Today’s readings: Genesis 17.1-7, 15-16; Mark 8.31-end
I hope and pray that your Lent has got off to a good start, whatever that looks like for you this year.
As you know, our Lent focus this year is on the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s Gospel is the shortest of the four and it is perfectly possible to get through the whole book by reading a brief passage every day in Lent. In this mailing is the next booklet which includes the reading for each day next week in a short prayer service – you can read and pray at home, alone or with your household, or you can join us on Zoom for Morning Prayer each day at 8am – details on how to join are in the Notices at the end of this letter.
Our Sunday readings are not part of this schedule, so today we get a reading from Mark which is out of synch with the rest of our readings. It is, however, fully in synch with Lent. ‘If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me,’ Jesus tells us – a timely reminder at the beginning of Lent, our season of fasting, prayer and charitable giving.
This Lent, like last year, is being shaped by the enforced self-denial of lockdown, and I am not going to judge anyone who feels that they have given up enough already, without having to find something else to give up for Lent. Similarly with charitable giving – some of you, I know, are facing significant financial hardship this year, having lost work. Lent doesn’t ask more of us than we can bear.
But for everyone, Lent is supposed to be a challenge, and yes, even in these difficult days, it is supposed to be an additional challenge. It is a time for prayer, a time to be still in God’s presence, to come to God not just with requests but with regrets, in penitence. It is a time for lament, to grieve over our distance from God, and also to grieve over the difficulties we are facing – because God is with us, come what may. And for those of us who still have money to share, especially to those of us who have benefited financially from the lockdown because of fewer opportunities to spend, it is a time to give generously, to charity and to church.
In our Gospel reading, Jesus reminds us that being a Christian is not an easy thing, that if we are to follow him we must, like him, make sacrifices. He calls us to love God and to love one another, to deny ourselves and to follow him with boldness. I pray that this Lent, by turning our attention to God and what God asks of us, we might be able to make these sacrifices with love and joy.
With my prayers –
Prayer for this week
Almighty God, by the prayer and discipline of Lent may we enter into the mystery of Christ’s sufferings, and by following in his Way come to share in his glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord.