Two things during this first week of lent have got me thinking. Firstly was a story from my minister at our weekly church staff meeting. the night before he had gone to see wolves play ipswich (he's a wolves fan) ... and had been struck by the back of a shirt he saw with 'we 8 the albion' on it (there is a bitter rivalry between wolves and west bromwich albion). The story of this supporter's life (and probably many other supporters) was one of hatred and it was an unashamed hatred. Dave, my minister, wondered what was written on the back of our shirts? Is it a story of hatred or a story of grace? Is it a story of selfishness or a story of generosity? The season of lent is a call to assess our spiritual lives, to ask ourselves what kind of story does our life tell? Does our life reflect the image of the God made known in Jesus Christ?
The second thing was a visit by a local Buddhist monk to a colleagues RE lesson. If I think about kind of story this man's life was telling, it was one of simiplicity and contentment. Buddhist monks shave their heads and where simple robes in order to not get attached to passing fashions. A Buddhist monk will eat breakfast and lunch and then not eat again until the next day. A Buddhist monk will daily meditate and study the dhamma (the teaching of the Buddha). The simplicity of this monk's life (similar in many respects to the life of christian monks) and the focus on practising the middle path of buddhism was powerful example. Lent is a season to practise simplicity and to detach our lives from that which pulls us away and distracts us from the christian life. One of my favourite Stanley Hauerwas quotes is 'discipleship is quite simply extended training in being dispossessed. To become followers of Jesus means that we must, like him, be dispossessed of all that we think gives us power over our own lives and the lives of others' (The Peaceable Kingdom, 1983, 86). I pray that I might find a more simple life that more deeply reflects the life of Christ.