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St Johns Southgate

18 Feb 2014

In about two weeks the season of Lent is upon us. It is kicked off by Ash Wednesday, when we are reminded of the fragility of life through the rite of Imposition of the Ashes. This ancient rite is a powerful reminder that we all live by God’s grace.

Lent is traditionally a time of self-denial. Many Christians, especially in the past, gave up the things they desired, which helped them to focus on what was truly important. I don’t believe, however, that Lent is only about self-denial.  

The movie Chocolat is about single mother Vianne Rocher and her daughter Anouk, who moved to a town steeped in Christian tradition to open a chocolate shop. Unfortunately it was Lent when they opened so no one was eating chocolate! The town was also advised not to go into the chocolate shop, especially since the Rochers weren’t Christians.

An all-out battle of the wits ensued when a group of nomads entered into town looking for work. And lo and behold, these people were shunned by everyone except the Rochers. Hence this story about a chocolate shop is really a story about whom we include and exclude from our table – those who are acceptable to us and those who are not.

Jesus had to deal with the same problems. He was often criticised for the company he kept. His was a table that was always open and he had a way of making people feel whole.

The crux of the movie can be found in the young priest’s sermon on Easter.

“We can’t go around measuring our goodness by what we don’t do, by what we deny ourselves, by what we resist and whom we exclude. We’ve got to measure goodness by what we embrace, by what we create and whom we include.”

I believe this is a good Lenten challenge to all of us. While self-denial has spiritual value, it’s also good to consider this Lent what positive things we can embrace which we haven’t embraced before and how we can be more inclusive in our relationships with others.

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