Growing up in a small Brethren church, Lent wasn’t something I was really aware of. If anything, I thought lent was secular. People giving up chocolate so they could be healthier, before the deluge consumed over the Easter weekend. In the Evangelical church, Lent gets mixed reactions. Some see it as a positive thing, a chance to explore spiritual disciplines, long since lost from Protestantism after the reformation, other still see it as a dangerous step towards legalism, ritual and penance in place of grace.
The word lent, comes from a Saxon word meaning length. It refers to the lengthening of days in springtime. In the church Lent was adopted as a time of refection and acknowledgement of our failure to live up to God’s purposes. Lent isn’t a Biblical command, but the three aspect of it, fasting, prayer and charity, are certainly seen in Jesus’ teaching. (See Matthew Chapter 6 – The Sermon on the Mount)
Lent this year starts on Wednesday 22nd February. It begins in more traditionalist churches, with an Ash Wednesday Service. At Portswood we’ll also be offering an evening service, at 6pm, where we’ll share communion and prepare ourselves for this season leading up to Easter.
So, the questions are. How do I approach Lent? And is lent right for me?
Pope Francis described lent as, “learning to change our attitude towards others and all creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness in our hearts.”
The phrase, ‘the temptation to devour everything’ resonates so strongly in me, as I reflect on the global ravishing of our earth and its resources, with our unending appetite to consume. Lent provides us with the opportunity of quiet resistance. To embrace freedom from the slavery of consumerism and feed instead on Jesus, who is the bread of life. (John 6:35)
At the start of lent we might ask ourselves.
• What pulls me away from loving God, others, or myself?
• How can I build in acts of service, giving or prayer into this season?
• What’s right for me? For some people, lent can be overwhelming, especially for those in a season of suffering, or for those who know they have a tendency to lean towards legalism and guilt. For some, a commitment to being kind to themselves, might be the best form of lent.
Ideas for lent.
1. Fasting from stuff – phone, social media, Netflix.
2. Fasting from excess – take Amazon off your phone! Commit to only buying essentials in this season.
3. Give up negative talk – towards others, and yourself! Instead commit to encouragement and building up.
4. Give up buying plastic, or eating red meat.. think about your impact on the earth that God created.
1. Commit to declutter and give away your excess. 40 things in 40 days?
2. Give stuff to one of the local charities, Basics Bank, The Amber Project or the Firgrove Centre.
3. Make your environment better – join a litter pick, improve your work environment by tidying an area no one thinks is their responsibility, or even bringing in a plant.
4. Pray that God will lead you with acts of kindness. - Give someone an anonymous gift, buy a coffee for a stranger, stop and chat to a homeless person.
1. Replace something you are doing regularly with being with God.
2. Pray like a monk. Choose regular times in the day to pray for a few minutes.
3. Pray through the contact list on your phone. Divide the number of contacts by 40.
4. Follow a lent guide… You can find them on YOUVERSION Bible app, 24/7prayer Lecto 365 App, L.I.C.Cs lent prayer Journey: A Simple Rule, or follow the Church of England’s Lent resource, Dust and Glory, copies are available on request.
Whatever you choose to do, remember it’s your choice, so let’s make this season one that impacts our long-term habits and attitudes, and leaves us feeling closer to Jesus, not simply an extra burden to carry that we gratefully dump on Easter Day.
Louise Flooks - Mission & Outreach Pastor