Baptist Christians don’t seem to do Lent in the same way that other Christians do. Sure, some of us give up chocolate but that seems to be more for dietary reasons than to bring us closer to God. This year I have been following the Christian Aid ‘Count Your Blessings’ Lent reflections which I have found have helped me to reflect on my own circumstances as well as to respond to challenges from God.
Each day there is a brief statement about an issue of justice, poverty, care for the planet and more, together with a suggested response. The response may be a prayer, it may be to reflect on my own consumption or wealth and make a small donation to Christian Aid, or it may be a challenge to take practical action.
Today I was challenged to recycle old phones and ink cartridges. A quick search revealed more than 10 empty cartridges and 3 phones that were lying around waiting to be recycled. I have registered with www.recyclingappeal.com/christianaid and they are sending me envelopes to send the stuff back in. Christian Aid get £4 for every phone and £1 for every cartridge. Everybody wins – the old stuff does not get lobbed into a landfill site and gets recycled and reused so the planet’s resources are preserved fractionally, I get rid of some of the stuff that was cluttering up my shelf which I have been meaning to recycle for ages, and Christian Aid get some dosh to help their work around the world. If you have these things lying around, why not register too?
As I am in a recycling mood, I am going to recycle an old joke in honour of my colleague Lynsey who preached so brilliantly last Sunday morning on the subject of the joke.
A minister was complaining to her husband that nobody listened to her sermons. They all fell asleep, read the weekly notice sheet, started doing crosswords or knitting, or simply gazed out of the window. But at the end of the service the congregation all shook her hand and politely said what a nice sermon it had been.
“I could preach about anything and they wouldn’t notice,” she said with a hollow laugh.
“Why don’t you try it?” suggested her husband. “Preach on something mundane and see if they still say what a nice sermon it was.”
“I’ll do it!” said the minister giving in to a surge of enthusiasm. “I’ll preach on riding a bike and see if anyone says anything about it.”
Sunday morning came around and after the children and young people left the service with the minister’s husband (who was one of their leaders), the minister contemplated what she was about to do as the congregation murdered the hymn before the sermon. Suddenly she had a flash of inspiration. She would not preach about riding a bike, she would preach about sex. That ought to get their attention!
So she did. She was witty, she was honest, she was helpful, she was biblical, she was brilliant. Everyone was captivated by it.
At the end of the service everyone wanted to talk to the minister and thank her. One parent went out to collect her children and the Minister’s husband gently asked her what the sermon was like.
“Oh it was brilliant!” enthused the parent. “She was so honest and helpful.”
The Minister’s husband was taken aback. “I’m rather surprised to hear you say that,” he stammered. “She’s only tried it twice – the first time she fell over and the second time her hat blew off!”