We live in a world that’s given its basic rhythms by the familiar seasons of the year. Just as they do for the ‘natural’ world, these cycles are designed to give us rest, renewal and flourishing with different emphases at different times. The Christian calendar picks up on this same rhythm, using the annual flow of the year to retell the story of God’s redemption plan through Jesus, as we celebrate Christmas, Easter, Pentecost, and so on.

But living within this seasonal cycle does not mean living in circles, like a repetitive Groundhog Day. As we journey through the Christian seasons of the year, they’re meant to lead us deeper into the radical ramifications of what it means for us to be the leading edge of the new creation that has broken into our world through Jesus. This is life-changing, world-altering stuff, if we can grasp it.

So, how do we live into the radical cycle of the Christian seasons, without just going around in circles? The answer lies in our unique attribute as human creatures. Unlike other animals, which live instinctively and reflexively, we are what philosopher Charles Taylor calls “hermeneutical creatures,” meaning that we have “desires about our desires.” Simply put, we get to choose whether the desires and habits we have, are the ones we want. For example, we may resist our craving for sugar because of a greater desire to be healthy. This means that, in a world of persuasion, we get to choose what sort of life we want.

We see this vividly in Jesus’ forty-day encounter with the Devil right before the start of his ministry. Jesus’ ancient enemy offers him some easy outs, appealing to his lower cravings and tempting him to live according to the rhythms of the old creation — to make the same choices people always had. But Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, resists these cravings and chooses something different. He chooses to embrace the radical path of following God’s calling and trusting His purposes and plans, and the rest is history.

The Early church took Jesus’ bold example seriously, and used the forty days leading up to Easter as a time of refocusing their lives around him, and preparing for the coming of Resurrection Sunday. That’s why we observe Lent, because it encourages us to live further into the radical mysteries of following Jesus. So, I want to invite you into this positive season of preparation for Easter with two practical suggestions. First, you could “take up & read,” by reading a chapter of the Gospels every day. Luke and John have 45 chapters between them, so you could read both and still have a day to spare before Easter (there’s actually 46 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter)! My second suggestion is to take up courage in the Spirit. We can only follow Jesus and do what he did because we have the same Spirit within us. So why not commit to the adventure of stepping further into engaging God’s empowering Spirit within your life. You could start by coming to the movie we’re showing at St Paul’s this Friday night, “Christ in You.” It will challenge you, but it will also call you into the radical journey of following Jesus.

Blessings,
Rev Jonny Grant