Feb 01

philsnelson2I wonder if you’re among those who give up chocolate for Lent, or maybe like my daughter it’ll be crisps (she does like crisps more than chocolate!) or, like my son told us a few years ago, he’d be giving up broccoli this year for Lent (he doesn’t like or eat broccoli… ever!!).

Yes it’s February already and Lent is fast approaching. I find quite a lot of people give up something for Lent and why not?! Or actually I want to ask, “Why?” What are they doing it for? A lot of people I talk to don’t really seem to know, except perhaps that they’re doing it as some sort of exercise in self-discipline or even hoping to be slightly healthier by the end of it. Fair enough I suppose but is that really what it’s meant to be about?

I know a lady who doesn’t give anything up for Lent, but instead does something extra (no not to do with chocolate). Usually this has been to organise a weekly lunch for the period of Lent, invite speakers to talk about aspects of Christian faith and people to come and share a simple lunch, fellowship, to listen and to reflect. I think she is pretty close to the mark.

Lent isn’t exactly Biblical but it has been part of Christian tradition from early on. To begin with it was a period of preparation, a time of concentrated study and prayer for those who were getting ready for their baptism which would have taken place early on Easter Sunday morning celebrating the resurrection life of Jesus. And the rest of the church community joined in the preparation too, taking time to seek spiritual renewal and increasingly focus on the Easter story and what it means to be part of Christ’s body, the Church.

There is also perhaps an element of fasting in giving up something for Lent and fasting is about making a sacrifice to seek God more intensely, more fervently. You could say it’s about giving something else up to make more time to pray and seek God. So that’s what I encourage you to do.

At Emmanuel we are planning a Lent course on Wednesday evenings and also some prayer resources for people to follow. We make it of our preparation and build-up through Lent as we journey together toward Good Friday and the cross and our celebrations on Easter Sunday.

If you are going to give something up for Lent, why not use the giving up as a means of prompting you to seek more of God. Every time you miss whatever you’ve given up, say a prayer instead.

If you’re not giving up something for Lent, why not choose a way to put extra effort into seeking more of God. Try taking time to seek spiritual renewal and increasingly focus on the Easter story.

God encourages us to seek Him and really does want us to discover the wonder and blessing of His presence in our lives.

Yours in Christ,




You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the LORD…
Jeremiah 29:13

written by Park Avenue Methodist Church

Jan 02

Deacon Richard BeckettHospitality is a word we use a great deal at the University Chaplaincy when we are talking about the welcome that we give students.

As individual Christians and churches we can learn a lot about the welcome we give people from the example set by Abraham when he welcomed three strangers to his tent. You can read about Abraham’s actions in Genesis 18, verses 1-8 but here I want to just highlight some of the striking details and share some thoughts on their significance for us.

Abraham sits at the entrance to his tent in the heat of the day and he looks up and is startled to see three men standing there.

And suddenly out of habit the whole Jewish tradition of hospitality kicks in and even though Abraham was ‘already very old’ he hurried from the entrance to meet them and bowed low to the ground.

I remember visiting a church in Bermondsey (the majority of the congregation were Ghanaian or Zimbabwean.) I was there for the first time that day and I was surprised when the minister asked the congregation if there were any visitors there and would they stand and introduce themselves!

That’s the normal tradition in many churches and a sure sign of hospitality but as a leader, I am not sure I would ever have the nerve to ask newcomers to do that myself (too British and reserved perhaps?) but actually it felt quite special to me and there was no doubt who the new people were and were especially warmly welcomed after the service too.

  • Our welcome when people come to our churches needs to be appropriate and practical – simple things like making sure families with children know about the facilities available and what provision is available for them can make all the difference; Perhaps showing them the rooms where their children will be, and yes, even asking people to introduce themselves during the service might be appropriate. Such things as making an effort to overcome barriers where English is not the first language can help too.

Then Abraham springs into action and offers more hospitality – he urges the visitors to stay – offers foot washing and rest and ‘ a little water….and something to eat’, which turns out to be bread made from the finest flower, a choice tender calf and curds and milk!

  • That says something about how we go out of our way to be generous when welcoming people. Do we offer the best we can? Have you done a quality check on your tea, coffee or biscuits lately? Are cups and saucers the easiest thing to handle when you have young children?

Amazingly Abraham and Sarah demonstrated their hospitality even before they knew who their visitors were which says so much to us about how we too should express God’s unconditional hospitality as we welcome others into our churches, our homes and our lives.

Happy New Year

Deacon Richard Beckett

written by Park Avenue Methodist Church