Five Excellent Things
Five Excellent Things about Lent
The Rt Revd Kate Wilmot
As our thoughts turn to Lenten reflections, preparations, disciplines or obligations, here are five things about the season that make it a unique and wonderful time for reflection, renewal, learning and a deepened relationship with God.
1. It has a defined shape
Unlike New Year resolutions -Lenten observances or activities or disciplines have a clear beginning [Ash Wednesday] and a proper and celebratory ending [Easter Day]. Every Sunday of the Church year is a feast day because it’s the anniversary of Jesus’ resurrection. For people undertaking a daily activity or discipline, this means that Sundays can be ‘rest days’ before the Lenten practice starts again the next week.
2. It is familiar to the wider society
Although Lent is mostly observed by practising Christians, people in the wider community understand the concept of Lenten observance. Having the people around you – workmates, family, friends ‘get’ whatever you’re undertaking is encouraging. It might even be the ground for some interesting conversation.
3. It is counter-cultural
We’re in love with leisure and we want gratification right now [yes even the Church]. Doing something [or doing without something] because this season is important and because we’re serious about deepening our relationship with God, takes us into a different space. In some sense, we break the cycle of routine and start looking at the world and ourselves in a different way.
4. It can be fresh each year
In times past, the Church dictated what the faithful would give up for Lent [it’s how we got the tradition of Shrove Tuesday pancakes using up butter, milk and sugar]. Now, each person makes an informed decision about how to observe the season. Every Lent can be a new activity, a new discipline, a new experience, a new learning. We might take up something extra or if we’re time poor, carry with us some practice or discipline [a ‘doing without’ observance] that is going to jag our attention and bring us to reflection.
5. It sets the stage for a new encounter with God
Conversion is a lifelong process and our journey with God gains a new chapter every day. We might have times in Lent when we feel that we cannot even get near the things we resolved to do in the season. At that time, when we feel we’ve failed, we need to get back on the metaphorical horse [or bicycle]. Lent is not one messy day, but forty days. That’s forty chances for us to brush off our feeble skinned knees, turn back to God and start afresh. The usual course of our lives has this pattern of turning back to God and beginning again embedded in it anyway. By seeking God intently during the Lenten season we are inviting God to change us, speak to us, give us a fresh awareness of our sins, grant us insight and new knowledge and be revealed to us in ways that we may not have foreseen.
This Lent, may you discover some of the unexpected things God has in mind for you.