Thought for the month
The season of Easter ends with our celebration of two events that had a major impact on the early Church.
The first of these is the Ascension of our Lord, which ended a period of forty days during which the risen Christ had appeared to many of his disciples on a number of occasions. He was taken from their sight, but His final words were a promise: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’ [Acts 1:8].
The second is just ten days later, on what used to be called Whitsunday, but which we now refer to as Pentecost (from the Greek for “fiftieth day”). Pentecost is the festival when Christians everywhere celebrate the gift of that Holy Spirit which had been promised by Christ, and came first to the believers that had gathered together in a house in Jerusalem.
As you read the account in Acts 2, you might prefer the image of the Holy Spirit as the divided tongues of fire that rested on each of the believers, and energised them into action: that day 3,000 persons were added to their number. And that was just for starters!
Do join our celebration of the events around the birthday of the Church Universal …
A palm cross has many messages: the material used reminds us of the short-lived welcome given by the crowds on the first Palm Sunday; its stark simplicity speaks of Christ’s suffering; its outstreched arms assure us that He died for the whole world; the empty cross proclaims His Resurrection and His ultimate victory over death.
So we invite you to join us this Holy Week in our daily worship, as we follow the story of Christ’s last journey. Celebrate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem; see Him in action in the Temple Courts, sharing the Passover meal in the Upper Room with his disciples, and then alone in the Garden of Gethsemane. Finally hear once more the compelling drama of His arrest, trial and death, and feel the desolation of His friends, before we all celebrate “this joyful Easter-tide”.
Lent is the period whose purpose is to prepare the believer – through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial – for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the events leading up to the death of Jesus Christ, culminating in Easter, the celebration of his resurrection.
So we invite you to join us as we prepare together. Lent’s “forty days and forty nights” (as the hymn puts it) represent the time that Jesus spent in the desert, where he endured temptation by Satan. Lent began on Ash Wednesday and will conclude on Holy Saturday, the eve of Easter. For those who are counting the forty days, the six Sundays in Lent are not included, because each Sunday represents a “mini-Easter”, a celebration of Jesus’ victory over sin and death.
Candlemas, where we remember Christ’s presentation in the Temple, is the end of Christmas, and the weeks that follow are a period of transition for both the world and the Church. It’s still dark and cold, but the days are getting lighter and Spring will be coming. But not yet: the journey to perfect forgiveness and peace must start with penitence and an acceptance of our mortality, as we demonstrate when the ashes are imposed with the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return”.
We hope that you will have a happy and fulfilled 2009, and that you will join us in our worship.
In the first five weeks of our new year, the angels and shepherds of the Nativity have been replaced by the visit of the wise men, the revealing of God’s light to the world that we call the Epiphany, and we move towards Christ’s presentation in the Temple, where the aged Simeon recognises him as “a light to lighten the Gentiles”.