This year I feel very unprepared for Lent which is a season for preparation. I am still struggling to work out what to give up, surrender or deny. I am also wrestling with what Lent is meant to be. I think of sackcloth and ashes, six weeks without chocolate or television, abstinence, holiness and humility. All these themes are easily misunderstood and unpopular. Dr Johnathan Cornford stimulated my thinking when he wrote “At the heart of the Lenten journey is the challenge to confront the truth about ourselves and the world we live in”. For me that means through the practice of prayer, fasting and meditation on Scripture we become better able to face the depths of human fallen-ness and suffering. This is a great prelude to appreciating the joy and hope that Easter triumphantly announces.
I started to think how I need Lent. Living in a culture that is so saturated by materialism and consumerism, a culture that at times seems to worship at the altar of person gratification, the season of Lent is a challenging corrective. The Lenten readings like Joel 2, remind us of “the day of the Lord”, a day of judgement. God is not smiling on our greed and indifference to world poverty, climate change and massive suffering and inequality. The Greek word that is often translated ‘judgment’ is the Greek word Krisis, it is the same word from which we derive our English word ‘crisis’. Maybe Lent calls us to examine the crisis moments in our world and in our lives. Victims of war, refugees, homeless, hungry, the unemployed, the sick, the powerless, the haves and the have-nots. We cannot hope to change the world if we are blind to its many crisis points. For some people there is a crisis of belief or meaning or significance. Lent challenges us to look deeper and further than we might normally do. Lent also calls us to turn around and turn back. Again Joel the prophet speaks to us, “return to me with all your heart…return to the Lord”. How self-absorbed we can become. How full of myself and devoid of love.
May the season of Lent help me and we to break our isolation and draw closer and more lovingly to our world and each other and our awesome God.
Have a blessed Lent.
Rev Steve Francis