“All you need at this time of Lent is stamina,” sayeth Bishop Kevin to me this morning. And he’s right. We are into the fifth week of Lent and it is about this time that we might be wearying. Whatever we gave up or took on is starting to take its toll. One of my little flock committed to coming to Morning Prayer every day in Lent. “We don’t have it next week, though?” she asked, a little hopefully I thought. “Oh yes we do,” sayeth I. And I saw her face fall. “It seems to be longer than six weeks I’ve been getting up early.”
Some have already fallen by the wayside. No alcohol has become no alcohol during the week. Unlikely Feast days have been sought to break the fast. But why is it important to keep on going? To not cheat? To keep on living out the promises we may to God and ourselves on Ash Wednesday? I mean, my little offering doesn’t make much difference in the grand scheme of things. Nobody will notice if I don’t keep up with my Lenten discipline.
Well, let me share with you a Jewish story…
Once upon a time in the old country, there was a town in a wine-producing region of Eastern Europe. The villagers in this region heard that a very famous rabbi was going to be on a grand tour early the following year and would be passing through their town. So they called a town meeting and said, “We must have some kind of great celebration in the rabbi’s honour.”
Then one of the villagers suggested, “Since we all make wine, wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had some kind of wine festival where we tasted the very best of wine?”
And then someone countered, “But each family only makes a little wine each year. A big celebration would use up one family’s entire supply of wine for a year.”
So they devised a plan. They put a big oak barrel in the centre of the town, and every week, just before Shabbat, every household was to bring a small pitcher of wine and pour it into the cask. Then, by the end of the six months, they would have a great cask of wine.
But in one of the village families, the husband went home and he said to his wife, “Listen, you know that everyone is going to be bringing wine, and we are not a rich family. There’s going to be so much wine in that cask, ours certainly will make no difference. Why don’t we just fill our pitcher up with water? When I take it to the cask, I’ll pour it in right at the lip – I guarantee that no one will see.” And that’s what he did, every week.
Six month’s later the big day arrived. They set up a stand in the centre of town and put the cask on top of it. Right on schedule, the famous rabbi appeared. The townspeople were all proud of their village, their wine, and the rabbi. They presented him with a beautiful, ceremonial kiddish cup to taste the wine and inaugurate the celebration. He put the lovely cup underneath the spigot, filled it up, and lifted it high.
Suddenly there was a gasp from the crowd: his cup was filled to the brim with water.
from Because God Loves Stories edited by Steve Zeitlin