View from the Vicarage - March 2015
To the people of St Andrew’s,
A new trend has emerged and taken hold in our nation’s life. And there is much to commend it.
It follows on from the inspiration afforded by those Calendar Girls which led to innumerable charity calendars featuring pictures of naked fundraisers holding artfully-positioned baskets of fruit. (But it’s not an idea I’ve been keen to emulate here!)
It builds also on the single-day charity appeals, like Red Nose Day and Christmas Jumper Day, and those week-long fundraising drives, such as the long-established Christian Aid Week in May.
It is in fact the trend to dedicate a whole month to a charitable cause and do something over those four weeks to raise awareness and extract cash.
Men, for example, have become subject to subtle social pressure in November to grow moustaches for charity and make it Movember. One of our congregation, in particular, set the bar very high last year with a most impressive specimen! Also, increasing numbers leave the excesses of the festive season behind them and begin the New Year by giving up alcohol for a sponsored Dry January (Cancer Research calls it doing a Dryathlon).
And it was some comments on the radio following this year’s Dry January that stuck in my mind. One woman interviewed said that having been off the booze for a month and broken her creeping dependence, she was feeling hugely more in control of her drinking habits and had become the dominant partner in her relationship with alcohol.
Another, asked whether he would be continuing to go sober for the rest of the year, answered emphatically, “Yes.” There were also reports of those who - alas - had fallen off the wagon briefly during their month of abstinence. However, they were honest about their lack of self will and had soon resolved anew to see the month through despite their temporary setback.
But how similar all this is to the season of Lent. The health benefits of Lent are enormous - both spiritually and physically. We enter it with the desire to seek restoration and repair and to control those things on which we have become dependent. This might include addictive habits of language (the superstitious use of “touch wood” or casual “Oh My God” blasphemy); or habits of attitude (the tendency to think the worst rather than seek the best); or of consumption (of food, drink, drugs or addiction to anything that requires a microprocessor).
Lent, or any extended period of self discipline or self denial, is intended to lead to a new lease of life - new life for us; for those who can see positive change in us; and (when donations to charities are involved - like our Lent Challenge) in the lives of those whom we may never meet. Yes, our best intentions may be thwarted and compromised, just as some who sought sobriety gave in to temptation, but as a church we are in this together and support and encourage each other along the path to overcoming setbacks.
Lent is a pilgrimage towards Easter and the way of the cross leads to the ultimate new lease of life.
So grow a beard, trim your toenails or wear a red nose if it helps, but seek above all to have a heart like Christ’s and walk into the life he lived and died to give you.