The forty days of Lent begin this week, on 5th March. The number forty in the Bible signifies preparation for something special. For example, the rain lasted for 40 days in the flood (Gen. 7:4); Moses stayed on Mount Sinai forty days (Ex 24:18); Jonah gave the people of Nineveh forty days to repent (Jon 3:4) and of course, before Jesus started his ministry, he spent forty days in the desert in prayer and fasting (Matt 4:2).
In this period, Christians follow the example of Jesus, using Lent as a time for spiritual renewal, an active period of contemplation, of looking backwards and looking forwards to prepare for the great celebration of Easter. We do this by faithful observation of the Gospel, taking to heart its call to repentance, and the assurance of forgiveness so that we might grow in faith and love for God. Traditionally, Christians have marked Lent by making it a special time of prayer, fasting and self-denial, and by reading and meditating on God’s word.
Some of you have asked for ideas for prayers, meditations and readings. There are two new leaflets at the back of the church which contain suggestions for all these. Please take them home if you find them helpful. Although we often give something up for Lent to allow for more time for our Lenten devotions, some people prefer to take something on and continue it beyond Lent. This might include taking on some voluntary work, inside or outside the church. It could also mean deciding to coming to church slightly earlier than usual and using the prayer leaflet to prepare for the service in the same way the altar party prepares in the Vestry from 10.20am each Sunday morning.
Whatever you choose to do, I wish you a holy and blessed Lent.