Spring into Lent! - Reflection by Canon Neal


Read Canon Neal's reflection for Tuesday, 9 February, 2021.

Surely snowdrops are one of the great encouragers at this time of year? These in St. James Garden’s, adjacent to the Cathedral, are just coming out. Give them a bit of late winter sun and they open up in carpets under the bare trees. Enough to warm the hearts of all of us, and not just ardent ‘Galanthophiles’.

As we move out of the darkest quarter of the year and head towards Ash Wednesday (17th February) it’s a reminder that Spring is indeed around the corner. How we desperately need it this year? Perhaps more than ever! With it, we pray, is the promise of a ‘Springtime’ in our lifestyles and our souls, and a gradual emergence from the Covid-induced ‘stasis’ that we’ve been in for almost a year now. As part of this process, we want to encourage you to make something of Lent, which will enable us to focus on issues other than Covid; upon the God who is unchanging, even whilst our human world is undergoing such deep and lasting change.

The word ‘Lent’ is probably derived from an old Germanic term which has the same root as the word for ‘long’; refering to the lengthening of the days. That said, there is strong evidence that the word ‘Lenten’ has been in old English usage for many centuries, refering to the season between winter and summer. It may even pre-date the word ‘Spring’. Whichever, it is true that the days are noticeably lengthening now, and perhaps it is a good opportunity to allow more of the spiritual light of God’s love into our lives as we approach Easter.

With that in mind, may I encourage you to join us at the Cathedral for two special activities, both on-line? The first is the series of Lent Lectures that begins on the evening of Monday 22nd February, entitled ‘Liberty for the Captives’. The five lectures will run until Monday 22nd March. Subjects will include: looking back at the connections between Liverpool churches and the Transatlantic Slave-trade, our current partnerships with churches in Ghana and Virginia USA, modern-day forms of slavery and where we may, inadvertently, be contributing to them, and how we as Christians can seek to bring an end to enslavement in all its forms. Please visit the ‘Events’ section of our website for more information and how to join in.

The second Lenten activity will be a series of five Bible studies on the Old Testament book of Lamentations. These will be on Zoom, on Thursday lunchtimes, 1.00-2.00pm 25th February – 25th March inclusive. There is more information on the ‘Getting Involved’ section of our Cathedral website and then select the ‘Exploring Faith’ button. You can obtain the Zoom link by emailing me direct if you prefer. The book of Lamentations is not, at first glance, the most joyful and ‘spring-like’ book, containing as it does a series of five ‘dirges’!  They lament the fall of Jerusalem in the 6th century BC and the impending exile of God’s people to Babylon hundreds of miles to the East. And yet it does chime in with the sense of lament and exile that many of us are feeling. How can we ‘be church’ and ‘do church’ at the moment, when we cannot easily meet together, let alone sing hymns and songs to God? We seem to have lost so much. However, the book also contains some great affirmations of God’s faithfulness to his people, even in the darkest times. Lamentations 3:22-23 contains these words: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” Many of you will recognise these as the inspiration for the hymn, ‘Great is thy faithfulness’. The book ends with a prayer of faith to God to restore and to renew, confident that he will indeed deliver on that impassioned plea. Again, surely, this has much to say to us today, as we seek lives that are restored to something like wholeness and fulfilment?

The beautiful snowdrops that we see poking up through the winter mud look delicate and frail. Yet, they are tough enough to stand up to the worst that the winter storms throw at them. Each one is tiny, and yet together they provide swathes of snowy whiteness that make a great impact on those who view them. They are also a tangible forerunner of the crocuses, daffodils and other Spring flowers that will soon brighten up our lives. Are they not an encouragement to each of us to poke our heads up bravely through the ‘mud’ of our current situation, believing that God will not test us beyond what we can endure? When we, together, seek to do that, rather like the hundreds and thousands of these little plants, we can bring a swathe of spiritual whiteness that will offer confidence and hope to a world shaken by the greatest storm in living memory.

Yes, Lent this year will not be like any Lent we have known. But if we are willing make something of it, then I believe that will help to awaken God’s spiritual springtime in our hearts, minds and lives.

With good wishes

Canon Neal

While you're here:
Why not prepare for next Sunday's worship? Our preparation sheet for adults and for children can be accessed by clicking on the Resources tab of this website: https://www.prayerforliverpool.org/prayer-resources.html.