Lent – So what now?

I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy word.


Through fasting, prayer and acts of service
you bring us back to your generous heart.
Through study of your holy word
you open our eyes to your presence in the world
and free our hands to welcome others
into the radiant splendour of your love.
As we prepare to celebrate the Easter feast
with joyful hearts and minds…

I have just finished presiding at the first of our two Ash Wednesday services (the other is 7:30 this evening at St John’s), where these words were said.

The challenge for me, and I guess for all of us who want to follow a “Holy Lent”, is what to do to engage with this.  The problem is that what I need is not the same as what you need, so I can’t just take something off the shelf.  I can, of course, read a Lent book, or follow one of the many daily programmes available (Christian Aid, Tear Fund, 40 Acts, and others), join a Lent Group, take up some additional daily Bible Reading or Prayer, but is that going to:

open my eyes to God’s presence in the world
and free my hands to welcome others
into the radiant splendour of God’s love

As an incumbent I feel as though I have two roles: one as spiritual leader, and one as MD of a small business.  It is all to easy to find myself spending too much time on one, and not enough on the other!  So this Lent, as well as some of the other things I shall be doing I am going to blog every day (except my day off, naturally) as a way of engaging with God in the world.  It won’t be a pious blog, but I hope that in doing this I will engage more with what God is doing, and a little less with my “To Do List”.

I wrote a blog post many years ago, before I was an incumbent, and I am trying to reengage with that kind of ministry.

Yesterday Henri Nouwen’s daily email read:

We  are afraid of emptiness. Spinoza speaks about our “horror vacui,” our horrendous fear of vacancy. We like to occupy-fill up-every empty time and space. We want to be occupied. And if we are not occupied we easily become preoccupied; that is, we fill the empty spaces before we have even reached them. We fill them with our worries, saying, “But what if …”

It is very hard to allow emptiness to exist in our lives. Emptiness requires a willingness not to be in control, a willingness to let something new and unexpected happen. It requires trust, surrender, and openness to guidance. God wants to dwell in our emptiness. But as long as we are afraid of God and God’s actions in our lives, it is unlikely that we will offer our emptiness to God. Let’s pray that we can let go of our fear of God and embrace God as the source of all love.

This practise is to help move me towards that kind of ministry, and away from the busyness, from “running the business”.

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