23 February 2018
Giving up for Lent - A Challenge from our Children
Over the last few years our children in Faithbuilders have been giving up something for Lent.
It has not necessarily been food, but they have chosen the things which are really dominating their lives.
Each has made their own decision about what it will be and they have been perceptive and self aware in many of their choices and have taken personal responsibility for keeping their resolves. No one can put pressure on another to keep their pledge but the supportive community of Faithbuilders enables a lot of self discovery. The teenage girls who gave up their cell phones really did discover how dependant their lives were on them and how much time was being sucked out of their lives in conversations and texts which really had no substance.
The challenge has been to our Faithbuilders to use their time differently, to maybe offer to do the dishes before being asked, to spend time with a person they may not have bothered to befriend before. This is also done wholeheartedly, not by half measures eg one day a week, but every day, as Jesus gave his all so do we.
Lent was the season before Easter - 40 days not counting Sundays, when spring was approaching in the Northern hemisphere. People took time to reflect on the coming Good Friday and Christ’s death and its meaning and confess their shortcomings and be penitent, Looking to the rebirth of Spring and the new beginnings of Easter day.
Unfortunately, as often happens when humans embrace a discipline, about humility and self awareness, it developed into a ritual of do nots, and spiritual spring cleaning became a series of rules to keep and a competition as to whom can do it best, which rather missed the point!.. The Reformation tended to be a little suspicious of Lenten practices for this reason.
James Merrick, on Theology Forum , says, “Too often [Lent] has been reduced to simply ‘giving up' a certain feature of one's life. And those who don't fully understand it, treat that practice as a New Year’s resolution, giving up trivial things like chocolate."
He goes on to suggest that "giving up" can be understood (in one way) via "the language of sanctification or 'setting apart'." He says this would rule out easy things like those we shouldn't be doing anyway; like New Year's Resolutions. Giving up smoking for Lent, for example, would trivialise the whole idea.
Merrick says “”For me, it was a matter of thinking about where God has been most domesticated in my life. I decided to give up scholarship for Lent because ironically I am finding that I can sit and think all day about God without ever really thinking about God. Perhaps the best way to approach this issue, then, is to think about what things you've done that in that past have been oriented towards devotion to God and his loving service, but now you find are fairly self-centred.”
For Christians, there is always the danger that we tame God. The things we do easily and well may need to be re-examined. Maybe the distractions which pull us away from taking the time to love our neighbour or taking time to pray and reflect on the scriptures, can be faced and given up. Lent is a time to do this.
Our young people have found that to look at how they spend their time and energy and divert that time into finding where God is asking them to serve has been rewarding. Over the few years this has spread to their families and now we give the challenge to the whole congregation.
Are we willing to let go, give up, something in our lives so that we are freed to be renewed by God. It might be that you literally “let go”, and forgive someone and do practical things about this. It might be that giving up something releases time to spend with another person.
The Season of Lent leading to the Good Friday and Easter events gives us a chance to refocus and intentionally remove distractions which prevent us from hearing and following God’s call in our lives.
The challenge is there from our children for us to take this seriously and look at our lives and service in God’s loving light.
Lent begins with the Ash Wednesday communion service at 12 noon -12.30pm on March 5th.
May God Bless you as you prepare for this journey
Rev. Margaret Anne Low
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