What will Lent mean for you this year?
Lent conjures a range of different images into our minds and means different things to different people. Some will focus on Shrove Tuesday and the chance once again to dine on culinary pancake masterpieces (you can tell what my mind’s on can’t you!). Others will want to really reflect on the solemnity of Ash Wednesday and the chance it offers to walk a particular path of penitence. For some, Lent is all about giving something up, though with the rise of initiatives like ‘Dry January’ and ‘Stoptober’, it could be argued that the idea of sacrificing something to better yourself is increasingly being seen as a year-round discipline, not just in relation to the forty (ish) days of Lent. And still for others, Lent will be all about the journey towards Easter itself, the culmination of God’s saving activity which we relive during Holy Week. The point is not necessarily which is best (or even better), the point is for us to think about what Lent might mean for us and why.
If Lent is to be formative and purposeful for those that recognise it, then it must ask questions of us. It must provide us with space to reflect on who we are and what we believe, and ultimately it must offer us ways of relating the spiritual with our everyday lives. That’s part of what’s behind the Approaches to Worship and Learning work that I introduced last month. Out of the early stages of that work has come the approach of asking three questions about the bible to guide us in house groups and in worship, namely: 1) What does this passage say about God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit? 2) Does the passage offer you any personal challenge, if so, what?
And, 3) Does the passage have any practical application to contemporary life issues? By repeatedly asking these three questions we’re hoping that over the course of the year, we’ll become more attuned to looking at the Bible in a deeper, more intentional way, and more able to articulate how it relates to us and the world.
This ‘braided’ approach, where we consider how scripture interweaves our understanding of God, ourselves and the world can easily be applied to themes as well as Bible passages. Of Lent, for example, we could ask: What does Lent say about God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit? Does Lent offer us any personal challenge, and what are the implications of Lent on contemporary life issues? For me, I hope that Lent will once again be presented through pancakes and ashes, through sacrifice and by recapturing the awesomeness of God’s grace. Most of all though, I hope that it gives the time, space and permission to ask what it really means to me and why, and how that might change the way I view life as I know it. I pray that Lent will provide you with this same opportunity.