Ok, so I know it’s only 24 hours since my last post, but this is too good a blog opportunity. That’s right. It’s my birthday today. But it is also the first day of lent. Does one sense a difficult problem? Can I eat any chocolate today? Can I have a drink? I ate pancakes last night (and although we were extravagant, we didn’t finish off the luxury items in the cupboards!) so have I committed to giving up life’s indulgences even if it’s my birthday? I hope not because I think I’m going out tonight!
So, what exactly is lent? Well, the source of all knowledge on the internet, Wikipedia has this to say:
Lent in the Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. Lent is a time of sacrifice for Jesus. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, repentance, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.
All seems a little ‘high church’ to me. I was not brought up in a household that put a huge emphasis on the traditions of lent. I mean, we had pancakes on Shrove Tuesday, and I was aware of it I suppose, but we didn’t observe it with fasting. In fact I don’t really remember giving anything up at all. In modern culture (let alone Christian culture) it seems to have become a time to give things up or deprive yourself of chocolate/coffee/biscuits/anything nice, regardless of what you believe about JC.
I’m not so sure about that. Obviously it is a time to remember the 40 days that Jesus spent in the desert immediately following his baptism. His baptism at which he heard the voice of the Father say ‘This is my son, in him I am well pleased’, and the Spirit of God came to him. What were these 40 days about? Well I think they must have been preparation, like Mr Wikipedia says. God knew the battle ahead. He knew the devestation that he would have to face as Christ. And he knew the incredible strength of Spirit that was required in Jesus to carry out his 3 years of ministry in the way he did. In the way that (regardless of what you believe about who he was) meant it got remembered for over 2000 years. But I don’t think the 40 days in the desert were really about deprivation. I think they were about preparation.
So no, I am not going to give up chocolate. Or coffee. Or anything for that matter. And with that the dilemma of my birthday being the first day of lent is dissolved. In fact I recently discovered Stewardship’s latest campaign – 40acts. The premise is that instead of giving something up, we should spend the time giving something out. I’m not sure it’s what I think Lent is about, but I do think there can’t be much bad about developing a ‘habit of generous living’ as they say.
For a start I have decided not to ask for gifts (although most of my family seem to insist on giving me ‘something to unwrap’!) but instead ask for musical suggestions. What’s your favourite album? List it on the comments below, or better yet donate the cost of the album to Chennai Challenge here, naming your choice in your comment.
So, whether you make use of Lent by preparing for something (maybe this is August Chennai Challenge team!) or by giving out and developing a habit of generous living, I don’t think we should focus on giving things up or depriving ourselves. I believe in a God that loves us, a God that wants us to be happy but prepared. I think I’ll spend Lent coming to God every day and asking for him to prepare me. For Chennai Challenge and this year’s project, and for the future and everything lying on the road ahead.