The Fragrance of Lent

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

We are midway through Lent. Of the many images that flash on my mind when I think of Lent, one that stands out, is an experience in an orphanage in my home city.

All the hundred children resident there asked for a self-denial piggy bank. Many of them decided to skip an evening meal or a breakfast but asked that the cost of the same be accounted to their piggy bank. All the little coins that they gathered during the time they meticulously put it into their little boxes. They even encouraged their foster parents, in cases where they knew them, to send them an Easter gift which also went into their money boxes.

On Holy Saturday all the hundred of them enthusiastically brought together their self- denial boxes. They did not want to find out who collected more or who collected less. They pooled all the money together, counted it and gave it to the Manager of the home. The Manager announced that the meals that they skipped has been counted as cash and could be added into this amount. It was indeed a substantial though small amount that they had handy. They were then told that they could decide what to do with the amount. It was a very interesting conversation among the children that followed. The first decision they made was 10% of the amount should go to the church. It was their tithe.

They had heard at the Good Friday prayer about a young girl of thirteen suffering from cancer and who needed quite an amount for her treatment. It was an unanimous consensus that the rest of the amount be given for her treatment. The meeting ended and the Manager asked,”Don’t you want a part of this amount to be spent for yourself?” Their answer still rings in my ears…Lent and self -denial is not for us, it is for others.

There are three important lessons I learnt about Lent and Fasting from that experience. First, Lent is about being able to put God first. The very idea of setting apart their tithe before even thinking of distribution was a clear manifestation of priority to God. They did not show any external show-off’s of spirituality but they surely had the slogan ”Closer to God all throughout the Lent season”

Second, they were clear their self-denial was not for themselves but for others. The decision not to keep anything for themselves but to give everything for another in greater need was eye opening. I was used to people talking about avoiding chocolate, abstaining from meat, keeping away from alcohol and the like. These were all self-focussed and never other- focussed. The Isaianic vision of fasting “to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the straps of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free and to break every yoke?” was the essence of self-denial.  None of these are self-centric, all of these are other- centric.

Third, our Lent experience should emanate a fragrance that our neighbours and strangers should be able to visibly experience. Self- denial should fill that space in our heart with God and others in need. It should drive us into a passion of justice and peace.

Our Lent experience should not only bring us closer to God thus spiritually enriching us but also make us open to the needs of others. The questions that I carry with me ever since are “Who is it that benefits because I observe Lent?,  How is it useful to humanity and creation? , Will someone experience the touch of God from What I share during and after Lent?”.

The ACF Midweek Meditations
are written by a diverse group of our church members with the intention to seek God’s fingerprints in our lives. They range from somber to humorous and are inspired by all facets of live and faith. Written by ordinary people from all walks of life, they reflect a wide range of Christian backgrounds and spiritualities.

Each week’s text portrays the individual viewpoint of its author. They might not always resonate with everyone, and are not meant to be understood as representing the Anglican Church Freiburg as a whole. Yet, as a church that is aiming to ‘Build a Community of Grace’ we seek to practice learning from and listening to one another.

We pray that these humble ponderings add a small spark of blessing to your week.

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