It's the first Sunday of Lent and I have just returned from our early morning Eucharist and am enjoying a coffee before our main morning service. I quite like the liturgical change that Lent brings. For us at Christ Church no flowers in Church, more reflective hymns, and an emphasis on self-examination and abstinence.
I notice, however, that some churches rather than encouraging people to 'give up' things for Lent are encouraging people to 'take up' things for Lent. This fits well with an age that doesn't think it should ever have to do without anything. Not that the two are mutually exclusive, of course. Our Lord did without food and took up prayer, but I don't think that's quite what those talking about by taking up something up for Lent mean.
Although the liturgical emphasis maybe on quiet and reflection, Lent here at Christ Church is actually quite a busy time of year. For me lectures at Ming Hua, our theological college, a series of Lenten Bible Studies, the Church AGM and a raft of important meetings beginning tomorrow with our Church Council meeting: the last before our AGM.
The Lenten Bible Studies this year are going to be on the Eucharist. This is at the suggestion of a member of the congregation after the Lenten Bible Studies last year. Our worship here is Eucharistic, but it is easy to assume that people understand why and what it is we are doing when we come to Communion. It is also the first time for a while that I have led a series of talks on the subject and I am quite looking forward to it.
I have written about my own experience and how I approach the Eucharist on this blog (see under Eucharist) and this will be the approach I will be following in the talks.
On Wednesday, I intend to begin by talking about my own experience first as a non-Eucharistic evangelical, and then the discovery of its importance while studying the Bible at Bible College, through to celebrating regularly as a priest. I then want to look at its background in the Passover Feast, particularly its violent and bloody background. We often forget the significance of the language of the Eucharist as a sacrifice followed by drinking blood. This is perhaps why some prefer to focus on the Eucharist as a celebration of the gifts of creation - so much nicer than thinking about sharing in a death!
Calvin believed that Christians should receive Communion regularly and that the Lord's Supper should be at the heart of the Church. Many Calvinists subsequently ignored this aspect of his teaching. I hope over Lent that we can think at Christ Church about why it really is so important that we keep the Eucharist at the centre of our worship. I will keep you informed.
Have a good Lent!