Church of England Diocese of Guildford Dunsfold


17 Mar 2021, 6:45 p.m.

Last Sunday was Refreshment Sunday – traditionally a break in the austerity of Lent. Flowers can return to church and the liturgical colour changes to pink. Refreshment Sunday has become Mothering Sunday with some of the same features of flowers and colour. We certainly have had ‘Refreshment Sunday’ but we weren’t able to partake in any of the refreshment which the fourth Sunday in Lent usually provides.

Keeping a ‘holy’ Lent has more to do with seeking new ways of refreshment and stillness than it has to do with austerity and self-denial. Keeping a holy Lent is what prepares us for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus when death is finally defeated forever. If we rush Lent then we deprive ourselves of a part of Easter. It goes without saying that without the crucifixion there would have been no resurrection.

This Lent, perhaps like never before, we are all experiencing restrictions which are in addition to our own disciplines and self-denial. In the past we could rely on the support of others as we undergo our chosen Lenten discipline; someone to talk to, someone to distract us when we’re feeling especially tempted by the chocolate or the biscuits; a bit of visiting or shopping or doing something with another. All these aren’t available this year. So then, how are we doing? Are we in a place where no amount of ‘refreshment’ Sundays, or otherwise, can compensate for the deprivation we are experiencing? Perhaps we have found, or are finding, new ways of feeling supported this Lent, for example new ways of praying or of being still or of keeping in contact with others?

I am an advocate of ‘taking something on for Lent’ rather than giving something up. For me, taking on something stands a chance of becoming a lasting feature of life whilst giving up something meant that I spent the entire season thinking of what I was missing and I found myself simply counting down the days until the Easter indulgence.

Although none of us is likely to consider giving up ‘seeing and hugging people’ for Lent we are all undergoing that discipline. And we won’t experience the relaxation of this on Easter Day. We are where we are for the sake of one another. What are we going to take from this time into the future? What have we learned about what is really important to us? What have we found out about ourselves? And how have we discovered Christ in new ways, in new situations and in unfamiliar territory? Without suffering there is no resurrection. May we continue a holy Lent in joyful expectation of new life.

Dean Dianna