In the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke there is an account of ‘The Temptation of Jesus’ [ e.g. Matt 4:1-11]. After Jesus’ baptism, he sets off into the wilderness where for 40 days and nights he is tempted, yet he doesn’t give in to sin. By fasting and prayer Jesus resists many of the spiritual weaknesses that hinder our relation to God, and make it hard to hear God. It was a testing time but important preparation for his ministry. Even during his three years of ministry he many times went aside from the others, often to a hill to be alone to pray, to find that inner resilience and focus to carry on.
On March 2nd we will begin our own 40 day journey in imitation of His, and begin Lent. In the 40 days leading up to Easter we will try to focus on our relationship with God and other people, especially examining what can be improved, what needs to change and where we can be better prepared to follow Jesus Christ. Many will give something up, perhaps trying to change a bad habit, or by abstaining for a period will come to value and appreciate more something we enjoy. Many also take up something, a little time of prayer each day, perhaps some time to read the scriptures, or tasks that they feel imitate the work Jesus is calling us to do in the world. We will be trying to follow a lent book together too as a group and more on that to follow.
I hope we can all take some time to focus on Lent this year, and my advice is to start slowly. It is better to have a small thing we can sustain for the whole 40 days, than a huge challenge which leaves us feeling defeated in the first week. People are often surprised how effective a solid 5 mins quiet or prayer each day can be, especially in these challenging times, they can have a huge effect. I would also urge those who haven’t been to Church in these hard covid times to consider returning, we are as Christians supported and encouraged by each other, and by the worship, music, and teaching of the services – we are taking every measure to keep each other safe, so I would encourage you to come. If you have simply lost touch with your faith, and have got out of the habit of attending Church, well it is never too late, and you would find a warm welcome, as we journey together not only through Lent, but onwards in our lives trying to serve God and his people. The Church is often called ‘the pilgrim people of God’, we are on the same journey, there to support and sustain each other, through good times and bad, in these times I think we all need that.