Making the most of Lent, by taking something up!
What are you going to be giving up for Lent? The question of what people might give up for Lent is asked with surprising regularity around the start of Lent – even among those who come to church rarely, if at all. Lent remains on our cultural radar. It even had a feature on Simon Mayo’s Drivetime on Radio 2 last year.
The concept of giving things up for Lent is, of course, the modern spin on the much older fasting as a preparation for Holy Week and Easter. Biblically the concept comes from Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness without food as he was tempted by the devil. Having said this, fasting was not the real reason why Jesus was in the desert. He was there to be tempted by the devil. In a way giving up things for Lent also introduces the element of temptation into our lives: can we really resist that large bar of chocolate or packet of biscuits?
The problem, though, is that it rather misses the point of Jesus’ own temptations.
The point of the temptation narratives is not to discover whether Jesus’ inner resolve can override even the most extreme of hunger pangs but to discover who he really was and who he would be in his future ministry. This becomes clear in both Matthew and Luke’s accounts (Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13) when the devil prefaces two of his questions with ‘If you are the Son of God, then...’.
Jesus knows, we know and the devil knows that he really is the Son of God. The question is not whether he is the Son of God but what kind of Son of God he will be. The kind to do miracle tricks for his own benefit? The kind to test out how powerful God is? In the temptation narratives the devil was tempting Jesus to act in such a way that completely undermined the person he had come to be.
This suggests that a better way of observing Lent and preparing for Jesus’ death and resurrection might be to spend time asking ourselves similar kinds of questions to those asked of Jesus by the devil. What kind of followers of Jesus are we? Do our actions really reflect the people we believe ourselves to be called to be?
Love Life Live Lent seeks to provide a simple tool to help us do this. In 2006 the first Love Life Live Lent was produced in Birmingham and proved to be such a success that it was rolled out nationally. Since then over 400,000 people have participated in it. This year a new booklet has been produced. Like the previous ones the focus is on actions rather than on giving things up.
Using the adage often attributed to Mahatma Gandhi ‘Be the Change you want to see’, this year’s Love Life Live Lent challenges us to see the connection between what we do and who we are. Each action is designed to relate to something the Bible calls us to be.
In order to make this connection clearer the Youth and Adult booklet provides a verse from the Bible for each day, a double tweet-length reflection and then the same action as can be found in the children’s booklet. As a result it invites people to be more reflective about the actions they will do, to see how God encourages them to act in this way and to be more intentional about what they will do during Lent.
As with the previous booklets these are a great tool for mission and can be given out to anyone who expresses an interest in doing something for Lent. The added bonus this year is that the Youth/Adult booklet provides Bible verses and reflections to help people see more clearly the Christian message that lies behind the actions.