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A LENTEN REFLECTION
By Greg Hughson in All Sorts
How will you respond to Godís love for you during this Lenten season? As a Church family, how can we best respond in ways which will bring healing, peace and hope to others?A LENTEN REFLECTION
During Lent we have the opportunity to slow down and to reflect on how we are going on our spiritual journey through
life. The Christian life is a spiritual response to God's great love for us, a love which we discern to be active in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. As the Apostle Paul writes "Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions-it is by grace you have been saved." (Ephesians 2:4-5) The Christian faith, has at its heart a message of liberation from all that tends to hold us back from becoming the people God created us to be. The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) continue to provide us with an ethical framework for our lives. We are challenged first and foremost to honour God, and then to honour our parents. We are instructed not to murder, or commit adultery, or steal, or to bear false witness, or to desire what belongs to other people. These are sensible rules! Responding only to rules however, is not the Christian way as Christians are participants with God in a new covenant, able to actually experience having God's law in our minds and written on our hearts (Jeremiah 31: 33) This new covenant, and experiential truth, is affirmed each year in our traditional Methodist Covenant service. It is God's love in Christ which we respond to each and every day and night, not any list of instructions. The love of Christian people for God enables us to "come into the light" so that it may be seen plainly that what we are doing is being lived out in the sight of God, and under the influence of God. (John 3:21). As Christians, we can (potentially at least!) have a sense of being "seen by God" and held and nurtured in our faith by the same God who created us, and formed us in our mother's womb. God's Spirit is at work not only in our individual lives but in the life of the whole Church (and beyond) to ultimately bring healing and restoration to the world God loves, and to the whole of Creation. This process is agonisingly slow, and inevitably continues to involve us in sacrificing some or all of our own comforts. Jesus, in the context of reflection on his own death,
taught that unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. (John 12:24). Jesus was certainly no stranger to suffering.
Last Sunday afternoon I attended and led a prayer at an open service held at the Coptic Orthodox Church in Dunedin. Over 100 people from many Dunedin Churches gathered to support our Coptic Christian brothers and sisters as they continue to grieve deeply for the 21 young Egyptian men who were tragically killed recently by terrorists in Libya. These young men were martyrs. They died as a result of their Christian faith and identity.
During Lent we remember the agony Jesus suffered on the Cross. Retrospectively we can discern that there was some purpose in his suffering and death. John's gospel describes this purpose as Jesus being able, after his death, to "draw all people to himself" (John 12:32). The Church to which we belong would not exist unless Jesus had died, and planted the seed which continues to grow almost 2,000 years later. May Lent 2015 be a time when we allow ourselves to be drawn closer to Jesus, a time when"we allow Jesus to deal with whatever needs attention in our lives. For we are God's handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:10) These "good works" are achieved by intentionally participating in God's ongoing mission to be actively involved in peacemaking, to bring love, encouragement, healing, non-violent conflict resolution, suicide prevention and restoration to others in Jesus' name. How, specifically, will you respond to God's love for you during this Lenten season? As a Church family, how can we best respond in ways which will bring healing, peace and hope to others? Not, I suggest by supporting the sending of NZ troops to Iraq.
Greg Hughson Ecumenical Chaplain Otago University