My dear Friends,
First, let me give out sincere thanks to those who are reading these weekly letters. It is good to get feedback from time to time, and indeed there are some who often give back a word or so when receiving the letter, and that is always appreciated. I was happy last week to be corrected over my ascription of a famous saying to Robert Browning when in fact it was Bobbie Burns, and have posted a corrected version of my 12th Feb letter to www.TruthWithLanguage.com . Do please come back to me with any corrections (as I have just seen another one).
The season of Lent began yesterday as I write, and Win and I were pleased to host a comfortable number here at home for the Ash Wednesday service at 5 pm., which reminds us that the day is truly not a bit less special for being minus the usual "Ag Show" this year, though of course there are those who will be feeling the loss of that very sorely. Because of the pandemic, we perhaps do not so much need to think about “giving up” things for Lent, because people in general have not been strangers to giving up things already. They have been affected by, say, loss of income or the denial of travel or the customary presence from time to time of family members and some have felt these and other such losses very keenly. But what we can perhaps do in a special way this year is to offer those customary benefits back to the Lord who gave them in abundance, perhaps without the gratitude from us then that would have been appropriate for us to offer. If a bereaved Job said in the Authorised (KJ) Version, "Naked came I out of my mother's womb, and naked shall I return thither: the LORD gave, and the LORD hath taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD", then we also can bless the name of the Lord, and certainly so as a discipline of Lent, because of all the gifts that the Lord bestowed upon us in times past, especially those for which He has been inadequately thanked or for which He was never adequately given the glory. Thus let any bitterness, even small, in our own souls be turned into praise.
The Collect for next week from the First Sunday in Lent, will be
O Lord, who for our sake didst fast forty days and forty nights: Give us grace to use such abstinence, that, our flesh being subdued to the Spirit, we may ever obey thy godly motions in righteousness and true holiness, to thy honour and glory, who livest and reignest with the Father and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.
The weekly Collect is accompanied by the Collect for the First Day of Lent (Ash Wednesday) throughout the Season:
Almighty and everlasting God, who hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent: Create and make in us new and contrite hearts, that we worthily lamenting our sins, and acknowledging our wretchedness, may obtain of thee, the God of all mercy, perfect remission and forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
We may note that the emphasis in next week’s Collect is not upon the severity of the “abstinence”, but upon its being effectually turned to the Lord’s “honour and glory”. The recurring Ash Wednesday Collect reminds us of the assurance that the Almighty and everlasting God “hatest nothing that thou hast made, and dost forgive the sins of all them that are penitent”. What the Lord seeks for us is absolutely always for our good. As we acknowledge this we are reminded that it is our feelings and our responses to life that need counsel and help, rather than anything about the life that we are given needing to be fundamentally changed. Make your “garden” with which He has bestowed your soul a thing of beauty! It does not need to be all mown down first.
May the identity traps now so common in our time be fought back! The gates of Hell need not prevail!
For directions about the services this Sunday the 21st Feb, please see the website www.truthwithlanguage.com.
The schedule of readings sent out earlier this week also reminds us that on Wednesday the 24th Feb we observe St. Matthias’ Day.
May the Lord with Providence both severe and kind grant us true direction in these days that He has made.
In His mighty and blessed Name,