‘For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoev‘For whoever wants to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for me and for the gospel will save it.’ (Mark 8.35)
Minister’s Letter February 26th 2024
We are now well into the season of Lent. I wonder whether or not the season means much to you? Across our lives of faith we tend to find that we have periods of time, months or even years, where we take our religious duties and privileges far more seriously than at other times. Perhaps we used to fast during Lent? – miss the odd meal and try to use the spare time to read our Bible more or pray harder. Perhaps we gave something up? – hopefully not just chocolate, but something that mattered, maybe particular negative attitudes or behaviours that we knew we should leave behind us because they were damaging our relationships with other people.
At a recent evening service I was asking folk at St John’s in Bangor whether they were doing anything special for Lent. Most people didn’t reply, but someone said that she had put out a large bag and every day in Lent she was placing one item into the bag that she realised she really didn’t need. Then at the end of the forty days she was planning on taking the bag to a charity shop.
De-cluttering is a very good Lenten habit; I remember recording a video for the Circuit a year or two ago from my loft space, sitting in amongst all the boxes that I move from house to house: old photo albums of places and people that I don’t any longer remember, toys the children used to play with that are too good to give away and that might one day be nice for the grandchildren to have, board games we don’t play anymore, instruments we can’t play anymore and so on and so forth. Sometimes getting rid of physical things we don’t need any longer can spark us also to get rid of the more intangible things we carry with us through life which get in the way of us developing as disciples.
Sometimes it’s a matter of freeing up space in our lives to allow God to do other things with us and to have a better chance of becoming the people God wants us to be. That was the reason last month I got rid of my record collection. We have a nice record shop in Bangor High Street and the fellow came to my house and looked through my not-very-big collection of vinyl singles and albums. He offered a price, I kept mum and he offered me a bit more and we came to an agreement. A few weeks on I don’t really miss the records as much as I thought I would. But more importantly it is one less thing to drag me back into a nostalgic world of how it used to be then or how I was then, when what I really need to do as a follower of Jesus Christ is to look up the road and move on in confidence, trust and hope.
Many years ago I was in Corwen at a Retreat centre and as I went out walking that day I noticed something pinned to the door of the parish church. It said simply this:
“Fast from: criticism, self-pity, ill temper, resentment, jealousy, pride, selfishness and fear.
Feast on praise, joy, peace, contentment, love, humility, service and faith.”
We can each make our own list of course but this is a pretty good one and it reminds us that Lent can never be only about giving things up, it always has to be about taking things up too. There’s a danger Lent becomes all too negative a time in our minds, when, if we think and act positively, it can be a joyful celebration of the good that we can do but as yet haven’t quite got round to putting into action.
May I wish you every blessing for this week,