A Lenten message

Don’t worry, we haven’t given up the message from St. Catherine’s for Lent! After three Ash Wednesday services,the vicar set off today for the US. He will be away for two weeks attending the Diocese of Texas Convention.

In his absence worship will continue at St. Catherine’s in the safe hands of our team of clergy, Brigitte, Julie, and Wolfgang. If you have a pastoral emergency please contact T.C. or Mark our wardens, warden@stcatherines-stuttgart.de

Throughout Lent we will be singing Jesus lover of my soul – if you’re not familiar with this Wesleyan hymn you can listen to it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFaiiPv-Q6I

In lieu of a message from the vicar, this week we have a message from our Bishop announcing the 2016 BISHOP’S LENT APPEAL:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
My last two appeals have been for aid for migrants coming into Italy and Greece. They related to work in our own diocese. This appeal, by contrast, is for the education of Palestinian children in the Holy Land. It relates to our neighbouring diocese of Jerusalem and the Middle East. Education is of vital importance in attempts to secure a peaceful future for the Middle East. Education makes it easier for youngsters to stay in their home countries rather than embarking on the refugee trail. And tangible help for Middle Eastern Christians expresses our solidarity with a community whose numbers have fallen from 20% to 2% of the land’s total population in the last 60 years.
The appeal
So this year’s appeal supports the Arab Evangelical Episcopal School in Ramallah in the West Bank. It will help the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem in the distribution of bursaries to needy students at the school.
The Arab Evangelical Episcopal School in Ramallah
The school is situated in the fertile area of Ramallah, 10 miles north of Jerusalem. It is co-educational with around 650 children from kindergarten to twelfth grade. The school believes that fulfilling its Christian mission comes through serving the Palestinian community, Muslim and Christian regardless of religion, race, gender, and socio-economic status. It aims to develop the “whole person” of the student. It seeks to educate young Palestinians to become active citizens who will participate in developing a humanistic and democratic society, enhancing the religious and national heritage in Palestine, and promoting mutual understanding and tolerance. As a Christian private school, it has much to offer to the whole community and is considered one of the best schools in the area
In spite of difficult political and economic conditions, the school has maintained its academic and humanitarian mission. Academically the school fulfils the highest standards in the Standard High School Examinations. It supports students with special needs, learning disabilities, behavioural disturbances and social and psychological problems. It fosters activities which enhance students’ character, such as dance, drama and the arts. In sports the school’s teams win many of the sports’ tournaments offered by the Ministry of Education. Three members of its girls’ football team were selected for the Palestinian national girls team.
Tuition fees for students average at around $2,000 per annum, depending on grade. The families of many students do not have such means and so rely on bursaries. Our appeal will assist the Anglican Diocese of Jerusalem, under whose supervision the school operates, to provide bursaries for needy students at the school.
Funding Mechanism
As usual, you can give money to this appeal through your church treasurer, who will forward money to the diocesan office.
We are channelling funds though Friends of the Holy Land. www.friendsoftheholyland.org.uk. FHL is a joint Anglican-Roman Catholic organisation founded in 2009 to raise awareness of the situation of Christians in Israel/Palestine. Its patrons include the Archbishop of Canterbury and the RC Archbishop of Westminster. FHL was will pass the money you give to the Jerusalem diocese for the benefit of the school.
Please do consider how you can support my appeal. I wish you a holy and spiritually fulfilling Lent.
With every blessing,
+Robert Gibraltar in Europe

If you would like to donate to the appeal you can do so through the St. Catherine’s Account, please mark your donation Bishop’s Lent Appeal. Details of the account can be found here http://stcatherines-stuttgart.de/?page_id=88

The next Womens’ Group Coffee Morning will take place on Thursday, 25th February 2016  from 10 until 12 in the Church Centre. We hope that Ken will be back from his travels and so able to open up for us. We then look forward to hearing about his trip. Should he not make it back in time we will  just go down the road to  the Cafè Hüftengold and enjoy a coffee/tea and a chat there.  I look forward to seeing you there.
Alison Seyerle – women@stcatherines-stuttgart.de

Ash Wednesday Sermon

For those who weren’t able to make it to one of the services yesterday, here is the transcript of Wolfgang’s sermon, based on Matthew 6: 1-6, 16-21:

Welcome to the season of Lent. God invites us all to experience a holy Lent through self-examination, prayer, and meditation on God’s holy word.

Dear friends,

What is it that we most deeply desire? That is the question we are asked today, and through this season of Lent.

In today’s gospel reading Jesus sharply criticizes the popular religious practices of his day, which, at lest in this passage, were all about being seen. Jesus is exposing what is in his hearer’s hears, what it is that they desire. In a religious society, those who practiced their piety openly were approved of. they gained status and reputation. Jesus is asking, do we desire that sort of approval? Do we desire to be like that sort of person? If we do, the our desire comes from someone else, second hand. We have forgotten what we are created for, our truest and deepest desire, which is God.

All of today’s readings in one way or another speak of a journey of salvation, the path of return to god who awaits us. And this is a path we must seek with the heart and soul, it is not simply a mater of external observances. It is about desire, and to learn what we most deeply desire we look into our hearts.

And this means also that we must expose the false desires which will never ultimately satisfy, so that we can detach ourselves from them and return to the Lord. True life is to be found in him, but all the time we seek it elsewhere. So all the time we are comparing ourselves with other people. If someone is well known and has a good reputation they seem to exist more solidly, more definitely, that I do. Everyone notices them, they must be really alive! But who notices me? So I desire to be like them. And I have forgotten to seek God who is my true desire.

Our own society is much less religious than that of Jesus. Our temptations are for different things, but they are the same at root. what does our society value? Not religious practices, but successful careers, glamorous lifestyles, perfect families,possessions, wealth and Power. These are the inspirations by which people in our day measure themselves against others, desiring what they’ve got, wanting to be like them.

The words of Jesus uncover those desires, show us what they are: desire for an illusion, that will never satisfy. Jesus tells us that to learn what we most deeply desire we must return to our Father, in secret. For it is in secret, in the depths of the heart, that we must seek God who is the only true source of our being and our life.

So the path of salvation and reconciliation leads us within. Jesus says “Whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.” The secret inner room in which our father waits for us is within, in the heart the depths where he gives the inexhaustible gift of the Holy Spirit who is our true and eternal life.

To return into this secret room we need to repent, that is to turn around and change direction. Saint Augustine after his conversion from a dissolute lifestyle prayed, “O God, you were within me, but I was outside, seeking you amount your creatures.”

This is exactly what Jesus is saying today. Do no follow the false desires which lead us away from ourselves as we seek to possess what other people have got. Seek instead our truest and deepest desire, the desire for God, who leads us wihtin to fidn our true life in him.

In Lent we observe a number of external practices, marking with ash, discipline and self-denial, the think we give up. But these are no ends in themselves. They are about uncovering our desires, all the ways in which we are seeking outside ourselves, seeking satisfaction and life among creatures, instead of seeking the one true source of life and being in God.

Lint is a time fo repentance, returning to our Father, because we have discovered that the desires we were following will not satisfy us eternally. Instead God calls us to discover once again our deepest and truest desire in him. So Lent is a time of joy, and of life. We should not go around with gloomy faces! Yes, there is hard discipline in discovering and letting go of the false desires we have been following. But we are return to the one true source of life and being , the desire for which we are created, which is God himself, in whom alone is all our life and joy.

St. Catherine’s Anglican Church Stuttgart
Friends of the English Church e.V.

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