Ash Wednesday 2011
Dearly loved St Aldates,
I wonder if you have ever had to fight for your life against temptation or trouble? If you have, you are in good company – the company of Jesus.
I want to suggest to you three good ideas at the start of Lent, so called because at this season the days start to ‘lengthen’, and there is more daylight time available, perhaps for prayer. On Ash Wednesday, Christians world-wide start remembering Jesus’ 40 day fast in the desert. Even though Jesus was led by the Spirit and started the fast ‘full of the Holy Spirit’, He still had to fight for His life against the devil who apparently wanted to kill him by getting him to jump off a high mountain.
Jesus withstood this intimidation by fasting, by wielding the Word of God as a weapon against the enemy and by holding His ground. So here is the first good idea: do some fasting* and make room for the power of the Word of God in prayer in Lent.
TS Eliot wrote a poem called Ash Wednesday. It is often called his ‘conversion poem’. It contains these lines about silence:
‘Where shall the word be found, where will the word
Resound? Not here, there is not enough silence’.
The second idea is to make room for times of silence in Lent – each day, fast noise and listen to God.
And the third idea? The 40 days are an echo of the 40 days spent by the spies researching the land under the leadership of Caleb. All but 2 of them were so intimidated at the end of the exploration that they gave a deeply disturbing report on the place. Like them, we sometimes react with fear rather than faith to challenges. What the spies had seen was God’s Promised Land, but they resisted and rejected it because of the challenges that came with it. This led to them wandering in the desert for 40 years, one year for each of the days they had been exploring. Oh how tragic... So the third idea is to fast from unbelief and decide to trust in God for 40 days (and beyond).
These lengthened days of Lent are a season leading up to Easter, when Jesus fought the greatest battle of all – the ‘Last Battle’ in Gethsemane on the cross and triumphed. Even though things appeared utterly intimidating in Gethsemane: the ‘Promised Land’ darkly obscured by giants, Jesus battled through to it. Indeed, He opened the way to it for us all.
So I recommend these three disciplines: fasting and using the Word - received in silence - with an attitude of faith. Thank you all for making St Aldates the wonderful family it is for so many despite the challenges of being a big church. May God give you a new start and may you know Him better through these lengthening days.
With our love in Christ,
Charlie Cleverly, Rector
*Download a copy of the handout we are giving out encouraging a season of fasting here
During Lent, why not join one of the following worship & intercession times in the Catacombs?
Mondays 5-7pm; alternate Mondays 8-10pm; Wednesdays 12-1pm; Thursdays 7-8am & 1-2pm
www.oxfordprayerroom.org for more details
For your diary: special events during Lent in the Church
Wednesday 30 March: Hungry Church Prayer Event, 8-10pm
Wednesday 6 April: St Aldates Annual Meeting and Vision Night (APCM) - includes PCC elections, 7.30pm
Maundy Thursday 21 April: Jewish Roots Church Family Passover Meal, 7pm, (tickets available soon)
Friday 22 April: joint Good Friday service with St Ebbes, 10am
Advance Notice: Spring Gift Days: Sunday 8 & 15 May