Lent Me Your Ears! - Message from Donald

Have you ever dreamed of being invited onto Desert Island Discs? In case you don’t know, it’s a long-running radio programme in which a celebrity guest talks about their life through eight recordings (usually music) which they would take with them if they were cast away on a desert island. The format has proved to be extraordinarily popular and enduring: it was first broadcast in 1942, and more than 3,000 episodes later it shows no sign of running out of steam. Two years ago it was named the ‘greatest radio programme of all time’. I’m still waiting for the BBC to call me with my invitation to appear; my music is all lined up.

The programme works because its simple format enables us to get to know the castaways in a way we wouldn’t otherwise. Of course, it’s all fantasy and fun, and actually being cast away on an island would be very testing indeed. Tom Hanks in the film Cast Away gives us a recent portrayal of what it would be like. Following the crash, into the Pacific, of the small cargo plane on which he’s a passenger, he washes up on an uninhabited island on which he lives alone for four years. The film shows him learning how to survive, alone and without hope. It takes the glamour out of being a castaway, but again it leaves us wondering, not which records would I take, but how would I cope?

The season of Lent is when we ask ourselves, how would I cope, not on a desert island but in a desert? For this month is taken up with Lent, which began on February 17th and ends on April 3rd, the day before Easter. Lent is a period of forty days (excluding Sundays) when we are invited to remember the time in Jesus’ life when he was led by God out into a desert place in the Middle East. But we’re invited to remember in a particular sort of way, which involves allowing the past to become present, putting ourselves in the desert with Jesus. He stayed there with nothing to eat and only water to drink, and nothing to do except face himself. It was a time in Jesus’ life of great testing, when his very identity was challenged, the identity which had just before been confirmed at his baptism: ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.’

We will not spend Lent in a desert, but traditionally we give up something to signal our intent to identify with Jesus, face ourselves, and be tested. The giving up part of Lent might involve less screen time (social media, television) or food (chocolate, alcohol) but its purpose is to make space for God, not to feel virtuous! That space could be filled with reading scripture, or prayer, or reading an inspiring spiritual book. Its ultimate aim is to prepare us for the greatest event in the Christian calendar, when we celebrate Christ being raised from the dead on Easter Day, and the possibility of us knowing God as our Father.

One of the questions cast aways are asked on Desert Island Discs is how well they would cope on their own. Lent is a time for us to face that question, and to nourish ourselves with the spiritual resources that enable us not just to survive, but to flourish.

As a bishop once told a congregation, ‘Have a gruelling Lent!’

Best wishes,


Revd Dr Donald McFadyen

Vicar of Warmington Benefice

Printer Printable Version
Page last updated: 18th February 2021 2:12 PM