What to do about Lent

— Midweek Meditations:
thoughts, inspiration and encouragement
from ACF community members —

Historically Lent is 40 days before Easter, not counting Sundays. After the church became the official religion of Rome, Lent was practised across the empire. At the council of Nicea in 325 it became officially the practice of all Christians. Because Jesus fasted 40 days in the desert during a period of intense temptation the number of days are 40. During Lent one does not fast on Sunday because each Sunday is a celebration of the resurrection.  Believe it or not Jesus never commands you to fast. What he does do is give us instructions for when we fast. 

“When you fast, do not look somber as the hypocrites do, for they disfigure their faces to show others they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others that you are fasting, but only to your Father, who is unseen; and your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.”

Matthew 6:16-18

 To be honest, I’ve never quite understood Lent. I often thought of it as a punishment that didn’t line up with the theology of Grace. It was contradictory for me to observe people “proudly” sacrificing chocolate, meat, sex, TV or a variety of other things. It was like they placed a medal of honor upon  their chests for the world to see. Why did I even know what people were giving up since Jesus’s instructions on fasting are to look normal and should be done in secret.  Especially this year some of us might be thinking “You have go to be kidding!”. Why in a year that we have already given up so much do we have to give up anything this Lent?

Since joining the Anglican Church almost 20 years ago I have learned to appreciate Lent in a new way. I look forward to Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. I’ve learnt that the Lent season is actually liberating and far from a punishment. It is a time of cleansing and new realisation of Christ. The word Lent means “Spring” which is every year a time of rebirth. Lent starts in winter when things are quiet and spring begins slowly as the days get longer and the temperatures rise. It is the perfect time to contemplate on death and rebirth and what it means in the spiritual sense. Lent ends in the ultimate rebirth/resurrection in history, Easter Sunday.  

So this year when you decide how you will be preparing for the festival of Easter take a few minutes and contemplate what will help you prepare to be more aware of what happened on Easter Day. It is an individual decision and God will be with you throughout the entire time.

Come near to God and he will come near to you.

James 4:8

Lent can also be a creative time. A few years back I extended my practice of Lent to include not only excluding but also in giving. Here are some examples of how this can be done: If you are taking something out of your diet, take that money and give it to the Tafel or someone you know would be blessed with it. If you are giving up eating out, buy a gift certificate at your favorite place and bless someone else. If you are giving up something that takes time in your day bless someone else with that time. (write a letter, babysit, call someone clean for someone, make a meal etc.)

I wish you all a totally blessed season of Lent.

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