You are hereMarch 2010
“What are you doing for Lent this year?” is the usual question that runs round about now. So often people put in minor acts of penance:- giving up sugar in their tea, perhaps (more usefully) reading a spiritual book, or even a chapter of the New Testament each day.
But it isn’t quite what the season is really about. Originally converts to the Christian faith were baptised, mostly as Adults, before they could call themselves Christians: this baptism was always held on Easter day. The number of Candidates would have been much less in those days – and, rather than the “rite of passage” phenomena we see today, this was a huge commitment. The Christian faith was still a minority religion; overt persecution could be expected as the norm, and Candidates needed to be instructed and prepared to “Stand up for Jesus.”
So Lent became the season of preparation. The Forty days before the baptism was a seminal time for the candidates: they were preparing for a wholesale change of life and they needed a lot of prayerful support
But another group of Christians soon began to find this season useful as well: these were penitents:- a group of people who had fallen away from Christian faith and practice through sin. They needed as much time and prayer as anyone else – and they joined those preparing for baptism – and they danced their way into worship on Easter day(!)
As the centuries accrued it was realized by many that ALL Christians would benefit from taking this season seriously – and so all Christians began to use “Lenten discipline.” At this point we need to remember that “discipline” and “disciple” have the same root word, meaning “learner” and particularly (in this context “learner of Christ”. But the season was not and is not one to take lightly: just as for those first Christians, the emphasis is on a new lifestyle – something beautiful for God! For we are on a journey, and each step we take needs to be part of the work of the Lord and Saviour with his heavenly tools. We are a work in progress – and Lent is just a part of this
So “sugar in the tea” – or anything at all that we are intending to give up after Easter is simply not good enough. New life= new lifestyle. What ARE we going to do for Lent? Not just alone, but together?
By the time you read this, many of you will already know that our parish Lent course is a little different this year: we are not inviting speakers to our midweek service, but instead conducting it “in house” and examining the theme of prayer aspects as found in the Eucharist. This will be on each Wednesday evening until Holy Week, at 7.30pm in St Michael & St Wulfad’s Church. Do come – and let’s learn from each other as we share in worship and discussion
And have a thorough Lent