Revd Gary's Pastoral Letter March 2021

Listed Under: Vicars Blog

By the time this magazine hits the airwaves (or whatever going of the World Wide Web means -  unfortunately, parish magazines are virtual and not printed at the moment as I am sure the Editor can explain), you should be well into Lent.

Perhaps we can all understand the sentiment that appeared on an Easter card, the front cover read ‘The best part about Easter, is that Lent is over’ and on the inside it said: ‘I really hate giving up things I love.’

We associate Lent with ‘giving things up’. Even people who don’t go to church sometimes share in the ‘giving up’ aspect of Lent as a cultural activity.  I can hear the conversation up and down the parishes in your lockdown huddles - “what are you giving up for Lent?” A list of everyday items is normally offered up: chocolate, wine, meat, sugar, sweets, smoking, and increasingly facets of social media such as Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

As someone writing about Lent said, ‘if that works for you, then so be-it. If giving up something that you enjoy deepens your faith during these 40 days, then no one should tell you not to do it’.

However, during this last year - one lived out amidst a Covid19 pandemic - we have lost so much of what we enjoy; so maybe this Lent could take a different direction. Giving up only really has spiritual value if it enhances our faith; otherwise it easily becomes a source of pride in our achievement to resist whatever we have given up! And human pride is not a Christian virtue.

So, what if instead of just ‘giving something up’, we alternatively ‘took something on’?   I tried preaching on that on one of my online services in February -  but as only 18 people “tuned in”,  I’ll use my pastoral letter for another go at the theme….

If Lent can help us to move away us from just giving up or “fasting” to additionally feasting on good habits, then our lives will discover more of the transformation that the Christian journey invites us to walk in. Try reading this reflection.  It can help us to shift the emphasis from giving up something for Lent to doing something positive during this Holy season of the church’s year and then to discover the joy of Christian living through fasting and feasting:

During Lent, let us...

Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ within them.
Fast from emphasis on difference; feast on the unity of life.
Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.

Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify. Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
Fast from anger; feast on patience.
Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.

Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
Fast from worry; feast on trust in God’s Care.
Fast from unrelenting pressure; feast on unceasing prayer. Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.

Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that undergirds.

Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others. Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.

William Arthur Ward teacher and pastor, 1921-1994

As we journey through the last weeks of Lent, and onwards to Holy Week at the end of March, may we learn not just to ‘fast from’ but also to ‘feast on’ all that will help us to live more generous and fruitful Christian lives.  There are things that this pandemic has taught us, and lots to reflect upon.  The Lenten season might just be your opportunity to do that.  Use the time wisely.

God bless and keep you all safe.    Rev Gary