Thought for the month
Lent starts on Ash Wednesday (6 March), and that’s coming up fast, so many Christians will be thinking about what they might give up for Lent. It’s a practice that many find helpful. As Archbishop Welby puts it: “For many centuries, denying ourselves certain pleasures or habits has been a way that Christians have made space in their hearts for God as we journey towards Easter.”
We have three suggestions to follow up for Lent. The first is ++Justin’s suggestion: “As well as stopping something, how about starting something?” He suggests committing to prayer, or finding an act of kindness to do each day, as ways to start to see where we need to change our hearts and minds – more in his blog.
Our second suggestion is something that may appeal especially to those with mobile devices, which is the Church of England’s “LentPilgrim”, a discipleship journey with 40 daily reflections on The Beatitudes. Printed resources are available, but the online version offers you each day the chance to listen to and read a theme linked to the beatitude, a short Bible reading that explores the theme, a short reflection, a suggestion of how to pray, and a prompt to act.
Our third suggestion is potentially even more interactive, though non-techology routes are also available. This is #slavefreelent, an interactive 40-day fight against the slavery hidden in our supply chains, which is part of International Justice Mission’s “Make #SlaveFree Normal” campaign. IJM tell us that 25 million people are in forced labour slavery today, many making products that we consume every single day—products like coffee, chocolate and makeup, and #slavefreelent asks us to:
- give up a product that often has slavery in its supply chain for the 40 days of Lent;
- donate the money we would have spent on the product we are giving up, to help IJM stop slavery at source;
- join IJM’s WhatsApp updates for tips on #slavefree living, facts about the issue, challenges and encouragements straight to your phone.
40 million slaves. 40 days. Could you go #slavefree this Lent?
“I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts.” (Jeremiah 31:33)
The external covenant at Mount Sinai was etched in stone – an ark was built to tight specifications to carry this covenant, sacrifices were spelled out in great detail – but now it will be engraved within the human heart.
In this context the word from which we translate ‘law’ can also mean ‘teaching’ or ‘instruction’ – it actually carries with it a sense of grace encouraging people, through this teaching to live in stability and harmony.
Augustine suggested that the law teaches us how to love. As the psalmist says: “the law of the Lord is perfect, reviving the soul.” However, just like Jeremiah seems to sense, there is something in the idea of law that we tend to resist.
By writing this teaching on our hearts it is as if God is bypassing that resistance – it is like feeling the law of God, goodness and love of God deep within us.
We should, therefore, no longer need to look to external standards for realising how much we love God – for in this new covenant we, as it were, know truly how much we love God – or otherwise.
Do read the whole sermon that Rev Eddie Sykes preached on Jeremiah 31:31–34 at our Joint Covenant Service on 27 January 2019 at this link.
The image used is adapted from one at a Pax Christi blog.
Our thought for this season of Epiphany, and indeed for the whole of this New Year of 2019, comes from a sermon on Matthew 2.1–13 preached in Chelmsford Cathedral on 6 January 2019 by the Rt Rev John Perumbalath, recently appointed Area Bishop of Bradwell, in Chelmsford diocese:
“… the wise men in our story are a persisting lot. They were probably not very clear about what they were heading for. They had a sign but they lost it on the way. It was then possibly a path of uncertainty and darkness. But these wise men never gave up. They did not abandon their journey in the face of obvious obstacles on the way. In the absence of any clear guideline, they made mistakes ending up in a wrong place. But their persistence took them till the end of the road.
“We do not encounter God because we do not persevere in seeking him. We look for him in certain obvious places and when we do not find him there we give up. We are not willing to take long journeys in unfamiliar territories of our lives. In a world of instant things where we are able to receive instant food and instant clothing, we also look for instant solutions to our spiritual problems. We expect instant peace and instant happiness and then grow very uneasy and impatient in our journey. The feast of the Epiphany says, ‘never give up’.”