Third Sunday of Lent
Dear Bothers and Sisters in Christ
Signs of spring are all over the place now, the daffodils are finally budding nicely, and a green halo is beginning to appear around some of the trees. While the weather has turned a bit cold again, signs of light and warmth and growing are everywhere. And this is how it should be as we await our celebration of love and faith in the resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. As the natural world sometimes looks bare and grim, so too our faith sometimes feel dry and sluggish. But always there are green shoots, workings of the Spirit within us that call us back to our faith, that strengthen our love, that bring us back to Easter. I used to worry about the ‘dry times’ but I don’t anymore, because Easter morning always comes, it exists always and at all times and we are always drawn to it. Sometimes we just have to get out of the way of ourselves as our spirit always yearns and thirsts to be with God.
This year Easter is especially powerful. As always in times of distress we are called to be in the hearty embrace of the Holy Spirit. And this is not a passive thing, to live in God’s Spirit is to live fully and actively. We are called to listen to God’s voice in our lives and to discern what it is we are being asked to do. The pandemic has given us lots of solitude to listen to God’s call and I have watched with awe the workings of the Spirit in this congregation over the past year.
Now it looks like we may have our path out of the pandemic. God’s gifts of knowledge and understanding has led to development the vaccines that will protect lives. But it is not only the scientists, medical manufacturers, and the health care professionals who have a job of work to do. They have simply given us the means to get on with God’s work in this world. And this leads me to some questions that Bishop Nick has posed to the clergy of the diocese, but I think are really worthwhile for everyone to consider in relation to our church certainly, but also to our community, our relationships and our lives.
So these are
his questions in relation to the pandemic and what comes next:
(a) What have we lost that we need to regain?
(b) What have we lost that needs to stay lost?
(c) What have we gained that we need to keep and build upon?
(d) What have we gained during the emergency that we now need to lose for the future?
These are important questions to really ponder. None of us would ever have wished for the pandemic, but through God’s grace and love, even the most challenging times can bring renewal.
As we continue in Lent, let us consider these questions fully. Set aside some time specifically to consider them. Write down your thoughts, share your thoughts with others. It has become almost cliché for people to say that the world will not be the same after the pandemic, but I think that there will be quite a lot of pressure for us to go back to the old ways of doing things, even those things that damage our community, our church, ourselves and our world. Let us not let that happen, let us be brave, let us build on the courage and endurance we have relied upon during the pandemic to change that which was wrong ‘with the old way of doing things’. I hope that some of the things we will keep will be our care and love of our neighbors which has flourished in this time, our respect for healthcare professionals and the many researchers that have helped us to cope with the pandemic and delivered us a vaccine. I hope that we treat the supermarket clerks and those that deliver goods to our home with continued respect knowing that literally our very lives depend upon them. I’ve still got quite a lot to think about myself in relation to these questions so I’ll leave them now with you.
The churchwardens and I have set our sights on opening our churches for live services during Easter week. The plan now is to have a Maundy Thursday service at St Lucius, a Good Friday contemplative service at St Michaels and St Helens and Easter morning services at all three churches. This is of course dependent upon the advice of the diocese and the government, but we are planning for these services and will keep you updated as the time nears.
This will of course mean that we will need all of you to be particularly mindful of the procedures that will keep us safe – especially the absolute necessity not to mingle in church or after church, to mask, to sanitize hands, and to sit where directed. But these are small things, small sacrifices to enable us to worship together.
There can be no singing by individuals or by the choir at present in accordance with diocesan guidelines I’m afraid. But we will have our amazing organists to fill the churches with music.
So, spring comes, we emerge out of the lockdown of winter, the lockdown of pandemic, the lockdown of our own inability to truly trust in God.
Like I have said before, I love Lent because it is the contemplative pause as we prepare ourselves: our Dear Lord, help us to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day.
Revd Professor Jessica Malay
Almondbury with Farnley Tyas