Ash Wednesday reflection: 17 February 2021
The Book of Joel begins with a pandemic: there have been successive invasions of locusts which have destroyed the Agrarian economy of ancient Israel. Joel regards this ‘natural’ disaster as a judgement on the nation. He doesn’t list, as some other prophets do, the wrongdoings of the nation but we can imagine what they might have been. They will have included a lack of preparedness for sudden disaster, neglect of cultivable land and storage of food to see a nation through such an emergency.
I am sure that some features of this pandemic will remind people of what we have been passing through this last year: our own abuse of the natural world and, in particular, the animal kingdom may well have led to this dangerous virus crossing the species barrier and running riot through human societies quite unprepared for it. There have been other recent instances of viruses crossing the species barrier and we should have been warned. In this sense, at least, what has happened is judgement which we have called down on ourselves.
Joel calls for a solemn act of corporate repentance to ward off the worst effects of the calamity and to prepare for a better future. It is a pity that many calls for the nation to repent and to pray for an end to the present pandemic have gone unheard in our present situation. All hope has been invested in Science, which is also God given, but can only address part of the damage that has been caused and does not have the resources to bring healing and wholeness of mind, body and spirit.
Joel does not stop at asking for repentance, fasting and prayer only regarding the pandemic. He sees the disaster as presaging the coming Day of the Lord when there will be a final reckoning for which the nation needs to prepare even more than for a natural disaster like an invasion of locusts. He emphasises the corporate nature of such prayer and fasting: everyone is to gather, no one is excused and some have a special function in the intercession.
When this happens the Lord promises deliverance from natural or human danger and promises the blessing which became the Church’s way of understanding what had happened at Pentecost, even as it preached the imminence and the inevitability of the coming Day of the Lord and the way of salvation: whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (Joel 2:28-32, Acts 2:17-21).
In Joel the emphasis on the corporate, contains within it, a reference also to the need for personal response: even the bride and the bridegroom are not excused because they are on honeymoon!
Jesus too, in his teaching on Prayer, fasting and giving has both dimensions in mind: general teaching for his followers corporately is immediately followed by personal challenge: when you (singular) give don’t do it to earn recognition in society. Give secretly and you will be rewarded by your Father. When you pray (singular) don’t do it for sake of a public show. Pray inwardly and you will be heard. When you fast ( singular again) don’t look miserable so everyone knows you are fasting. Be cheerful and well turned out and God will heed the intention of your fast.
As in the Old, so in the New Testament, the importance of corporate repentance is held together with need for a personal response( Acts2:38-40). Let us then keep Lent together, in any way that is possible in these circumstances, but let us also respond personally with prayer, fasting and giving.
- This reflection has been written specially for Gafcon UK by Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali
It has also been posted on this website here
Gafcon UK News
CEEC have produced video resources, entitled ‘One’, showing evangelical Anglicans in England discussing the issue of race from a biblical perspective.
Rev Dr Jason Roach, minister of The Bridge Church, Battersea, says:
“The gospel impacts all of life. Churches should be beacons of racial integration and harmony and of unity amid ethnic diversity. This is a matter for all Christians to take seriously.”
See CEEC press release here
Gafcon is of course a visible, living example of a multi-cultural, multi-ethnic fellowship. Gafcon UK endorses the ‘One’ initiative… ‘One’ initiative, adding that membership of and support for the global Gafcon movement can be an important dimension in helping local churches to consciously reflect ethnic diversity and partnership in discipleship and mission across cultures.
Anglican Network in Europe
PASSING THE BATON: The public commissioning of Anglican Convocation Europe will take place online on February 22. ACE, one of the member Convocations of the Anglican Network in Europe, was validated by Gafcon as an authentic Anglican jurisdiction in December 2020. The launch, led by Archbishop Foley Beach and Bishop Andy Lines, will include messages of support from around the world, and an address by Bishop Charlie Masters of the Anglican Network in Canada. All Gafcon UK members are invited to join this meeting, to give thanks and pray for this new initiative.
Sign up using this link: http://bit.ly/ACECommissioning
Click here to visit the Anglican Network in Europe website.
Ash Wednesday Day of Prayer
There will be four one-hour prayer slots on Ash Wednesday 17 February to which all are welcome. They will be led by 2 churches from AMiE and two from ACE. Sign up here to get the relevant Zoom links. Anglican Network in Europe
Lent resources from Gafcon Global
Gafcon has provided videos to help prepare our hearts and minds, as we enter into the season of Lent. Using songs, cultures, and images and meeting different people from around the world, these resources provide inspiring visual and audio accompaniment to reflections on the word of God, reminding us of our part in a worldwide fellowship. We might worship in different ways and speak in different accents and even languages, but we who share the same faith are one in Christ.
The Journey Part 1, including contributions from Anglicans in Pakistan, Australia, Burundi and North America.
The Journey Part 2, featuring a conversation between Archbishop Foley Beach and Keith and Kristin Getty, who perform a new recording of a song.
The Journey Part 3 includes more teaching and music from Brazil, Uganda and Kenya.
Click here for these videos on the Gafcon Global website
Other useful resources:
Dr Peter Walker, who led tours of the Holy Land for delegates to the Gafcon Jerusalem conference of 2018, is running an online Lent Course: “Travelling with Jesus to Jerusalem”, with accompanying material from Walkway Books: Seminars each Tuesday and Wednesday through Lent.