Revd Canon Stephen Herbert

The Vicar Writes

Wednesday 14th February 2018

Lenten Simplicity

‘Tis a gift to be simple

Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free
'Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
To bow and to bend we shan't be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come 'round right.
A Shaker Hymn


I write on Ash Wednesday, as we begin Lent. Surely one of the themes amidst others such as sacrifice, denial, repentance, is that of simplicity. As we simplify our lives, cut out as much busyness and unnecessary preoccupations as we can, we make space for God to break in, to be more present.

The lovely Shaker hymn identifies this act of simplifying our lives as a delight, a gift. It echoes Isaiah 62 where God names his people “My Delight” when they turn to Him. It is important to give ourselves the occasional gift , “to cut ourselves some slack” to use an old colloquialism. Allowing ourselves a more simple life at least for 40 days may well bring a transformation, a clearer image of the Jesus whose powerful presence was lived on this Earth in simplicity.

Simplicity, I believe, is the motivation behind giving things up for Lent. In making room for God in this way, we are more likely to focus on godly things including prayer, devotion, and giving to others. This is implicit in the exhortation to have a Holy Lent, which I pray for us all.