Thank you to those who responded to my last blog. I had 4 responses which were all different. One was quite cool saying they thought all I was stating was what Christians have always believed and nothing particularly radical. So it’s interesting how clearly many Christians have changed their views clearly by the way they live, act and speak. Another response was surprise that I was prepared to put my head above the parapet and write so openly about co-habitation and its issues. The 3rd response was concern that as a church welcoming people for weddings and baptisms people might feel put off and so if this is the case I continue to offer a welcome to all who seek Baptism and marriage but I do reserve the right openly and privately to speak of what the church teaches and encourages. As I stated in my Feb blog most couples coming for marriage are already living together and the first thing I do is congratulate them on their decision to make this major but wonderful public commitment to each other, and to parents bringing children for Baptism the first thing I say is thank you for asking us again wanting to encourage them to grow in faith and obedience to Jesus for themselves and for their children. The marital status of parents is not an obstacle to Baptism but we pray that parents, godparents, wider family and friends as well as the church will continue to support and encourage families on their Christian journey. The last response I had challenged me as I seemed to be suggesting better to live apart for many years than to make a commitment to marry. I certainly didn’t intend this but I can see a reading of my words could lead to this thought. The person also thought this enforced separation might lead to more uncontrolled intimacy when couple did come together. Interestingly the old prayer book of 1662 stated the first reason for marriage was to focus aright the natural lusts of humans recognising the strong urges we have! The newer marriage services put things rather more delicately in that support and companionship is the primary reason, followed by sexual union and thirdly but not necessarily children.
And so to this months blog which I trust will also have some responses – please do e mail me via the ‘contact us’ link
March is practically always totally in Lent, that wonderful old English word meaning ‘Spring’ from the word ‘lengthen’ as we experience the days lengthening at last after the long cold and this year very wet winter. My late father’s birthday was mid March so was always in Lent so unless it was on a Sunday we were never quite sure whether he should have a birthday cake or not! Easter can be anytime between 23rd March and 26th April depending on the new moons around the Spring equinox form old Jewish passover date setting so Lent started late this year as Easter is late. I was always taught that of the 6 1/2 weeks between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday the forty days were the 6 days between the Sundays plus the 4 days between Ash Weds and the 1st Sunday in Lent. So Sundays continued to be feast days when we had cake and a break from whatever we’d given up. Recently the practice has developed of observing all 7 of the days of the weeks of lent including Sundays but not including Holy Week from Monday before Easter as this has a special unique focus. This is reflected in the Sunday worship and liturgy during Lent and we sing Lent-tide hymns on Sundays in Lent. Someone remarked to me a few years also that they doubted Jesus took a quick trip out of the wilderness once a week to eat cake on Sundays!
But however you interpret Lent and how the 40 days occur and whether your emphasis is on ‘giving things up’ or ‘taking things up’ Lent is a good season to observe in some way. And yet by the time you read this we will be 1/2 way through Lent! However Lent is a long time – 61/2 weeks – but the fourth Sunday in Lent is a little break which used to be called ‘refreshment’ Sunday so developed the time of making a point of coming to church for a little celebration giving thanks to God and therefore giving thanks to God for our ‘mother church’. The book of Revelation in the Bible speaks of the church as being the ‘bride of Christ’ which is where the ‘mother’ picture comes from. It also became the time when young servant girls were given an extra day off to visit their mothers and would gather the new flowers out in Spring as posies to give to them at their mother church on ‘Mothering Sunday’.
So how are you going with Lent? ‘Abstaining’ is the old word that reminds us that in order to do something in our busy lives there has to be something else we stop doing. Lent is a time to stop and reflect on our faith and our relationship with God. Jesus took those 40 days in the wilderness to fast and pray as he began His earthly ministry which led to his death and resurrection which is the great culmination of Lent. Each Lent I take out a few days on retreat at the beautiful Abbey at West Malling near Maidstone to pray, reflect, sleep, read, walk and also to write. I am writing this blog at West Malling. There are still 3 weeks of Lent ahead of us. Maybe you intended to do something, or not do something, and like New Year Resolutions it hasn’t quite worked out.
But with God we can always start again. We confess our failures and He forgives us and is with us as we begin our journey once again. May this Mothering Sunday be a time of refreshment for you whether you are with your mother or families or not. Lent is a time to grow in our faith and trust and understanding. May this season of Lent be a special time of this for you.