east to west wePRAY February 2018
7th February 2018
It’s February, so it must mean pancakes, valentines and giving stuff up! Christians’, it seems, aren’t just content with giving things up for New Year, but flagellate themselves further by giving up even more until Easter! If you’ve no idea what I’m talking about, you won’t have engaged with it before but if you have, you’ll know I’m alluding to Lent.
It seems, that participating in the tradition of lent isn’t one which is shared universally. Growing up in my Anglican setting, it was viewed as a way of responding to Jesus’ 40 days in the desert, in other Anglican churches and wider denominations I’ve been involved with, the only time the word Lent is mentioned, is usually in a sentence such as… ‘Oh, I got it from Sally, she lent it to me!’ Simply put, it didn’t hold a significant position in the life of that church or the congregation who worshipped there.
As well as a church leadership focus, there are also personal questions around the motivation to engage with Lent. Do I simply giving stuff up, or am I taking it as an opportunity to focus on God more? When I’m pining for that bar of Fruit ‘n’ Nut in the cupboard having given up Cadbury’s, does this make me more grateful to God or more resentful that I’ve felt I’ve had to do this thing? Then there is the age-old question… ‘do I celebrate feast days?’ or ‘should I push through and do all 46 calendar days between the start of Lent and Easter Sunday?’ It seems that the more questions there are, the more sense it makes, that the Calvinists and Anabaptists of the 16th Century (to name a few) decided that they wouldn’t focus on it at all – for them, it wasn’t a fundamental part of their emerging doctrine.
And yet… Studies would suggest that the modern Christian church is slowly moving back towards traditions like Lent. All questions about feast days, etc aside, more and more followers of Christ are making a conscious decision to step outside their normal everyday existence and step into a planned, intentional, focused time with God. It echoes Jesus’ footsteps into the desert. An intentional act, which Jesus knew would be difficult; where temptation and hunger, doubt, stresses and strains would occur, but a place where he knew, he’d find his Father waiting for him. And over the course of 40 days, Jesus was shaped by the hands of his Father, so he could re-shape the world.
Jesus learned about himself and what he needed. He was blessed by God’s unfailing provision and love. He experienced what it meant to be tempted and still fix his eyes on Yahweh. He reflected on what it would take to save creation… and he did so for us… for our restoration and salvation.
Maybe if we’re thinking about engaging with Lent this year, our response shouldn’t be what ‘am I giving up so I can echo Jesus’ experiences…’ (there is literally nothing we can give up which does that), or ‘am I celebrating feast days or not’ (surely every day in God’s presence should be celebrated?), but rather, our response should be one of joy. Lent is about the journey towards Easter, (arguably) the greatest day in the Christian calendar – yes more than Christmas itself! It is a journey of sadness, of reflection, of picking things up and putting things down, it’s heart-warming and heart breaking, it’s about us and it’s about everyone else. It’s about our salvation and Christ’s sacrifice, and ultimately, it’s about the Joy of an empty tomb on Easter Sunday and what that really means.
So rather than giving something up for Lent this year, can I encourage you to take something up instead? Be inspired by the words of Jesus to love your neighbour, to feed the hungry, clothe the needy or visit the sick. Be brave and forgive someone who’s hurt you, love through action not just words, and read the bible not just the verses… And do it, because you know (and have experienced) the Joy that is coming.
Oh, and don’t forget to enjoy your Easter Eggs… you’ll have earned them!
This month, we'd ask you to pray for Dave, our Relational Support Worker at Esher High
Prayers for Esher High
Managing workload and admin
New group starting re Yr 11 Exam stress
Drop-ins; early AMs; break and lunchtimes are growing incredibly meaning a new venue and needing to change hours!
Dad – his regular hospital/doctor/clinic visits and an improvement in his general health.
Manage time more effectively – Claire (family), Dad, wider family, church, work, Thor(!)
Continuing to be supportive, but helping siblings ‘step up’ to take more responsibility with Dad’s/their own care/support.
Good to have family around (at home)