Here is 'The Messenger' downloable for free: March Magazine.
Dear brothers and sisters,
On Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, I was vaccinated. I felt slightly conflicted about booking my appointment as it seemed that there were plenty of other people who ought to have been vaccinated before me. However, I had received the email from the NHS via the diocese so I did as I was told. Having chatted to another priest I can now see something of the logic, first, from the Church’s perspective as a vaccinated person I am able to more safely perform my ministry (especially those aspects that are best done in person such as funeral and housebound visits) and, second, from the government’s point of view if I, as your Vicar, have the vaccine then maybe some reluctant members of our church might do so as well. Whatever the Church’s and governments reasoning it was extremely well done, very smooth and efficient, and the hardest part was sitting still for 15 minutes afterwards in case my body reacted negatively to the vaccine. So, if you get contacted by the NHS let me encourage you to book in and get vaccinated, as it will not only protect you, but also those you meet. It was amazing to be served by so many willing and competent nurses and volunteers, even if I felt a little bit awkward being served in that particular way.
We are moving through Lent as you read this, a time of prayer and preparation for Easter. If you’ve given something up, keep going; if you’ve taken something up, keep going. Use this time as a preparation, so that on the other side of Easter you will be closer to Christ, and better able to serve Him as we are released from lockdown. What happened that first Easter is the culmination of Jesus’ service to us. Jesus Himself tells us in Matthew’s Gospel: “the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” Everything Christ did, from His incarnation, His birth, and through His three years of ministry was to serve us. But as that verse above tells us this service climaxed in Christ’s death on the cross. Our Lord served us… that feels a little awkward, doesn’t it? God serving us. If we think like that, well, we’re not alone, for Saint Peter thought so too. In John’s Gospel we’re told: ‘[Jesus] came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus replied, “You do not realise now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.”’ Peter feels awkward, he should be serving His Lord, not the other way round. But Jesus insists and hints, through His answer, that the foot washing points forward to His death which will serve to wash the whole world. What Peter doesn’t realised is that before we can serve, we must first be served. Before we can help others we must be helped. Before we can encourage others to follow Christ, we must be following Him ourselves. Here is what Lent is all about, preparing to be served by Christ on the cross; drawing closer to Him, so that we might then take Him out to others. What my dilemma over receiving the vaccine highlighted for me was that, like Peter, I didn’t like to be served. However, as Christians we do not exist just for ourselves, we are not Christians just so we can feel good about ourselves, no, we are made Christian by God so that we might reach out and serve others by pointing them to Christ. We are served so that we might serve.
So take the remainder of Lent as an opportunity to draw closer to Christ. Let Christ serve you by confessing your sins, by opening your heart to the Scriptures, and by putting aside those things which get in the way. Use Lent so that when we have celebrated Christ’s death and resurrection, we might go out and serve the people of Chorley, and we pray, bring many more to know and love Jesus.