Out in the garden, the snowdrops and crocuses are in full flower and daffodils are beginning to emerge to the promise of spring.
March is a busy month in the life of the church. We’ve entered the season of Lent, the time in the church calendar when we are called to a period of self examination: to ask ourselves what it’s all about; to try to understand ourselves a little more; and in so doing consider how we affect those around us.
Lent begins with the pancake celebration on Shrove Tuesday. Traditionally the time when all the things perishable were consumed before the fast of Lent, nowadays it is an excuse for pancake parties and fun. Of course, more elaborate celebrations take place around the world. Mardi Gras is celebrated in many countries, with flamboyant costumes, dancing and decorated floats.
Then follows Ash Wednesday when Christians are marked with ash in the form of a cross on their forehead, and reminded that they begin as dust and to dust they shall return. The ash comes from the burnt palm crosses from the previous year, and is a brave symbol showing acceptance of our mortality.
The period of Lent lasts for 40 days and commemorates the time Jesus spent in the wilderness. The Bible accounts tell of him being tempted to deny God his father by all means which we see as human weakness. You can read the account yourself in Matthew chapter 4, verses 1 to 12.
Whether you believe that it was temptation by an external devil figure, or whether you think that it was Jesus’ own battle with his inner self, is a matter for personal prayer and contemplation. But the result of his time in the wilderness was a deeper resolve and commitment to see his own journey through to the end, and a deeper understanding of himself.
I’m not sure whether Jesus ever had to change his resolve, but I know that many of us feel like we are in a time of change, being battered by the gales and hoping for a safe landing.
What sort of changes are we encountering? They may be relational, physical, emotional, spiritual.
I came across this quote from the other day:
“Botanists say that trees need the powerful March winds to flex their trunks and main branches, so the sap is drawn up to nourish the budding leaves. Perhaps we need the gales of life in the same way, though we dislike enduring them.” (Jane Truax)
We are indeed blown about by the winds as we go through life. But we have two ways of responding. We either take on the mindset of the defeated, or we see how we can be strengthened by our experiences. For me, Lent is an important time in the church calendar, as, without seeing the Lenten journey through, I don’t grasp the awe and wonder of Easter, nor can I really appreciate what God has done for us through Jesus. Perhaps you too might find time for a bit of reflection and see not only what needs to change—in your own life, in our community, in our country—but also how you might help to bring about some of that change. Who’s in charge of your life? And what do you want to change?
One ship drives east and another drives west,
With the selfsame winds that flow.
‘Tis the set of sails and not the gales
which tells us the way to go.