You will see further on in this Newsletter that we have an exciting-looking Lent Course planned this year. Called “Another Story Must Begin” it is inspired by the book/film/music of Les Miserables. You can read all about the course yourselves and hopefully you will be able to come along to some of the sessions and explore what it is all about.
What just struck me as I added the invitation to this Newsletter was the mention of “cake” at least twice. Each meeting will involve film clips, Bible reading, prayer, discussion, informal chat….. and Cake. CAKE! Is this appropriate for a Lent Course? For surely, traditionally Lent is a time when we give up cake, sweets, biscuits etc. It is meant to be a season of solemn reflection and self-denial, commemorating Jesus’ forty days of fasting and prayer in the wilderness.
There is nothing wrong with self-denial, fasting and prayer. They can accomplish a lot of good in us. But just as I smile over the teacher in one of “Miss Read’s” books, who swooped down on a stolid child who was refusing to take part in a jolly dancing class, whacked him across the back of the legs and shouted “NOW will you skip for joy,” so I wonder whether people can be coerced into gloom any more than they can be coerced into joy? By the time the actual season of Lent begins on March 6th, there will be people in our church family who have already spent forty days and more in dark and lonely places, confronting such things as human sin, human sickness and human mortality. They will not need Lent to begin before being driven into the wilderness. Likewise, there will be people for whom Lent promises to be a time of excited expectation; of joyful celebration; of new life, new hope, new opportunities. They hardly need to be told to “wipe that smile off your face and remember it is Lent!”
What resonated with me about the Lent Course was the sub-title: “Grace can change us.”
For I suppose that what Lent has really always been about is opening our lives to God’s grace.
When Jesus went into the wilderness, he was filled with the Holy Spirit (an awesome level of power) and needed to experience God’s grace in enabling him to use this power well. Each character in Les Miserables is confronted with this grace, as the person they are and, in the situation where they are. Some are in a good place and some are in a bad place. Some have moved from light to darkness; some are moving from darkness to light.
The grace of God can reach us and change us no matter who we are or where we are. If we are in a good place, then the grace of God can enhance and affirm that place and inspire us to use it well. If we are in a dark place, the grace of God can offer hope and strength to guide us through. If we are in danger of going wrong, the grace of God can warn us and put us right. If we have lost our way altogether, the grace of God can find us and bring us home.
So the season of Lent, as I see it, is a time to open our lives to the grace of God. What is God trying to say to us? What is God hoping to achieve in us? How is God helping us, healing us, holding us? Take time to reflect, to pray, to talk your faith over with others.
And if cake makes this easier for you, then enjoy it …..
With love and good wishes to you all