Unless you are lucky enough to be driving a brand new car, many of us will be used to the annual process of renewing our MOT. It can seem an arduous process, but it is also vital for keeping the car in good condition, fit for purpose, and making sure it is road-worthy.
In the same way, the season of Lent in our Church Calendar is an opportunity to stop and evaluate our own lives. As we begin to move towards Easter, we focus our attention on Jesus’ obedience to God’s will even to the point of giving his own life. We are reminded that following Jesus means both being obedient to God’s will and giving ourselves for the good of others. You can’t be a disciple without sacrifice, just as Jesus himself says:
Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me.Mark 8.34
As Lent begins, the liturgy of Ash Wednesday invites us to ask God’s forgiveness for ways we have selfishly pursued our own interests, rather than placing God and others first. And, as we are marked with the sign of the cross with ash, we recommit ourselves to live faithfully to God’s call on our lives.
Throughout Lent, as we walk with Jesus towards the cross, we are able to discover the scale of God’s incredible grace. In response, we explore the cruciform shape that our own lives, and the common life of the Church, should take. How can we make a stand against injustice and evil? How can we work together to build an alternative kingdom community — one that contrasts so sharply with the ways of our world? On Palm Sunday, as we exclaim ‘Hosanna!’ with those who first welcomed Jesus to Jerusalem, we are welcoming in his kingdom of justice and peace today.
Then on Maundy Thursday, as we re-enact Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, we are reminded of our call to serve and humble ourselves before one another. And we discover afresh the incredible gift of the Eucharist, in which we act out the whole of the gospel and join with the great thanksgiving of heaven for the beloved Son, Jesus. How can we cultivate these spiritual disciplines of service and thanksgiving in all the areas of our lives?
On Good Friday, sorrow and joy mingle together. What shame that it is my unfaithfulness that Jesus gives himself to forgive, but what incredible thankfulness that he did! The altar is stripped, the candles are extinguished, and the wait begins.
Until the dawn of Easter Day, when we discover the empty tomb, the Alleluia is proclaimed and we celebrate. Out of the jaws of defeat, victory is won. Out of death, comes new resurrection life! The new Paschal Candle is brought in, and the lights come on! And together we rejoice, seeing a foretaste of what awaits us in the age to come. No matter what state our world may be in, no matter how difficult the position of God’s Church may be, we can trust that resurrection, renewal and restoration are on their way!
Lent is here – your discipleship MOT is due. In your reflection and examination this Lent, how will you make space for God’s new life to break in?
Taken from this month’s Ministry Area Magazine, which is available in churches on Sunday.