February 10

posted 25 Jan 2010, 09:41 by Richard Jones   [ updated 25 Jan 2010, 09:48 ]

The Vicar writes .  .  .
WHEN I WAS LITTLE just about the only thought on Ash Wednesday was of how many pancakes I’d eaten the day before.
The only other question I can ever remember being asked was ‘What are you giving up for Lent?’ and as far as I can recall, my answer was always ‘Chocolate’. I never really understood why I had to go without it for six weeks of the year. But it seemed to be the expected thing to do and it earned approval of both my parents and my Sunday School teacher. Mind you, I’m not quite sure if I ever succeeded for the whole of the six weeks.

I was well into adulthood before I understood why Christians down the ages practised self-denial during Lent, and when it was put into proper historical perspective I began to realise just how much potential it offered for spiritual growth and renewal.

The reason why Christians took Lent so seriously from the earliest days, is that Easter Day was the highlight of their year. On this day, like us, they celebrated the amazing fact that Jesus’s body wasn’t left in a grave to decay. He rose from the dead. But also on this day they welcomed new converts to Christianity into the full fellowship of the church and they welcomed back people who had once been firm believers but whose faith had become dim and whose love for God had grown cold.

Throughout Lent, these people would prepare for Easter by becoming familiar with the basic teaching essential to an understanding of Christianity. They’d be encouraged to repent of past failures and be shown how to live life God’s way.

Committed Christians didn’t escape the rigours of the Lent season either. They took Lent very seriously and used it as a time to examine their life-style, to turn their backs on the sin that so easily creeps into our lives and to re-dedicate their lives to God.

When I became a real Christian in my late thirties, I determined to try this ‘recipe for spiritual fitness’ for myself. But giving up things like sweets still seemed as silly to me as it did when I was a child. I decided I would sacrifice, not chocolate, but my most precious commodity, time. And I devoted this extra time to extra prayer, extra Bible reading, extra reflection and meditation.

But most important of all, I didn’t do it on my own. I did it with the support of many other people in the parish who, at the same time were making a similar sacrifice and I, along with others was able to support them too.

Ever since, belonging to a Lent Study Group has been very important to me. God has the uncanny knack of putting his finger on the inconsistencies in my life. He makes a fresh impact on my mind, my imagination and on my view of him.

Those of you who’ve actually been able to get to church over the past few weeks have heard or seen notices of this year’s Lent Study Groups. They’re happening both during the day and in the evening so that no-one’s excluded either because they go to work or because they don’t like to go out in the evenings.

Just like no-one can conquer Everest without discipline and preparation, so no-one can fully enjoy the mountain-top experience of Easter without the discipline and the preparation of Lent.

May God’s blessing be with you all