From the Vicar
From The Vicar, Revd Paul Cawthorne
As Lent arrives, our thoughts move from the celebrations of the wise men to what Jesus taught us about the deeper things of life. St Paul commended as 'fruits of the spirit' the observance of patience, self-control and kindness among love, joy, peace and faithfulness (Galatians 5: 22-23) and in Lent we step back from our habitual self-indulgence to try to see what we can learn by giving things up for the good of others and ourselves.
When I lived in Sudan it was a privilege to share in the discipline of Ramadan, which has a lot in common with Lent, with my majority Muslim colleagues. There was a lovely spiritual discipline in enduring the fast from dawn until dusk and offering the tiny discomforts of that up in prayer as a sacrifice to the God who gave so much for love of us. It taught me much I would not have otherwise stopped for long enough to learn.
During Lent here in affluent Oxfordshire, what can we show, give up or practise self-control in to make a difference? Can we:
- Spare some clothes or food for an asylum-seeker without money or family support marooned in a foreign land after escaping unknown horrors? -ring Asylum Welcome on 01865 722082 and show an open heart.
- Stop overindulging in puddings or alcohol and see if energy levels and motivation increase as a result? - try it and you may be surprised!
- Give of our time to see what that brings - vow to visit an elderly neighbour when we are feeling most busy or to give the gift of more attention and listening to children rather than rushing them round everywhere.
- Do a mini-audit of your lifestyle and think of the CO2 cost and what you could cut back on for the sake of the next generation and a healthy planet - the sooner we start, the less drastic may be the final need.
- Follow a little programme of daily suggestions - try http://40acts.org.uk for some fun ideas.
- Think more creatively of a better suggestion than the vicar's for how to use this Lenten season for our spiritual and personal growth? - Do let me know what you come up with!
So Lent is an important time on several levels. It is a time for reflecting how voluntary suffering can sometimes lead to growth if we are in the fortunate position of being able to direct its mini-privations. It’s a time for following Jesus through the vicissitudes of life, even when people turned on him for disturbing their complacency- the road to the cross that ultimately led to wonderfully new life. It’s a time to look deeper into ourselves to see what we need most to become what one writer called a 'soul survivor'. If we ignore such things, we may be able to preserve an outward face but inside we can feel the shrivelling. If we engage, we may surprise ourselves and find the light can shine brighter than we imagine.
The Revd Paul Cawthorne is Team vicar for The Baldons with Nuneham Courtenay, Berinsfield and Drayton St Leonard.
e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org and tel: 01865 340460.