Skip to main content

Our only certain good and great purpose on earth

1 Corinthian 10.12-13, Luke 12.6-9

Lent - the forty days, not including Sundays - before Easter was a very special time in Sandal and Wakefield for many centuries before our time. People just ate vegetables, fruit and bread - though whether they only drank water I'm not so sure because water wasn't always safe to drink, and people knew that.

My daughter's on a mainly vegetable diet, at the moment. She can't eat bread, because she can't eat yeast, but she can eat potatoes and rice - which hadn't been introduced to Europe yet in the Middle Ages. But she says she's still very hungry - despite piling mounds of vegetables on her plate at every meal. My son-in-law has lost 4lb in six days. So I guess fasting during Lent may have been a bit of an endurance test.

I was talking to the Cubs the other day, and we reminded ourselves that Muslims still take fasting very seriously, although Christians are more likely just to give something one or two things up for Lent, not to fast properly any more. What is fasting all about? It's about reminding ourselves what really matters. We don't need all the rich food we normally eat, in fact it may not even be good for us. And we don't need all the other comforts and luxuries that we depend on. After all, we don't need very much at all.

Church leaders have called on people to give up their mobile phones, ipods and Blackberries for Lent as a very up-to-date way of reminding ourselves that we can do without a lot of the things we take for granted. After all, people in Africa have to manage with a great many less things than we have, and yet they still get by.

The point of giving up these things is to stop ourselves from being distracted, or tempted as St Paul put it, by things that don't really matter so that we can free ourselves to ask the really important question, which is, 'What use is my life? What difference do I make?' That was the question which the landowner asked about the fig tree. He wanted to dig it up because it wasn't any use, whereas the gardener wanted to give it one last chance.

Someone once said, "I read in the Bible that Jesus went about doing good. And I ask myself, 'How come I only manage to go about?'" And Martin Luther King, the civil rights campaigner, said, 'The biggest problem in the world is not the wicked people, it's all the good people who keep silent.'

And Michael Foot, who died this week, said once, '
We are not here in this world to find elegant solutions...or to serve the ways and modes of profitable progress. No, we are here to provide for all those who are weaker and hungrier, more battered and crippled than ourselves. That is our only certain good and great purpose on earth.' And that, I think, is what Lent is supposed to remind us.


Popular posts from this blog

I don't believe in an interventionist God

Matthew 28.1-10, 1 Corinthians 15.1-11 I like Nick Cave’s song because of its audacious first line: ‘I don’t believe in an interventionist God’. What an unlikely way to begin a love song! He once explained that he wrote the song while sitting at the back of an Anglican church where he had gone with his wife Susie, who presumably does believe in an interventionist God - at least that’s what the song says. Actually Cave has always been very interested in religion. Sometimes he calls himself a Christian, sometimes he doesn’t, depending on how the mood takes him. He once said, ‘I believe in God in spite of religion, not because of it.’ But his lyrics often include religious themes and he has also said that any true love song is a song for God. So maybe it’s no coincidence that he began this song in such an unlikely way, although he says the inspiration came to him during the sermon. The vicar was droning on about something when the first line of the song just popped into his head. I suspect …

True Love

Mark 12:28-34 In 1981 Prince Charles was put on the spot during a television interview with Lady Diana Spencer, his new fiancee. The interviewer asked them if they were in love. Lady Diana’s instant response was , ‘Of course!,’ but Prince Charles replied, ‘Whatever “in love” means.’ Now in case you think Prince Charles is just a bit of a cold fish, on National Poetry Day 2015 he read a poem on Radio 4, ‘My love is like a red, red rose’ by Robbie Burns. I thought, ‘This is going to be a bit wooden,’ but I was wrong. He read the poem so movingly that Clarence House has made it available on YouTube and Twitter. Listening to him it was impossible to escape the conclusion that he now knows what being “in love” means. O my Love is like a red, red rose, That's newly sprung in June: O my Love is like the melody, That's sweetly played in tune. As fair art thou, my bonnie lass, So deep in love am I; And I will love thee still, my dear, Till a' the seas gang dry. But what does being “in …

Why are good people tempted to do wrong?

Deuteronomy 30.15-20, Psalm 119.1-8, 1 Corinthians 3.1-4, Matthew 5.21-37 Why are good people tempted to do wrong? Sometimes we just fall from the straight and narrow and do mean, selfish or spiteful things. But sometimes we convince ourselves that we’re still good people even though we’re doing something wrong. We tell ourselves that there are some people whose motives are totally wicked or self-regarding: criminals, liars, cheats, two-timers, fraudsters, and so on, but we are not that kind of person. We’re basically good people who just indulge in an occasional misdemeanour. So, for example, there’s Noble Cause Corruption, a phrase first coined apparently in 1992 to explain why police officers, judges, politicians, managers, teachers, social workers and so on sometimes get sucked into justifying actions which are really totally wrong, but on the grounds that they are doing them for a very good reason. A famous instance of noble cause corruption is the statement, by the late Lord Denni…