01344 761050 St Sebastian's Church Office office@stsebastians.org.uk

Dear Friends

The month of March was originally the first month of the year in older versions of the Roman calendar because of its association with the first day of spring.   According to Royal Museums Greenwich, the 2024 Spring equinox occurs on 19th March at 11:06pm (GMT), a day of importance for our local farms in and around Wokingham, Bracknell and Crowthorne.   But March is better known for the season of Lent.

Lent is the period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) before Easter, which begun on Ash Wednesday, 14th February, last month.  We marked our foreheads in ash from burnt palm crosses and olive oil to recognise that we came from dust and to dust shall we return.   Lent is a season of reflection and preparation before Easter at the end of this month.   We copy the example of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice and withdrawal into the desert for 40 days.

Lent is marked by fasting, both from food and festivities.   Some people mark Lent by withdrawing from things like Facebook, Instagram, Tik Tok, some from chocolate and others from alcohol, just like the Catholic Bar Owner in the US who had Budweiser Light bottled Beer (either low alcohol or non-alcohol) in the shopping window.  When asked why, he said that he only sells them in Lent!

Bob Buford once said: “there are things you can’t dream your way out of, think your way out of, buy your way out of, or work your way out of.  You can only trust your way out of.”  And sometimes, that’s what we’re called to do in Lent.  Out of our reflection and preparation of our hearts and mind, we’re called to increase our trust in Christ.  The more we trust our faith in God, the greater our readiness and preparation for Easter and beyond.  We’re better prepared for life’s calamities too, whatever they may be, with that extra bit of confidence and peace.  How, I hear you ask?

God’s promise was never that life would be fair, that if we were a good person, illness and injury would spare us and would only happen to persons who deserve it.  A teacher once warned that expecting the world to treat us fairly because we were a good person was like expecting the bull not to charge at us because we were a vegan!  God’s promise was that when we had to face the pain and unfairness of the world as we inevitably would, we would not have to face it alone, we’re better prepared for He is with us and puts us within a church community with loving arms to surround us.  Somehow, life becomes tolerable because of those well-wishers who walked alongside us.  And that becomes the process by which we’re refined.    I have conducted many funerals, for example, to empathise with bereaved families experiencing the grief of losing a loved one.  But I remain confident with reflection and preparation, there’s light at the end of the tunnel or in the darkest hour of night, dawn is just around the corner.   As a praying church community here at St Sebastian’s, we’re with all families around here and across Wokingham, Crowthorne and Bracknell every step of the way as they navigate life’s journeys.

Lent remains for me a time of reflection and preparation for Easter and beyond.  We surely need it and so we’ve already begun bible studies of five “Come and See” sessions using the “Pilgrim’s Journey: The Lord’s Prayer” (individual copies available) containing Bible studies, prayers, ideas for reflection, human stories and ways to take the themes further.    Studies start at 8pm until 9.30pm for the remaining three Wednesday sessions on 6th, 13th and 20th March at St Sebastian’s Church.  I do hope that you’ll be able to join us.

Stay blessed with love

 Reverend Rickey Simpson-Gra
Parish of Wokingham St Sebastian’s