From the Vicar
The season after Christmas in the church calendar always has a rollercoaster feel to it: you are just getting over Christmas and then suddenly we are in to Lent, and thinking about the events leading up to Easter.
Today most people associate lent with some kind of fast: this idea of fasting traditionally connects Lent – a period of 40 days – to Jesus’ time in the desert where he fasted for 40 days. I’m always quite interested to hear what people decided to give up – often chocolate, or coffee… Facebook seems to be becoming increasingly popular these days!
Now I’ve always struggled to give up things for lent; probably because of my lack of discipline, particularly when it comes to chocolate and coffee! But I think I’ve always struggled to give up things for lent because I’ve struggled to see the real value of why people give up things like caffeine or chocolate for a short time, only to go on a binge come Easter Sunday. Of course, practising discipline is a good thing, but at the end of the day what difference does it make whether you can cope without caffeinated coffee for 40 days?
So what is lent all about?
A good way of thinking about lent might be to think of it as a time for pruning. For green fingered people (which I am not one of) February is often a time to do a bit of pruning. The other day I got my saw out and perhaps slightly over zealously hacked our overgrown apple tree back to prune off some of the unnecessary branches.
In John’s gospel, Jesus says, ‘I am the true vine’ and we are the branches. God the Father is the gardener and ‘he cuts off every branch that bears no fruit’. What is this ‘fruit’ that Jesus is talking about? What does it mean to ‘bear fruit’? Bearing fruit is very simply living the life of a Christian disciple. And being a disciple of Jesus isn’t something that you can do properly without other people noticing.
If we think about the concept of pruning: pruning is the removal of plant material to achieve a horticultural goal, more fruit. Lent can serve as an opportunity for a bit of pruning. And this is where the idea of fasting and self-discipline really comes from: the point of giving something up is so that we become ‘even more fruitful’.
Are there any things in your life that you need to shed or that you need to prune to allow for growth?
May God give us grace to go and bear fruit in our lives and in the world.
With love and prayers,
St John the Baptist
Serving God and the Community of Leytonstone for 180 years