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We said goodbye to my last parish eight years ago on Easter Day. Having been very happy there, it felt odd to have the sadness of farewell in the context of Resurrection celebration: “Alleluia. Christ is Risen!” in floods of tears!

This time our farewells are to be made on the eve of Lent, maybe a better liturgical fit. Lent is kept in imitation of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness after his baptism. In that time he reflected on his calling, on what God was asking of him. He broke new ground, away from the comfortable and familiar, and wrestled (in those strange, dream-like stories of temptation) with who he was and how he was to be faithful. Oxfordshire and Ripon College Cuddesdon is hardly the wilderness (!) but the sense of stepping out into the unknown to discover what blessings and challenges God has for the future is strong for me just now.

And, I hope, for all of us. Famously the Hebrews were reminded them that “here we have no abiding city” (Hebrews 13. 14) and the metaphor of journey is powerful for Christian discipleship. Specifically journey through the wilderness: Moses led a rabble of runaway slaves through the Red Sea out into the desert. There, through long ramblings and hard experiences, they were forged into God’s people and prepared for the Promised Land beyond the Jordan. That is the pattern for the Christian life between the waters of the baptism (the Red Sea) and death (the Jordan). Lent is an annual rehearsal in miniature of this pattern.

Diocese of Derby


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