Christian festivals have a way of creeping up on us unawares. This year, the turn of Lent made itself uncomfortably felt as friends declared on Wednesday that they would be back online after Easter. That made me think. What had I given up for Lent? Was I supposed to? What does the Bible say about Lent? (It does not – in so many words).
When I was younger, it was straightforward. If my parents gave up something for Lent, usually chocolate, then so would I, and I would aim to give up more, and do it better, leading to a sense of smug satisfaction by Easter, if nothing else. Then aged 17, I received Christ into my life. Jesus has set me free from the law and that surely included giving things up for Lent? Instead, as new convert, I thought perhaps I should do extra things with the help of God’s power in me?
Yes, that may be good, but now I remember Jesus alone in the wilderness for forty days and forty nights. Fasting, yes, but also, because of what he gave up he was free to take on other things! Thinking on the Word of God, successfully resisting the devil three times, being full of the Spirit. He was being prepared for his future ministry, seeking only to obey his Father. There in the desert, He turned down the temptation to make life easy for Himself by making bread from stones, He resisted the temptation to bypass the suffering of the cross, and, I especially note, the temptation to impress those around Him. A servant is not greater than his Master so, surely, I too can learn from Him?
As we seek to prepare for our future ministry during the period of Lent, ECB starts two new series of talks on Sundays. In the mornings, we are thinking about “Becoming Like Jesus” and in the evenings we look at “Habits of Contented Christians” -with a glance back to Life in the Garden of Eden before sin spoiled it. If a certain spiritual discipline helps us grow in God’s grace, then by all means let’s do it. But whether we decide to give up something for Lent or do something additional this year, I hope we will all make time to hear what Jesus says to us through these talks and in other ways too – so that we may be prepared for all that lies ahead both as individuals and together in the life of our church.