A few years ago I walked into a Weight Watchers’ meeting by mistake. It was a very austere and almost religious meeting. The talk ended with the phrase, “so don’t tell me that you don’t know how you’ve put on weight because you do.” Lent sometimes can seem a bit like a Christian version of a diet plan. In fact Lent is very different; Lent literally means spring. In spring the world comes back to life not by its own efforts but by the warmth and sunlight returning. Like the crocuses in the churchyard, they have been there all winter, yet in the spring they open up again.
In Lent we have the opportunity to be like the crocus, for the goodness within us all to bloom. To prepare for the great feast of re-birth at Easter. But how do we go about this? The church has set three main themes of Lent, prayer, alms giving and fasting. Through following these three themes we are nurturing the soil around the crocus to allow us to bloom. So here are some practical things we can do during Lent around these themes.
At the back of church are some prayer resources to help. We have prayer ropes, daily prayer guides and a collection of Alison Derwent’s lovely stories. Prayer can be as simple as taking two minutes to listen to one of Alison’s stories on a CD and ponder it. Another simple way of praying is to dedicate an activity that we do to God. Walking the dog, gardening or whatever, just before we begin the activity just think or even say your intention and then think about that as you do it. For example, today Lord I dedicate this dog walk to pray for ______ then hold those people or situation in mind. It doesn’t really matter how we pray as long as we focus on God, talk to him and do it regularly. After all if I never spoke to my children, then how would I know them?
During our Vision Project many people mentioned that they would like to take part in some of the rotas in church. Also other people said that we could do with some help with various tasks in church. Over the Lent period I have put a list of various jobs at the back of church. There will be training in each of the jobs and it gives everyone the opportunity to serve God in the way they feel they are called to.
No not like Weight Watchers. Fasting is where we don’t eat or go without something, not to lose weight, but remind us of God. These very small acts of self denial, remind us that Jesus lives and dies not for himself but for us. So when I think, ‘Oh, I’d love a cup of coffee,’ I then think not of my own miniscule sacrifice but of Jesus’ sacrifice for us. It is praying with our bodies. Also the money that we save through fasting we can dedicate to those in need. This year we are supporting the Bishop’s Lent appeal, for refugees across the world.
How exactly we engage with Lent is up to us really. The important thing is that we give it a go and begin to bloom just like the crocus.
Fr Hywel Snook, Parish Priest