Mak­ing the most of Lent, by tak­ing some­thing up!

The Church of England - - ENGLAND ON SUNDAY -

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.

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