Wednesday 1st March was Ash Wednesday, so this coming Sunday will be the first Sunday of Lent. Lent is a traditional season of penitence and abstinence when Christians around the world recall Jesus’ time of temptation in the wilderness (Matthew 4:11 and Luke 4:1-13) and prepare for Easter. In modern popular culture, this has become simplified into “giving up” something for Lent, but preparation of body and spirit for Easter is much more than feeling virtuous for forgoing a chocolate hob nob with your tea!
Spiritual renewal, penitence, and acts of charity are also important parts of the Lenten journey, and many people will take up disciplines during the season that help to enhance their spiritual lives. For example, adding regular times of prayer or reading Scripture into their routine, or learning a new prayer discipline. You might choose to go without your morning coffee, and donate the cost instead to a charitable cause. If you have the means, you could even take the opportunity to increase your regular giving to church, or join the Moderator’s Circle to support the work of the denomination.
In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus reminds us that no one can serve both God and materialism (Matthew 6:24). In order to be fully committed to the love of God, there should be nothing between us and love of God and neighbour. It is unlikely that any of us will be able to truly attain this in our lifetime, but seasons of intentional abstinence from our sources of material comfort help us to recommit to the ideal of being fully dependent on God and so becoming more Christ-like.
The process of Lent is part of the lifelong journey of seeking to become more Christ-like; making sacrifices and resisting temptation in order to focus on God and others. It is a part of the long process of learning to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. As we come to the end of Lent, we will come face-to-face with the worst of ourselves in the stories of the Passion, so we prepare for that by engaging to our best ability with the law of love in the Gospel.
Whatever your Lent discipline is, commit to it daily as a reminder of the best you can be in the strength of God.