Lent conversations, questions and challenges
One of losses of lockdown has been conversations with groups of friends, whether round the dinner table, the pub or sharing in some other activity. When we gather we talk about all kinds of things, but perhaps the best conversations are those when we hear something that gets us thinking; those that spark off an internal conversation in our own head when the group breaks up. It can be a statement we feel we strongly disagree with or perhaps something new that resonates with us. In either case it makes us think through what we believe and can result in us having a deeper understanding; either to affirm what we previously thought or come to a new position.
One of the big issues we all need to deal with is to understand our own spirituality; not just whether we believe in God or not, but what are our core values and beliefs; what sustains, inspires and moves us. In the Christian tradition, this is what happens at Lent, the season we are now in. It is a time of self-examination, when we grapple with the fundamentals of our faith. That means challenging ourselves and being prepared to face hard questions honestly. It does not mean that we are going to get simple answers to them; often it is about learning to live with doubt and uncertainty. With our benefice this Lent we are running a series of sermons and workshops on “Hard questions” which we hope will help people better understand their faith. But whatever belief system you subscribe to, the discipline of self-examination and the courage to challenge ourselves by asking questions is a vital part of our spiritual growth.
Rev David Poyner
PS I accept no responsibility for domestic incidents that might be triggered by this post if your beloved has forgotten a card for you.
This Sunday is February 14th and we all know what that means… Valentine might be the only Christian saint most people could name in this secular age; certainly the only one whose festival they celebrate, albeit without any reference to Valentine himself. The Valentine who we celebrate on the 14th February was probably a Christian priest who was martyred in Rome in the 3rd Century. He is said to have restored the sight of the daughter of the judge who initially was charged with investigating him. He was released but rearrested and eventually beheaded. One version of his story is that just before his execution, he sent a letter to the daughter whose sight he restored; this seems to be the origin of his association with romantic love.
Whatever the truth of the tradition, Valentine’s Day is now a celebration of romance and the physical love between a couple. The church has sometimes seemed rather embarrassed by physical love; the passion and joy that this involves. It has overtones of uncontrolled emotion and indeed, it can pass into lust and a desire for self-satisfaction that can be destructive. But it can equally be something higher; a mutual joy between individuals who can imagine nothing better than to be united as they love each other. This is what we celebrate in Christian marriage, it is what we might hope that all couples enjoy and is also can be a useful way of thinking about the love of God for ourselves. So celebrate the day and remember Valentine, whose passionate love affair with God was stronger than life itself.
Rev David Poyner
Like many people, I was saddened to hear of the death this week of centenarian Captain Sir Tom Moore, who last year raised £13 million by walking 100 laps of his garden. Despite great age, death is rarely easy to confront; the knowledge that a loved one had a long and fulfilling life is unlikely to take away the pangs of loss. But we still can reflect on his achievement. For many, simply getting to the age of 100 would be enough, but we remember him for his vision of how he could help others despite his obvious physical frailty. I admire him, not because he raised £13 million pounds, but because believed that it was still right for him to do what he could to serve. The actual sum he raised was irrelevant, it was the act of self-giving that was important.
As a Christian, I am meant to take inspiration from Jesus’s sermon on the mount; “blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be filled”. I am not sure how seriously I actually take those words; the promise that if I seek to do what is right, I myself will be filled with a “right spirit”, the strength to do more right. I’m busy, it’s not going to make any difference, somebody else will do it. How fortunate that Captain Tom ignored those voices, if they ever whispered in his ear. We build God’s kingdom here on earth by individual, small steps, one lap at a time of right-doing. And little by little, we and those around us are built up as citizens of that same kingdom.
Rev David Poyner