Joseph Nelson, I am a member of staff for the Universities Chaplaincy in Leeds and for the Lutheran Church in Great Britain. However, I am also a Master’s by Research student.
For students, the changes are very palpable. From things as simple as getting books out of the library to finding study spaces on campus and attendings lectures; all of this has become increasingly complicated. Where once I would have gone into university an hour or two before a lecture, had a coffee in the chaplaincy, maybe gone into the chapel for prayer, done some reading in a study room or had a wander into the library to see what new books or journal articles I could find relating to my topic… now if I am lucky enough to have a lecture in person, I must arrive only a few minutes before it starts and then leave again. For me, as for many other students, this is a massive shift and has shaken away many of the things that really enriched our lives and studies. Being a student, more than ever before, has become a very isolating experience and one lacking in the social, spiritual, and cultural benefits of university life. This is a tragic loss and one that also has a dramatic effect on the effectiveness of chaplaincy.
On the other hand, as a member of staff in the chaplaincy everything has also changed. Much of my role previously had been going out onto campus and chatting with students, developing relationships, and signposting students to different avenues of support within the chaplaincy and beyond. Now with the pandemic my role has become very much about social media and trying to reach out to students virtually. This has been incredibly difficult and at times my enthusiasm has been dampened as much of my work has not been rewarding in the same way as it once was. I am lacking the enriching interactions that I once had with my role. Staff are feeling the hardship of this pandemic just as much as students are. This is especially poignant when we consider that we are not reaching as many students and staff as before and can very often feel powerless in the face of everything that is happening around us.
University life has been dramatically altered for both staff and student alike during this pandemic. However, at the end of the day the work of chaplaincy really remains the same. Chaplaincy is about recognising and meeting the spiritual, psychological, and physical needs of those in our care through the love of Jesus. Our work remains as always to give hope to the hopeless, comfort to the grieving and light to those who dwell in darkness. There is hope, and our job in this time, more than ever, is to simply be there, to be a visible witness to the God of love.