Lent – Set aside time… for God and peace
The month of March is mostly the season of Lent this year. In our current climate a chance to stop
and think about our values and actions would seem to be a good idea for everyone. This year has
begun rather divisively, fuelled largely by the Media, and the call to come together as a nation is
needed as never before.
Today, we live in a hectic, frantic world. Work, work, work. Work is an institution that provides earnings to pay bills, but it can be raised to a level of idolatry like anything else. When St Paul enjoined the Thessalonians (chapter 3 verses 10 and 11: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. For we hear that some of you are living in idleness, mere busybodies, not doing any work.) he was wanting none of them to be unnecessary burdens to others, not to make work a new god.
Alas, the Protestant work ethic, as it is sometimes called, has led to the dislocation of work and
balanced lifestyle. In fact, work for work’s sake is something beyond that, as exemplified by Thomas
Carlyle (1795–1881), Scottish historian and essayist, when he said: Work is the grand cure of all the
maladies and miseries that ever beset mankind. At its worst limit that dislocation can lead to people
literally working themselves to death – in Japan it is called Karoshi.
I like this story from a businessman that implies this too - A few years ago, a friend’s wife quit her job to be a stay-at-home mother. Before she quit, she offered to work part-time. Two bosses took her to lunch to discuss this possibility. During the lunch one boss looked at her and said, "But you're working so hard already. I don't understand how you'll be able to do all your work in half the time."
Perhaps the antidote is given by the late Kenneth Allsop, writer and broadcaster. In his book Letters to His Daughter when he writes: In work the greatest satisfaction lies – the satisfaction of stretching yourself, using your abilities and making them expand, and knowing that you have accomplished something that could have been done only by you using your unique apparatus. This is really the centre of life, and those who never orientate themselves in this direction are missing more than they ever know.
By making work an end in itself, all satisfaction and the pleasure of taking stock is reduced to nothing. Lent is the chance to begin to practise this and return a balance to life. It is done by stopping work, resting and assessing. Christian Spiritual masters in prayer have suggested that through each day take time to do this, to be quiet and think and pray in order to re-orient and become the subject rather than the object of work.
It may be thought that retirement is a rest from work but the same demand on time readily occurs, if only because one is more available to others. I have heard said many times: ‘I’ve never been so busy since I retired!’
Try then considering through Lent how you might use time more wisely and constructively and how you might combat the Seven Social Sins, which beset us. They are:
Work without rest.
Pleasure without conscience.
Knowledge without character.
Commerce without morality.
Science without humanity.
Worship without sacrifice.
Politics without principle.
(Based on a sermon given by Frederick Lewis Donaldson in Westminster Abbey, London, on March 20, 1925.”)
Many people seem to have fuses that are far too short, and it is an affliction that is easy to catch. As we come to the season, Lent is not only giving up nice food, but taking up those qualities that we and society at large are bereft of. Pray too for our politicians and all leaders that they may pause at moments in their frantic lives. March and Lent will be a challenging month in so many ways for the whole UK!
Don’t hurry, be happy!