Have a joyful Lent – think outside the box!

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Each year you give us this joyful season  – says one of the prayers at Mass in Lent. Really, joyful?

Well, for many people Lent  seems to be about giving up chocolate, gin or bacon sandwiches. Many Christians try a little more than that and make an effort to give up eating so much meat. This can all seem rather heavy going, inward looking and just a little in danger of suggesting that God is a bit of a grumpy old soul, or at least of making Lent a sombre and rather depressing season.

Let’s think again. Let it be a joyful season. After all Lent is about getting ready for Easter – preparing for the great feast. That needs focus, and it means getting priorities right. That may mean ‘giving up’ some things that distract us, or get in the way, but it also means looking forward joyfully to what is to come.

So as Lent approaches, and begins, a priority is to do a little looking at our lives – a little spring cleaning.

Our Church has helpful times of  worship, meeting and prayer to help us in Lent. Think about which you will take part in.

We can do this by examining our lives – examining our consciences and seeing if we need to alter our priorities and turn in a new direction. This website has some simple, direct questions which are useful to think over as lent begins. In the days of Lent (and beyond) it’s good at the end of the day to review the day, and to pray. The Examen, a simple prayer exercise can be helpful. (Click here for an audio introduction to the Examen).

And then why not think ‘outside the box’ and make up your own ideas for Lent, and write them down.

Make-Lent-AwesomeSome suggestions (drawn from this website). During Lent: Only buy things you really need, collect 40 things in the 40 days which you no longer need and give them to a charity shop, every day say three nice things to a partner, friend, child or coworker, no eating between meals, be positive – don’t gossip. (The website gives more great suggestions).

Try it – have a joyful – an awesome Lent!

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Clean Monday – Let’s go fly a kite

You may well have heard of Shrove Tuesday and Ash Wednesday but what of Clean Monday? Well our sisters and brothers of the Orthodox churches will probably explain all about it for you.

kitesOn Clean Monday ( in Greek Καθαρή Δευτέρα) the Orthodox Lent begins, not with sombre faces, ash crosses and lamenting – but with kite flying, special jokes, mock trials, joyful processions… In Greece it is a public holiday.

What a fun way to begin Lent, and what an encouragement to see Lent as a springtime in our faith and lives. One of the prayers at Mass for Lent says ‘Each year you give us this joyful season when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery with mind and heart renewed…’

Well we begin Lent at St Chrysostom’s somberly with ash, and many people ‘give something up’ for lent. Let’s make it a joyful Lent! Let’s think about taking something joyful up to help renew our minds and hearts!

Perhaps Kite flying, but please let’s not follow the custom of the people of the port of Galaxidi in Greece who on clean Monday dress in old clothes and throw coloured flour at one another!

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Love God #Bibleverse January 31st

Our final Bible verse in this January sequence is an encouragement to out God at the centre of life

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. (Deuteronomy 6:5)

How does your love for God influence how you see the world?

Does it make a difference to your daily life?

The passage from the Book of Deuteronomy comes in a section often headed ‘The Great Commandment.’ The people were instructed to place the words in the forefront of their minds and lives (Deuteronomy 6. 1-9)

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The Great Commandment

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the ordinances—that theLord your God charged me to teach you to observe in the land that you are about to cross into and occupy, so that you and your children and your children’s children may fear the Lord your God all the days of your life, and keep all his decrees and his commandments that I am commanding you, so that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and observe them diligently, so that it may go well with you, and so that you may multiply greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, has promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love theLord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart.Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead,and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

Think how you could put the words centrally for you.

You could have them in a prominent place in your home, and in a diary… You may choose to post them via social media. Perhaps find a lovely printed version and print it and even frame it.

As we finish this month’s course of Bible reading these are words to hold on to as we go forward, and may God bless you with love and peace as you consider and try to apply these words.

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Do, Love, Walk Bible Verse 30th january

As we come towards the end of our Bible verse in January today’s Bible verse acts as a key for daily living and as a guide to how we live in relationship with our world and other people.

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He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:8

 

Think over this verse and consider carefully these questions:

What does this look like in practice?

How might this influence how you live?

The passage from which today’s Bible verse comes reminds us that it is not how we worship but rather how we live that is important (Micah 6:6-8)

What God Requires

‘With what shall I come before the Lord,
and bow myself before God on high?
Shall I come before him with burnt-offerings,
with calves a year old?
Will the Lord be pleased with thousands of rams,
with tens of thousands of rivers of oil?
Shall I give my firstborn for my transgression,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’
He has told you, O mortal, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God?

Today you could find a piece of card and write down the words:

do justice, love kindness, walk humbly ?

and memorise them, or write them, or print them, carefully and display somewhere where you will see it regularly. If you use social media perhaps you could post the Bible verse on it saying its the ‘verse of the day’ you are thinking about today – after all it’s worth sharing!

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The mystery of God Bible verse January 29th

Our images and pictures of God can only begin to comprehend the true nature of God. Today’s Bible verse reminds us of the mystery and unknown nature of the divine

The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, “The Lord.” Exodus 34:5a, 6

How does this aid your understanding of God?

Exodus 34

Now read the passage the verse comes from and try to picture the scene. (Exodus 34. 1-8)

The Lord said to Moses, ‘Cut two tablets of stone like the former ones, and I will write on the tablets the words that were on the former tablets, which you broke. Be ready in the morning, and come up in the morning to Mount Sinai and present yourself there to me, on the top of the mountain. No one shall come up with you, and do not let anyone be seen throughout all the mountain; and do not let flocks or herds graze in front of that mountain.’ So Moses cut two tablets of stone like the former ones; and he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand the two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name, ‘The Lord.’ The Lord passed before him, and proclaimed,
‘The Lord, the Lord,
a God merciful and gracious,
slow to anger,
and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness,
keeping steadfast love for the thousandth generation,
forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin,
yet by no means clearing the guilty,
but visiting the iniquity of the parents
upon the children
and the children’s children,
to the third and the fourth generation.’
And Moses quickly bowed his head towards the earth, and worshipped.

The passage is both mysterious and awesome. God is described as mystery yet also close at hand. Consider in your own life times when you have felt the wonder and mystery – the ‘otherness’ – of God and times when God has, at it were, stood with you.

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Homeless among us

Last Sunday was Homelessness Sunday. It’s a call to us all and especially the Church not to marginalise social justice. At St Chrysostom’s issues of homelessness have been very much in our thoughts and prayers recently as we work together to help a group of local homeless men.

Mycah recently took part in the Sleep Out challenge of the Church Urban Fund, together with Revd Penny King (Hulme Hall Chaplain) and Hannah and Francesca, Manchester University students. They raised an incredible £558.48, as together they drew attention to the issues of homelessness. Here are some thoughts from Mycah:

We slept outside in Dalton Ellis Hall grounds in the middle of December. We were lucky that night, we expected to be cold but the temperature didn’t dip towards freezing.  The four of us had support from the community and church members of nearby parishes with supplies, and encouragement.  I remember waking up sometime around three in the morning and listening to the birds for a few minutes thinking it must be close to sunrise, but daybreak was still a few hours away.

oct15-dec15 932We surprised ourselves by making it through the night without issue and going home with a fond memory and the feeling that we had done some good raising money.

For the next few days I had people who had kept up with our progress comment how brave we all were and how it must have taken a lot of courage to sleep out all night.

On one face of the event, it was just that.  We were four young women who had not experienced living rough before, and had been given supplies to help us through the night with ease and comfort – the one night that we were sleeping outside.  It was an easy task when we compare what others face as a daily and nightly reality.

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But to turn what we did on its ear a bit, there was a strong experience of witness to our Siblings in Christ that we four will never be the same because of our night sleeping out.    There was something changing because of our accompaniment – including a different kind of understanding when we approach helping vulnerable communities.  We chose to do what we did, when he finished we could ‘go home.’ Many of the homeless do not have that choice. We came to understand the stressful uncertainty of finding somewhere relatively secure to sleep for a few hours   We experienced how bone chillingly cold the damp early mornings could be without shelter.  These insights challenge us to consider and act upon the needs of the homeless of today.

 Thank you to everyone who was involved in the Sleep Out, and to those who continue to aid and engage those who live on the margins.

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Wounded and crushed Bible Verse January 28th

For the Christian today’s Bible verse connects with the suffering and death of Jesus Christ, and what that means for us.

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He was wounded for our transgressions, crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the punishment that made us whole, and by his bruises we are healed.  Isaiah 53:5

How significant are we to God?  How special does this make you feel?

Here now is the Bible verse in its context. With the thoughts which have arisen from your answers to the questions read now the passage carefully.  Isaiah 53. 1-12

Who has believed what we have heard?
And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?
For he grew up before him like a young plant,
and like a root out of dry ground;
he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,
nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
He was despised and rejected by others;
a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;
and as one from whom others hide their faces
he was despised, and we held him of no account.


Surely he has borne our infirmities
and carried our diseases;
yet we accounted him stricken,
struck down by God, and afflicted.
But he was wounded for our transgressions,
crushed for our iniquities;
upon him was the punishment that made us whole,
and by his bruises we are healed.
All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have all turned to our own way,
and the Lord has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.


He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,
yet he did not open his mouth;
like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,
and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,
so he did not open his mouth.
By a perversion of justice he was taken away.
Who could have imagined his future?
For he was cut off from the land of the living,
stricken for the transgression of my people.
They made his grave with the wicked
and his tomb with the rich,
although he had done no violence,
and there was no deceit in his mouth.


Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.
When you make his life an offering for sin,
he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;
through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.
   Out of his anguish he shall see light;
he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.
The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,
and he shall bear their iniquities.
Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,
and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;
because he poured out himself to death,
and was numbered with the transgressors;
yet he bore the sin of many,
and made intercession for the transgressors.

This passage raises large areas to think about and ponder. The Church offers us the season of Lent to enter into the depths of our faith and to reflect on how it shapes our lives. As Lent approaches think how you can use the season for yourself, and to encourage others. Look at what your church offers you to help you in Lent and plan what you will take part in.

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