‘Have a Good Lent’ isn’t a usual greeting... Lent can seem a negative, downbeat time, when we give up something we really enjoy, like alcohol or chocolate. Giving up for Lent is traditional, like eating chocolate eggs at Easter and giving presents at Christmas – many people do it from habit, without making the religious connection with Jesus fasting 40 days in the wilderness in preparation for his public ministry of teaching and healing. Giving up something we enjoy to please God fits some people’s picture of God as an unfriendly, judgemental figure, rather than the loving Father who wants to bless us and lead us into fullness of life. Trust me, the church season of Lent is not meant to be a dreary ‘boot camp’ exercise in endurance but time to slow down and reflect with God on what really matters in our lives.
I used to think ‘Lent’ came from the French word meaning slow. I was disappointed to discover it comes from the Old English word meaning to lengthen, because the season of Lent coincides with Spring’s lengthening daylight hours. But slowing down remains essential to the season of Lent, taking time to reflect on how we live, an annual spiritual MOT. Ash Wednesday reminds us one day we will all die and have to account for our life to God – the good we have not done, the wrong we have said, thought or done, our failures to live in love. Lent invites us to a spiritual spring clean that looks at the clutter in our lives and deals with everything that is not as it could be.
Lent is hugely positive. Its focus is repentance, which simply means (re)turning to God each day, the God who changes our hearts and habits when we accept his love, admit our failings and needs. Repentance means wanting to be different, more like Jesus, loving, at peace and full of joy, whatever our outward circumstances. Repentance, (re)turning to God), includes living slowly, mindfully and thankfully, moment by moment, accepting what we cannot change, changing what is in our power to change, loving ourselves, knowing we are deeply loved by God. Lent also invites us to look outwards to the needs of others and do our bit to make the world a better place.
What could you do – you have 40 days to do something different each day? I can almost hear you tapping away on the computer, searching 40 different things to do throughout Lent! Brilliant! Have a great Lent!
Rev Michelle Ireland