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Parish Magazine Article - February 2024

Derek Chedzey in front of Hereford Cathedral

Parish magazine article February 2024

Ash Wednesday this year will fall on the 14th February which of course is also St Valentine’s day!  Ash Wednesday is traditionally the beginning of Lent and this has been marked over the years as a period of self-discipline, fasting and spiritual journeying. It is a period of penitence and self-examination and seeing ourselves from God’s perspective. Even if we don’t have a strong faith we have learnt through the work of Educational Neuroscientists that intentional self-reflection helps us to learn and enhances how we apply, transfer, retain and recall new ideas and information.

The bible recognises that as we go through life we will be tempted and tested and that our response to those times will help to shape the depth of our spiritual lives. I am often astounded by the way many Christians have been shaped by sermons and theology that promise good things but never talk about the cost of following Jesus.  The writer and theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer called this a theology of cheap grace.

“Cheap grace is the grace we bestow on ourselves. Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession, absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.”

Lent gives us an opportunity to realign our lives with God’s values, it gives us a prolonged and focussed time to reflect and pray and to read the bible and deepen our faith. The 40-day period is time enough to build in new habits and actions into our lives, which will have a lasting effect.

With ongoing war in Ukraine, the conflict between Israel & Hamas and so much uncertainty in our world I am finding that there is a great deal of anxiety in society about the future and a sense of aimlessness and general anger and tiredness. Lent gives us as Christians an opportunity to give these feelings back to God and to ask him to heal and restore us. It is also, as Paul reminds us, a time to recognise that our human experiences are common and that whilst heightened by the personal challenges or world events, are not unique to us but the difference is that our faith will endure.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to all. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”

1 Corinthians 10:13

As Christians, whilst we can use this time for reflection, we also know how the story ends and we have an enduring hope within us because Jesus has conquered death and brought forgiveness to us. We are forever Easter people who live in the light of the resurrection and we can mark Lent because of his sacrifice for us. The rhythm of the spiritual and liturgical year is a helpful tool to remind us that there is a cost and a purpose to our faith, which is not about self-benefit and self-fulfilment but about generosity, servant heartedness and a simple humbler faith. As Christians, we have a message of hope for a better future and Lent gives us the perfect opportunity to prepare our hearts and minds to share the good news.


The Venerable Derek Chedzey

Archdeacon of Hereford


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