I wonder if you have ever been struck by how music can transport you to other places and times in your life? Sometimes we hear a song on the radio or a hymn in church and it takes us back perhaps to our school days or holidays or memories of what we were doing when that song was being played on the radio all the time.
I always think of the season of Lent, which we are entering as this magazine goes to print, as a journey. It’s a journey that Christians are invited to take as they accompany Jesus to Jerusalem and eventually to the Cross. If we decide to try to live with Jesus at the centre of our lives, it involves taking Him into the good parts as well as some of the more challenging and difficult parts. Sometimes we are walking along on that journey and we feel fulfilled and content but at other times we seem to be assailed by doubts and questions. We feel angry and confused as unexpected circumstances seem to derail us without warning. We wonder why something has happened to us – an illness, a bereavement, a crushing disappointment.
We find it hard to get the courage to put our shoes on again and go outside the door.
During my twenties I had the opportunity to visit the monastic community in Taizé in France three or four times. It’s an ecumenical community of Brothers who work to promote peace and reconciliation and also to assist young people in their spiritual search. Most people come from all around the world to spend a week and attend the worship and Bible studies with the Brothers, to reflect together in small groups and to spend time getting to know each other and have fun together. People live together in community very simply, queueing up for simple nutritious meals, assisting with chores, sleeping in tents or dormitories. There is also the option to spend a week in silence where you live in a house a little bit removed from all the other pilgrims. You get daily teaching from one of the Brothers and attend worship in the vast church of reconciliation along with all the other pilgrims before retiring in silence.
On one of my visits, where I spent a week in silence, before making quite a big decision, I took the opportunity to meet with one of the Brothers for spiritual direction. He met with me every day and gave me questions to think about and reflect upon. One evening he gave me a map and traced out a few walking routes of varying lengths. He asked me to take a walk with Jesus the next day and tell him the deepest concerns on my heart and listen carefully, as I took my walk, to what he might be wanting to share with me. Perhaps I expected big booming voices or a very definite sense of what I ought to be doing but neither of these things happened. What I did become aware of as I walked through the Burgundy countryside was the beauty of God’s creation. I took time to smell wild garlic and honeysuckle after a rain shower. I felt the warm sun break through onto my face and received a peace I wasn’t expecting as I poured out my concerns to the Lord on my walk. There wasn’t a strong sense that I should make this or that choice but rather the sense was, whichever choice I made, I would not be alone. God seemed to promise to walk with me whichever path I chose and he assured me of His love and concern for me. It was a special walk and I remember writing about it in my journal at the time and sharing some of the insights I received with the Brother later that evening.
I want to encourage you to take this spiritual walk with Jesus through the season of Lent towards the Cross. Everyone is suffering at the present time to a greater or lesser extent because of the pandemic. Many of the liberties we normally take for granted are taken from us. We can’t walk or travel as freely as we would wish to. We can’t visit friends or family under the current restrictions and we can’t, at the time of writing, even attend our accustomed places of worship. Does this mean that God has disappeared or is unable to break through into our lives? I don’t believe so, but our job is to keep walking with him. It’s to be faithful and honest and admit those times we are struggling.
It’s about making ourselves available to hear from him whether through daily Bible readings or times of prayer. It’s about availing of those opportunities available to us through the telephone services or online services either from our own parish church or from somewhere we have never been before.
How much space can you allow God in this season to say important things to you or to teach you things you need to learn and receive? Each Thursday during Lent there will be an online service which lasts about 30-40 minutes. The first three are designed to be practical tips about looking after our mental, physical and spiritual health during lockdown. These will be shared by parishioners who have much wisdom and experience in their different fields. The next few services, I hope, will be stories of faith to show different people’s experience of God becoming real in their lives.
During Holy Week each night at 7.30 pm our devotional journey will be led by my neighbour and friend Rev. Adrian Green, the Rector of Mount Merrion who has very kindly agreed to fulfil a commitment he made to come and share with us last year when the church was closed.
If we are not at that stage allowed to gather in person, Adrian will record his series of talks for us. He is a very gifted communicator and I look forward immensely to what he hopes to share with us.
In the uncertainty of these times when so much is up in the air, do please endeavour to avail of this opportunity to journey with Jesus through this Holy Season and be blessed by what you discover and encounter of Him.
With very best wishes.
Jonathan Pierce (Rector)
Telephone 02890 793822