In much of British society, people see Lent as a time to give up something, usually booze or chocolate, to try to get themselves in better shape for the summer they hope is just around the corner. Is this a reasonable view of Lent, and if not, what should Christians do to change their neighbours’ views of Lent?
Going back to first principles, Lent was used by the church as a time for preparing individuals for baptism. It was a time of learning and instruction, although with the modern goldfish span of attention that we humans seem to have developed, I wonder how much instruction there is before baptism these days. If anything was given up in Lent in the early days, it was given up to make time for learning more about Who we believe in, and what we believe. Having studies some of the less popular books of the Bible in housegroup in the last couple of years, I am surprised by the number of times I have heard, “I have never heard this passage in church.”
Last January, the church I attend began to order Bible reading notes centrally for the congregation and there was a push ‘from the front’ that folks should carry out their own personal private Bible study during the weekdays, and this has been helpful to some in the housegroup. While I do not think that the notes from Scripture Union are heavy going, they are what many of the congregation have needed to give personal Bible study a kick start. Interestingly, few people have talked of having to give up anything to be able to read their bibles on a daily basis, though I do not know whether this is because of guilt for not reading the Bible regularly before this started.
For those of us who have been Christian for more than six months, what does Lent mean for us. Is it a time when we divert time away from other activities to study what our Lord had to say about life in general, as recorded in the gospels, and the implications of our faith as recorded in Paul’s letters? Is it a time for acknowledging that our lives are a wilderness of faith such that it takes us forty years to move along what should have been an eleven day journey? Is it a time for thanksgiving, remembering the Passover and how, because of faith in Jesus, we have passed from eternal separation from God to eternal life? Or is it a mixture of all of the above, depending on our individual circumstances? I hope this is something to think about.