A Reflection: 'Let's Be Sure That The Way We Keep Lent Makes a Difference'
One of our St Denys family, Marion, spoke at our Ash Wednesday service as Lent being an act of God's grace and love. And invited us to consider the challenge of how we are going to make it count, not just in our own lives, but in the lives of our families and communities.
Read on to see her reflection from the Ash Wednesday service:
Good evening everyone. Well here we are again, standing on the threshold of Lent, pancakes probably eaten yesterday and maybe now we are turning our minds to how we are going to mark Lent this year.
The word Lent can stir up some negative memories, probably from the time when you were a child and was made to give up some food stuff that you loved, maybe sweets or puddings. It is a time when as an adult the spiritual disciplines that we can see as less pleasant come to the fore - fasting, repentance, self denial. I enjoy Bible reading as a spiritual discipline, but probably less so for fasting.
Then of course there are the ashes themselves, a sign of mourning and repentance from earliest Bible times. The first time we encounter sackcloth and ashes in the Bible is when Jacob is mourning for his son Joseph whom he believes to be dead. Ashes are also a reminder of our mortality as from dust we came and to dust we shall return - Genesis 3:19.
Another way of looking at Lent is to see it as an act of God's grace and love. Each year the church gives us a second chance. Six weeks to take a look at ourselves and to see if our priorities and values are in line with those of God. A chance to look at where we might have strayed and to turn back to God with our whole heart. After all, the word repentance means so much more than saying sorry. It means an about-face, with God's help we determinedly turn away from the wrong things in our life and go in the other direction.
However we decide to mark Lent it has to be in a way that is pleasing to God. The passage from Isaiah 58 reminds us that empty spiritual practices are not enough to please him. It is what is in our hearts that matters. If I had to sum up this passage, I would say that God is saying - Stop doing the empty religious stuff and do what pleases me, the things that matter and make a difference. God is saying that fasting and repentance are all outward show if it is not changing our hearts and if it is not changing the community around us. In effect he is saying what is the point of fasting if others around go hungry? Or if we repent and then continue to treat others unfairly and show no sense of justice.
God wants to see good works coming out of our observance of Lent. Not so that we can boast or earn our way into Heaven, Jesus has already done that for us through his death on the cross and his resurrection, but that through loving actions we demonstrate God's love to a needy world. If you give something up for Lent, say expensive coffee shop coffees, how about putting aside the money saved and giving it to one of our local charities who feed people. If you prefer to take on something extra for Lent, how about volunteering a little time to help one of the charities who help the homeless or the lonely, or give clothes to those in need?
So our challenge for Lent is how are we going to make it count, not just in our own lives, but also in our families and communities? We have talked a lot about light recently and it is interesting to note that in verse 10 of Isaiah 58 God says if our spiritual practices please him, then our light will rise in the darkness. So this year let's be sure that the way we keep Lent makes a difference. Amen