Cyprus In Lent

I am in Cyprus, the island of saints from the time of St. Barnabus, Son of Encouragement. On my first day we visited the final tomb of Saint Lazarus and the monastic cell of St. Thekla, the would-be girl friend of St. Paul. My friend Paul Maybury, Spirituality Advisor of the Anglican Diocese of Cyprus and the Gulf, had a ‘divine impulse’ to invite me over. The only period I could manage happened to co-incide with Lent.

Anglicans in Cyprus tend to be ex-pats, most from UK but some from Asia and elsewhere. They have been successful enough in business to buy properties and live well here. Few attend a mid-week church activity. (The thirty plus who turned up for a Diocesan Day on Celtic Spirituality at St. Helena’s, Larnaca, on my first Saturday was the highest attendance for any meeting Paul had convened!).So Paul had a minimal week-day programme planned. He did, however, have an idea. Since churchgoers with second properties abound, a different parish in the various regions would host me for each of the six weeks. Things might unfold. I might be invited to a meal or coffee for social or spiritual conversation, to a healing or Bible study group or to offer spiritual direction for example. Elsie and Mike , who lent me their second beach-side home, invited me to meet twelve friends over a fabulous meal at their home. Jan lent me her car. On other days I had coffee or lunch with various clergy and at the YWAM House of Prayer or was alone.

Which brings me to my second point. There is not only Paul’s agenda for Cyprus, there is God’s agenda for me. I suspect this is to get me ‘into the desert’ for six Lenten weeks in order to edit and improve the script which shapes my life. I am at a turning-point. By some divine synchronicity the Gospel passage for my Sunday sermon was Luke’s account of Jesus’ three temptations in his forty days in the desert. These would have taken him down a false path of wrong identity. We all face the temptation to find our identity in 1) what we do (performance) 2) what we have (power and possession); 3) what others think of us (popularity). Performance, power, possessions and popularity. Peter Scazzero who is a great proponent of Celtic rhythms says ‘true freedom comes when we no longer need to be someone special in the eyes of others because we know we are loveable and good enough.’

Jesus did not submit to these pressures in part because he had already been affirmed in his identity when at his baptism his Father said ‘You are my beloved Son’. He was rooted deeply in his own true self and the calling upon his life. That inner vision motivated him to shun the false expectations of his family, his closest friends, and the religious community. He could say of Satan, the god of this world ‘he has nothing in me.’ It led him to the Cross. This inner reality freed him to preach and pursue the kingdom of God.

The ‘me’ whose script is to find my identity in what I do would have been horrified at this ‘waste of time’ on the holy island of Cyprus. But here God is preparing me for a ministry of the Ray whose identity is in God alone.

Cyprus welcomed the apostle Paul who wrote 'If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Judgement Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work', 1 Corinthians 3: 12-13. If certain elements of our work are being tested as by fire, let it be. Let anything that is but straw be destroyed. But let what is gold shine out for aeons as it is revealed among the ashes.

Posted at 00:32am on 18th February 2016
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