Today we gather for the first Sunday of Lent and I welcome you to S. Michael’s. This date has a particular poignancy for Christchurch, being the fourth anniversary of the earthquakes which devastated our city. In these years much has been accomplished, yet for many people the trauma of that day, and the impact of the earthquakes generally, continue to be keenly felt. These concerns will be prominent in our prayers today at the beginning of our Lenten journey.
Lent is a time of renewal for us personally and for the Church. The readings that we hear over these weeks are chosen for those preparing for baptism at Easter. For those of us who are already baptised, they invite us on a journey towards the renewal of our baptismal vows at Easter.
Lent is also a penitential season. On Ash Wednesday we received the sign of the cross in ash on our foreheads. This means we own up to being a sinner, and the sign of the cross means we look for redemption to the saving death of Jesus. For those who have become separated from the Church, the season of Lent is a time to draw near again, bit by bit, that we may celebrate our own personal reconciliation at Easter.
Once again I invite you to use the Lenten Prayer of S. Ephrem the Syrian:
O Lord and Master of my life, keep from me the spirit of indifference and discouragement, lust of power and idle chatter.
Instead, grant to me, your servant, the spirit of wholeness of being, humility, patience, and love.
O Lord and King, grant me the grace to be aware of my sins and not to judge my brother or sister; for you are blessed now and ever and for ever. Amen.
Pope Francis in his Lenten Message for 2015 spoke about the indifference that is one of the hallmarks of this age. We are subjected daily to a diet of commercial ‘news’ or infomercials, which packages some of the serious concerns of the world along with advertising and trivia. The understandable response is indifference as our own ‘first world’ problems take centre stage, and selfishness results. The season of Lent invites us to look a bit deeper into what is going on, and to dare to be discomforted by it. Such discomfort is a holy discomfort when it leads us to prayer. This gives the Holy Spirit the opportunity to ‘make our hearts firm’ (James 5: 8). A firm heart is a merciful heart, one that will be strong enough to make a stand, and generous enough to offer help.
Please pray for me as I do for you.
Fr Andrew Starky
• Sunday School: during the 10:00 am Mass. Details Marla Hughes (960 0753).
• Sales Table: in the hall after Mass. Details Anne Ladd (981 5012).
• You are invited to a cup of tea or coffee after the evening service each Sunday.
• The Meditation Group meets tomorrow at 5:15 pm in the parish lounge. Details Kathryn Starky (385 0197) or Margaret Maclagan (359 9215).
• The Bible Study Group meets tomorrow at 7:15 pm in the school staffroom. Details Peter Oakley (960 0974).
• Finding your place in God’s story: Alistair Donaldson, 11 Mondays from 23 Feb. Details Laidlaw College (354 4270 ext 901).
• The Vestry meets on Tuesday, beginning with Mass at 7:00 pm.
• Vege Co-op: orders and deliveries on Wednesdays. Details Kathryn Starky.
• Lent Study Groups: details on previous page.
• Lunch at Regatta on Avon: next Sunday at 12:15 pm, all welcome. Cost $12. Details Kathryn Starky (385 0197).
• World Day of Prayer: 6 March, 10:00 am at Knox Church. Details on poster.
• Retreat in daily life: 14–21 March, S. Christopher’s. Contact Margaret Shearing firstname.lastname@example.org for details.
• WW1 Centenary Project: thanks from Jill Woodside to all who made poppies. The national target of 18,000 is close to being reached.
• Inasmuch basket: please continue to support the City Mission with your gifts.
Message from Ben Randall
For the beautiful icon and card that were part of the gift I was given at Candlemas to mark my leaving for S. John’ —thank you to everyone. I will treasure this. It is incredibly special for me to have an icon of S. Michael from my home church. I look forward to seeing you all again and consider myself amply blessed to have your support, prayers and friendship sustaining me.