Our lives here are temporary

By the Rev Paul Chamberlain, vicar, St Faith’s Church, Lee-on-Solent

Thursday, 7th March 2019, 9:35 am
Updated Thursday, 7th March 2019, 10:40 am
CAP: The Rev Paul Chamberlain with his Ash Wednesday cross

I wonder how many pancakes you ate on Tuesday? My children, I think, managed to have pancakes as part of every meal, while I had three pancakes for breakfast only.

Tuesday was, of course, pancake day, or to give it its proper name, Shrove Tuesday, or in some countries, Mardi Gras or Fat Tuesday.

On Shrove Tuesday, historically people ate richer, fatter food, before the start of a season of fasting in Lent.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

These days most of us don’t do the fasting bit, although I have a number of friends who are giving up Facebook and other social media until Easter, which I think is a fun idea.

Can you live without that feeling of constantly being connected, and learn to focus instead on what is physically in front of you? Can you live without your smartphone?

Shrove Tuesday is followed by Ash Wednesday. I wonder if you marked this day as well? Perhaps not?

At St Faith’s in Lee-on-the-Solent, we had an Ash Wednesday service at which I put the sign of the cross, using ash, on everyone’s foreheads, and at the same time said to them: ‘Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return’.

Those words deliberately mirror the words often used at funerals: ‘We now commit her body to be buried, earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust’.

The sign of the cross on Ash Wednesday reminds us that our lives here are temporary, that one day we will die. I don’t find that thought morbid or depressing – it is simply the truth.

And it’s good to remind ourselves of this, because we cannot avoid it.

I was struck by the death of Luke Perry, the American actor. For my generation he was an acting god, as part of the 90’s TV series Beverly Hills 90210. Luke Perry died this week, after having a massive stroke, at the age of 52 – far too young.

Luke Perry’s death, with Ash Wednesday, reminded me that death is coming to us all, and none of us know when it will happen.

For me as a Christian, that is okay, because I believe that death is the doorway to something greater – life with God forever.

St Faith’s Church is in Victoria Square, Lee-on-Solent. Go to stfaithslee.org