Lent is the time when traditionally people "give up something" but sometimes too "take on something". If you have given something up, whatever that may be, I hope you are doing okay. And, if you have taken on something like reading the Bible more or a book about Christian faith, I hope you are doing okay. But why do we do it? Within the early Church, Lent, the 40 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday (except for Sundays which were Feast Days) was a period of fasting and preparation in which new Christians received instruction and prepared themselves for their baptism at Easter. Lent is still our period of fasting and preparation that is meant to help our remembering that Jesus' journey through life led Him to suffering and death on the cross and then, of course, victory over all those things.
Half of the days of Lent this year, for me, involve going for radiotherapy treatment, every day Monday to Friday for three weeks, 15 sessions. After that, hopefully, my life and ministry will begin to get back to a new normal and I am looking forward to that. At the same time, seeing as I am not good at giving up things, I have taken on something and am reading a book called "The Gospel in the Willows" written by Leslie J Francis. Inspired by the children's classic "Wind in the Willows", it contains 40 meditations, one for each day of Lent. Each one follows the journey along the river of life with Ratty, Mole and Toad and places an excerpt from the novel alongside a bible reading. It is cleverly done and to fuse the Gospel with an Edwardian novel is not only creative but also illustrates that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever and it is HE that we are travelling with on our journey through life. I would commend the book to you!
I am so grateful for all your love and prayers for me at this time. However, recently, someone suggested to me that, given both Peter's and my mother's deaths and my own breast cancer, that God was testing me. Although I do understand the reason for saying that, I had to disagree because I do not believe that it is God who tests us but rather the Devil. Instead, the God I know and love is the One who carries us through such times and I know that loving supportive care through my family and the ministry and friendship shown to me by my church family - you! Three of the Gospels include an account of Jesus stilling a storm (you can read it in Mark 4: 35-41). Jesus and His disciples got into a boat to cross to the other side of a lake. When a windstorm suddenly arose, the disciples were afraid. Jesus was asleep within the storm and the disciples woke Him up assuming that He must not care because they were at risk of drowning. Jesus stood up and stilled the storm bringing peace to the elements and into the hearts of His disciples.
That story clearly tells us that even though Jesus and His disciples were in the boat together, the storm still happened. Jesus being with them did not exempt them from it but rather carried them and saved them from drowning! So, when the storms of life (such as bereavement and illness) come our way, it is good to know that God is with us, not testing us but carrying us through to newness of life and bringing healing, peace and hope. My prayer during these days of Lent is that, as we travel our journey through life, we will know His presence with us every day, even when storms come our way. The end of Lent brings us to Holy Week and Easter, remembering that Jesus faced the cruellest of suffering but overcame it, not just for Himself, but for all who will believe. So, I'm going to enjoy reading "The Gospel in the Willows" and following Ratty, Mole and Toad's adventures along the river. As I do, I know that the associated bible readings will remind me that my journey with God is one that Jesus Christ has walked before me - before us - and he has given us victory over all things, including suffering and death, and life in all its fullness.