I came at Lent a little unprepared this year, coming as it did in the half-term week that I’d set aside for completing my Masters Dissertation. I duly got the first draft into a decent recognisable shape that I’ll visit again before sending, to add bits here and there, but because of it, arrived at Ash Wednesday having given no thought to Lent.
I have, however, been trying to keep up with a small group of friends/acquaintances who are reading through the bible in the year, with daily comment and, seeing as we’re in the Old Testament for the foreseeable, I decided I needed a personal focus on Jesus’ life and message. So, I’ve been reading Mark’s gospel over and over, and very much enjoying that encounter.
Lent doesn’t appear to be much of a focus in the church I serve in, and I understand that coming from a background that never gave it much consideration either. I guess, over the years, I’ve come to appreciate Lent as a way of getting my heart/brain in gear for the Passion and Easter season and all that entails. I used to find is so overwhelming to arrive at Easter almost ‘out of the blue’ without having had a time of preparation
Lent last year was a pretty big time. It was a time of seeking God for our future having sensed the need to move on from St Albans, and we’d already begun conversations with Hertford Baptist. Lent gave shape and focus to that discernment and listening, and it meant that by the time we’d received the call from the church, I knew how I must respond and was able to do so without further hesistation. And, it was pretty unanimous from their end too…so here we are!
So, those two things are now tied up together. I’m in my new ministry setting here in Hertford, the eventual outcome from last Lent’s discernment, and Mark’s gospel is accompanying me through this particular season, where I’m learning that Jesus ministry and activity is punctuated by a flow of availability to people, and seclusion to be with God. Both are essential for a sustained presence in a community…and for every day sanity!
Having said that, you can’t come away from Mark’s gospel without a sense of the action, the urgency, the missional passion, and single-hearted focus of Jesus for the road ahead. You can’t sidestep the joint partners of Kingdom proclamation and Kingdom demonstration, regadless of what was going on around him. This too, is key.
Any church setting will give you plenty of distraction…that’s the reality everywhere. Last year it was Homewood Road URC, this years it’s Hertford Baptist! But the most important thing in it all is to keep the eye on the One it is all about and trust Jesus, who is the Head of this body of Christ and will lead it for his purpose of blessing, saving and redeeming the world.
If Lent does anything, it focusses us back on Him and off of ourselves. God grant it.