DEVOTIONAL MEDITATION

ARTHUR MIDDLETON

SELF-SACRIFICE AND CHRISTIAN DEVOTION

A reporter telephoned to question me about the fact that more people shop on Good Friday than worship. We talked about how English cultural life had been transformed by the manipulation of people into a continuous, frenetic materialism. The Holy Day, from which we get the word holiday has lost its original meaning.

People have no time to stop and be still, to think and reflect. The days when everything stopped for the sacred Christian feasts reminded people, even if they did not go to church, that this is a sacred time recalling what God has done for us in Christ.

A nation's silence on Armistice Day had almost disappeared. Efforts were made to renew it and it became a media headline, the only objections coming from those concerned not to lose money. The money-changers lost and the Armistice day silence was restored.

Self-Sacrifice If England is to be converted to Christian faith we will need to put Christ back into Christmas and make the commemoration of his death and resurrection central to Easter. It requires self-sacrifice and dedication by Christians making a determined effort to draw the nation's attention to these holy times, like the Armistice Day protagonists.

Today's Lifestyle Today people are increasingly self-regarding and primarily looking after themselves. Priorities centred around the self imprison people in their own timetables and cramp generosity. The stewardship of money is banned by many people in our parishes. In the nation the only party proposing to increase taxation for the nation's good, is the party unlikely to be elected. Others plan to avoid taxation increases and use lottery money to service the country's vital needs.

The irony is, if churchpeople appear to be self-regarding we will be rejected or ignored, because our baptism placed us in the death and resurrection of Christ. It introduced us into a way of living that cannot be practised without a way of dying. People who respond to God in a dying and rising way of living reflect its fruits in their immense humanity through which they are at ease with themselves and with others. A strong and confident faith radiates from them.

"It is doubtful" wrote Michael Ramsey, "if any of us can do anything at all until we have been very much hurt, and until our hearts have been very much broken."

That is the root of the paradox into which baptism places us in this way of living through dying. This is the way of the Risen Christ in whom we already live, and in which the Eucharist nourishes us. It leaves no room for self-regarding provision, because it is contrary to the Eucharistic life. Our lives must be conformed to the mysteries being celebrated, which means, self-sacrifice replacing self-regard, in order that the Risen life may bear fruit in our transfiguration.

Arthur Middleton, is Rector of Boldon in the diocese of Durham and Acting Principal of St. Chad's College, Durham

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