North Wiltshire Methodist Circuit

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North Wiltshire Methodist Circuit

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As we journey through Lent towards Holy Week and Easter, we reflect again on Jesus’ time in the wilderness and his journey from Jericho to Jerusalem. We do so in the light of what is happening in our lives, in the life of our Church and in the world.

 

I wonder what your path looks like as we journey through Lent this year. Is it a well-defined road linking towns; a track through a forest; a path by a stream; a stony route up a mountain; a dust track which is hard to see through a rocky wilderness; stepping-stones across a river; a flimsy rope bridge across a ravine; a busy street; or a quiet lane?   

 

Whichever path you are on, it is one on which we are still learning how to live with the coronavirus two years after the first lockdown. People are still catching the virus and dying from it. The coronavirus continues to close school classes, interrupt work, postpone events and give an element of uncertainty to all our plans. Thankfully, it is not on the same scale as it has been during the various lockdowns and life is returning to something of what we knew before the pandemic. However, we must not forget what we have learnt over these twenty-four months.

 

Whilst coping with the pandemic, we went to the heart of our faith. We learnt again that God is with us and that we can trust him in all things. We learnt that we could still be a church without going to the building, as we could worship alone, yet together, if we had the technology to join on Zoom. We continued to care for one another by keeping in touch and serving the community through supporting local foodbanks and helping our neighbours. The risen, living Jesus, whom we worship, (and is at the centre of our lives), was at work in the world and seen in the faces of those who did so much to help others through this time.  Importantly, we also realised the importance of physical human contact. No man is an island. It was wonderful to worship together again as a community and to sing our praises in fellowship with one another.  

 

Now, we are going back to the roots of our faith again, as the war in Ukraine sends shock waves round the world. We are disturbed by the horrific images of what is happening to ordinary people in cities and towns such as Kyiv, Odesa, Dnipro, Kharkiv, Mariupol and Lviv. Once again, we see “man’s inhumanity to man” and evil at work in the world.

 

So, we return to Jesus tempted by Satan in the wilderness. Jesus, resisted evil, but he didn’t defeat it. In his gospel, Luke tells us that Satan left him until an opportune time, (Luke 4:13).  Jesus again would have to struggle against temptations from the evil one. On Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus’ struggle in the Garden of Gethsemane. There he prayed for the cup of suffering to be taken from him, but he ended by saying to our heavenly Father, “your will be done”, (Matthew 26:36-46). Jesus took the way of suffering, the way of the cross, taking on the sins of the world. He was tormented physically, mentally and spiritually and at his lowest point even felt abandoned by God, the Father, when he cried out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). Shortly afterwards, he died and was buried in a borrowed tomb.

 

Three days later, Jesus was raised from the dead and before leaving his disciples and ascending into heaven, assured them, and us, that he is with us always, “to the end of the age”. We are living in the time between Jesus’ resurrection and ascension and his coming again in glory. So, the world is still troubled with evil, injustice and greed, but every time someone does an act of kindness or loves someone else, like Jesus first loved us, then God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven, (Matthew 6:10). We pray for the kingdom of God to come, (Matthew 6:10), and little by little, we are building it up here on earth.

 

In Ukraine, we see people turning to God, the God of justice, for strength and courage. We are moved by the suffering we have seen and are doing what we can, no matter how small our contribution may be. In the darkness, each act of kindness is a flicker of light. The light of the risen Jesus, giving hope to the world. We remember that Jesus came to earth because “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish, but have eternal life”, (John 3:16). Jesus came into the world, showing that God is not far away and aloof, but weeping for his children who suffer. One of Jesus’ names is “Emmanuel”, “God with us”. He is with us in the world we live in, with all its beauty and goodness, but also with its injustice, greed and evil. Jesus showed us so clearly, the extent of God’s love for all people, by dying on the cross, bringing us forgiveness and enabling us to return to God, the Father. His resurrection brings us eternal life, as Jesus conquered death itself, and the assurance that he is our risen, living Lord. He is with us now in all situations, in whatever life brings along. He is our light bringing hope in the darkest of places.    

 

This is part of the mystery of faith. We bring everything to God in prayer. When we cannot find the words, we simply and humbly pray, “Lord, have mercy”. We put all our trust in him. We join with the Psalmist in saying, “trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us”, (Psalm 62:8). “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you”, (James 4:8).

 

Reflecting on whatever your path is like at this time, be assured that God is with you and you can put your trust and hope in him. The same can be said for your church, circuit, country and the whole world.        

 

Reflecting on the war in Ukraine, I invite you to listen to “The Benedictus” from “The Armed Man” by Karl Jenkins and pray for the peace in Ukraine and the whole of the world - https://youtu.be/zc1Zoz-NUro

 

You may also like to hear this Ukrainian Folk Song - https://youtu.be/aaOChwNPg5o

 

Ways in which we can help the people of Ukraine can be found on the Methodist website using this link:-  https://www.methodist.org.uk/our-faith/prayer/ukraine/#b


I invite you to pray the prayer, which is printed below, and comes from the Methodist Church website.

 

Peace be with you this Lent, Holy Week, Easter and always,

 

Stephen    

prayer