Monthly Letter to the Parish - March 2020
To Have or to Be. From Ash Wednesday until Easter Eve (Saturday 11th April this year) but omitting Sundays, we recall the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness preparing himself for his demanding future. No coincidence that this is 40 days as this is a significant period in biblical terms: Moses spent 40 days on Mount Sinai with God (Exodus 24:18); Elijah spent 40 days and nights walking to Mount Herob (1 Kings 19:8); 40 days and nights of rain in the great flood of Noah (Genesis 7:4); the Hebrew people wandered 40 years in the desert while travelling to the Promised Land (Numbers 14:33)
Jesus retreated into the wilderness, where he fasted for 40 days, and was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-2, Mark 1:12-13, Luke 4:1-2). It has since been the Christian tradition to mark this by some self-imposed austerity, for example giving up things, chocolate or alcohol being common, but there are many other ways to use this season.
In 1976 Erich Fromm, a psychoanalyst, wrote a book entitled 'To Have or to Be'. he made the point that sometimes our possessions 'own us' rather than 'us owning them': our apparent dependence on 'things' can hamper us from being the people we really are or want to be. Lent is a very suitable time to ask whether this applies to us.
Another approach to Lent is to read - possibly something that we might not read during the rest of the year. There is no shortage of choice; for example, a look at www.chbookshop.hymnsam.co.uk provides a section for Lent reading.