Rector's Ramblings: March 14th 2021



     When Coronavirus restrictions are lifted/reduced, I wonder how many habits that we’ve learned in last 12 months will actually stick. I know I have got used to having my face mask with me; I’ve got used to skirting around people instead of simply passing by. Has what I have learned to do become an engrained habit, even if to start with it felt completely abnormal?

   One definition of a habit is “something that you do often and regularly, sometimes without knowing that you are doing it” We have learned to automatically clean our teeth at a certain time without thinking about whether we will do it or not. I wonder what habits you have that you simply do without thinking? If you’re anything like me, you have a mixture of good and bad habits. I’m currently trying to break the Lockdown habit of going down the road to Tesco’s for chocolate – it had become automatic.

    Now we all know about the sort of habits we should follow for the sake of our bodies and keeping them fit– diet and exercise.  I wonder how much we worry about the habits that help our souls to stay large and fit. Our bodies are time limited but our souls are eternal so let’s pay more attention to habits that enlarge the soul.

      St Paul says: “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” Retrain your minds under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. He goes on to talk about learning habits that will create trust, minimise resentment and rivalry, and minimise the desire to occupy the high ground at someone else’s expense. Read the whole of Romans 12 and you’ll see what he means.

    We often forget that to sign up to follow Jesus means being open to being transformed, to being transformed more and more into the likeness of Christ. It’s not about the same old same old. Paul says ‘be transformed by the renewing of your minds’    It’s about learning and practising new habits – this is no instant process but going on forming new habits so that they become second nature.

  In an individual sense, it does mean, for example, getting into the habit of joining together with other Christians to worship together, to learn together and serve each other. If we argue with ourselves every Sunday as to whether we will go or not, it’s hard work. Get into the habit and it becomes second nature. It does mean getting into the habit of praying at certain times, as well as on the hoof, so that it’s second nature. It means adopting the habit of reading God’s word to us regularly so that it becomes second nature. I’m not suggesting by the way that this is easy – I’m finding it hard enough not to rush down the road to that chocolate even now. It may well means that as church communities we need to get into the habit of taking on those practices together at greater depth.

  More widely, it’s about the step by step habit forming of being deeply attentive to the needs of those around us, not just our own; about learning not to worry about our own status; not feeling we have to solve everything and have the answers to all issues. So that we can bring life to our neighbour as we become ever freer from our own agenda and live within Christ’s.

  Former archbishop Rowan Williams writes: “Transformation starts with looking – gratefully, prayerfully, quietly – into the truth as Christ uncovers it to us. Absorbing it into our DNA, so to speak is slow going.”

  Our aim in learning new habits? To play our part in loving God, and loving our neighbour as ourselves that the world and its people may become more the loving, joyful, mutually sharing place that God intends it to be. That it becomes second nature to follow Jesus’ way. What one or two new habits might you begin to practise in your walk with Jesus? That we might all keep ourselves growing in the soul department.