Curate's letter for February

We will soon be starting the six-week season of Lent, which will lead us up to Holy Week and Easter Sunday. For many of us Easter is like Christmas – we get all prepared for it and in church on Christmas Eve or Christmas Morning we sing ‘Joy to the world, the Lord has come’. Then we go home open our presents, enjoy our lunch and look forward to the next day, which is a bank holiday. We have done Christmas and can tick the box and move on. The season of Lent gives us time to prepare for the events of Easter with the death of Jesus and then His resurrection. We may give up certain foods, doing without so that we can focus more on God during this time, we can read special Lent books, do a Lent course or spend more time in regular prayer and reflection. After a busy Holy Week journeying through the Passion story with Christ we all gather in church and cry out together ‘Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!’

Then we go home and enjoy our lunch, eat too many Easter eggs, because we have not had any chocolate for six weeks, and look forward to the next day, which is a bank holiday. We have done Easter and can tick the box and move on!

What if Lent prepared us in such a way that it would carry us far beyond Easter Day?

Lent starts with our Ash Wednesday service, when foreheads are marked with the sign of the cross in ashes made from the previous year’s burnt palm crosses, with the words ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return. Turn away from sin and be faithful to Christ.’

Ashes have always been a sign of repentance – of turning back to God - and examples of this can be found throughout the Old Testament. The Ninevites responded to Jonah’s call to repent, by putting on sackcloth and ashes. Job repents before God by putting on sackcloth and rolling in ashes. And Jesus reproaches certain cities for their lack of repentance, and their unwillingness to put on ashes and turn to God.

Ashes have lots of other uses too. If you throw ash onto snow or ice it will help stop you from slipping. When you are planting something in the garden, put some ashes into the hole before the plant goes in and it will help with growth. Ashes also have cleaning power – producing sparking windows when rubbed on with wet newspaper and good for stain removal – so I’m told. Ashes can even be used to deter slugs and snails by sprinkling them around the base of plants. So never underestimate the power of ash!

So, with this in mind, if we want our Lenten pilgrimage to be meaningful and take us beyond Easter Day, we should let the properties of ash do it’s work in us. Praying that it cleanses us and helps us to grow and be strengthened in faith. Also that it preserves and prevents us from distractions, so that when Easter is over we don’t slip up and return to old habits, but remember what Easter is really all about so we can live and tell the story all year round!

Wishing you all a very Blessed Lent and may those blessings continue well beyond the consumption of the last Easter egg.

Rev’d Julia Curtis



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