Lent begins this year on Ash Wednesday, 14th February, and lasts for 40 days until Easter.
Lent began in the early church as 40 days of preparation time for new Christians to prepare for baptism at Easter. The whole Church started to keep this 40 days to go back to the heart of the gospel and walk with the candidates as they prepared for this life-changing moment.
Christians give up things for Lent as a spiritual discipline, remembering the 40 days Jesus fasted in the wilderness. We also take on spiritual exercises to go deeper in our faith.
Here is a spiritual exercise that everyone can do together, for the whole Diocese of Oxford.
We are exploring together what it means to be a more Christ-like Church: contemplative, compassionate and courageous. As we make that journey together, in every church, I invite you to read with me in Lent the profound and wonderful story of the raising of Lazarus in John 11 and 12.
The story of Lazarus stands at the very centre of the Gospel of John. In the story, Jesus lives out what it means to live the abundant life he talks about in John 10.10: life in all its fullness.
This abundant life is not about being busy or rich or famous.
Life in all its fullness is to live a life which is contemplative, compassionate and courageous. In the story of Lazarus, Jesus lives by his own deep understanding of what God is doing. He is moved by the suffering of Lazarus and Martha and Mary. He understands fully that the raising of Lazarus will lead to his own passion and death – yet he stands before the tomb and calls to his friend to come out.
I’m inviting the whole diocese to walk with me through the story of Lazarus in Lent. I’ve written 21 short reflections in the style of the well-known series, Reflections for Daily Prayer. I invite you to dwell in the story and read it with me over the first half of Lent.
The reflections are available in two ways. You can order the booklet, Abundant Life and I have also recorded the 21 reflections and these will be released daily as a podcast beginning on Thursday 15th February.
For small groups who have already done The Beatitudes studies, there are three sessions for small groups on Abundant Life.
Yvonne Morris has also written a family activity sticker book, God Venture through the Story of Lazarus.
I looked around for some liturgical resources based on the Gospel of John to use in the prayers to introduce the group study. I was surprised to find that there are no canticles based on texts in John’s Gospel in Common Worship Daily Prayer (as far as I could tell).
So I wrote a canticle in a verse and response format, based on the “I am” sayings of John’s Gospel. You might want to use it in your small group, in your own prayers or in public worship.
Jesus comes so that we might share in abundant life–life which is contemplative, compassionate and courageous–his own life.
Dwell for a time in this story in this season of Lent as we reflect on our call to be a more Christ-like Church
Blessed are you Lord Jesus for you are the bread of life
Whoever comes to you shall never be hungry (John 6.35)
Blessed are you Lord Jesus for you are the light of the world
The one who follows you will not walk in darkness but will have the light of life (John 8.12)
Blessed are you Lord Jesus for you are the gate for the sheep
You have come that we might have life and have that life abundantly (John 10.9-10)
Blessed are you Lord Jesus for you are the good shepherd
You lay down your life for the sheep (John 10.11)
Blessed are you Lord Jesus for you are the resurrection and the life
Everyone who lives and believes in you will never die (John 11.25,26)
Blessed are you Lord Jesus for you are the Way, the Truth and the Life
No-one comes to the Father except through you (John 14.6)
Blessed are you Lord Jesus for you are the true vine and we are the branches
Those who abide in you and you in them bear much fruit (John 15.5)
Glory to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit
As it was in the beginning, is now and shall be for ever. Amen.