Monday, January 28, 2013

Lent - whats it all about then?

Easter Day is on the last day of March this year, so this means that Ash Wednesday is in the second week of February and marks the start of Lent. We sometime just take our traditions for granted and so sometimes it is useful to remind ourselves from whence they come.....

The word ‘Lent’ appears to have its beginnings in Anglo-Saxon, where the word means to lengthen, indicating that days are getting longer and spring is coming. 'Lenting’ means sticking to fasting during Lent.

Ash Wednesday is so named because Ash is used to put a cross- shaped mark on the forehead of Christians to remind them of Jesus and the 40 days and nights of temptations he faced. The ashes used on Ash Wednesday are from the burnt remains of the Palm Crosses used the year before at Easter. 

The colour for Lent is purple, which means both sorrow because we do wrong, and royalty.
Some churches also decorate their church with grey banners and cloths for the whole season of Lent as a reminder of the grey ashes of Ash Wednesday. In the Middle Ages many Christians had the Ash Wednesday ashes sprinkled on their heads, and some wore rough sackcloth clothes to show they were sorry for what they had done wrong.

Lent is a reminder that Jesus went through suffering to make him stronger and more trusting in God. Many people ‘fast’ during Lent, which means giving up food for a day or sometimes many days. The aim is to help use time and energy thinking about God, and to become cleaned out and pure.

In the past Christians were baptised on the Saturday before Easter, so Lent for them was a time of getting ready by fasting (not eating food), and praying.

The modern version of Lent encourages us to give things up so that we have more time to concentrate on Jesus. It is a good thing to get our bodies cleaned up, which is why many people give up sweets or drinking at this time of year. But Lent is about allowing God to clean us up too.

Shrove Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday was the day when everyone used up their best and richest food such as eggs and fat, to prepare for 40 days of limited, mini-meals!

Shrove Tuesday has become known as ‘Pancake Day’, because traditionally pancakes used up the good food and made a feast to begin the season with. The word ‘Shrive’ means to confess, so people were encouraged to say sorry to God before the beginning of Lent itself. The word ‘Carnival' is derived from a Latin phrase meaning ‘no meat;’, and originally was connected with the three days of feasting and celebration before Ash Wednesday.In French-speaking nations Shrove Tuesday is called Mardi Gras, which roughly means Tuesday of Fat!

Some people do really good things during Lent to make a difference to others, or to change the world. To help make a small difference and our contribution, over the years the church in Wadworth and Loversall has chosen to raise money for a particular charity and this year we have chosen to support a local Autism charity, NORSACA so please support the events which are outlined in another part of this magazine. 

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Wise Men and Power

January comes and for most people Christmas is already done dusted and the decorations back in the loft. However the story of Christmas still continues into January as the Wise Men arrive looking for a King. They go to the wrong place, the palace, only to find a jealous king threatened by a new kid on the block. Herod the monster is so desperate to hold on to his earthly power we seeks to kill the child who is to be king by killing all children under 2 in Bethlehem. we are utterly appalled by this act of violence and bloodshed. How can anyone kill children for their own ends. 

Herod is scared by the possibility that a child may threatened his power, and yet Jesus never came to seek earthly power, but to change the whole nature of power, and we all struggle with what Jesus does to power. Once we realise that there is God, we should shudder with shear fear of an all powerful God and what ever power we hold on earth it cannot match the power of God. The second thing we should realise is that God may be all powerful but he shows us the true nature of power by sending his only son to be born into humanity and to live amongst us, to suffer amongst us and to care for us and ultimately to die for us. the way  that God demonstrates the use of power to us is not through strength but through weakness, through risk and through love.

We are disarmed by God’s use of power because it does not match our human desires to possess, to control and sometimes to destroy. In the face of God’s use of power, there is a danger that we do not use the power we have because we are afraid we might not use it properly. We are paused into inactivity because we are afraid of the consequences. This often results in our our inertia and in many ways also dishonours God because God does not say not to use power but to use it properly. 

The Wise Men once they had found the true King did not challenge Herod but avoided him, returning home by another route. We must also realise that Joseph took Mary and Jesus out of Herod’s way by going to Egypt, so sometimes even with God on out side we need to get out of the way of tyrants who brutally oppress murder and kill.

When given power, then we need to prayerfully consider how to act, asking for God’s help to use power properly. We need to this not only as individuals but also as a church. 

We tend to think that the story of Christmas is one of decorations, glitz, gifts, and excess. On a  spiritual level we think of the incarnation, the God who became human, the baby born in poverty to die as a man in captivity, however hidden in the story of the Wise Men, and the tyrant Herod and his brutal act is a valuable lesson about power and its misuse.