To give up or to take on...that is the question (February 2016)
Lent is the time in the church’s year when we remember the 40 days and 40 nights Jesus spent in the wilderness, before he entered his ministry. It leads us to Easter, when we remember Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us on the cross. Tradition built up over centuries of Lent becoming a time of penitence and of fasting and prayer. In modern times, many Christians adapt this so that they give up eating (or drinking) some part of their diet. At its minimum, may be giving up eating chocolate, or eating cake. But the purpose of the fasting always was in order to focus the prayer more. If we only avoid chocolates, and nothing else about our walk with God changes in Lent, then are we really entering into the spirit of the season?
Sometimes I think taking on doing something different, rather than giving something up, can have more of an impact on our lives (and on others too). To me, doing something positive, can be very powerful. It might be to take on doing the Stations of the Cross in church. It might be attending extra church services that you do not normally go to. It might be attending a Lent course. What about taking on a challenge this Lent? What about seeing if you can do some small extra act of generosity each day of Lent that will be demonstrable ways of sharing God’s generosity with others?
We serve an overwhelmingly generous God, who lavishes his love and mercy on us. He gave His only Son to die for us. Jesus gave himself to suffer and to die on the cross. Any act of generosity we do will only be a small fraction of the generosity we experience from Him, but each small act can be a step towards making a difference in this self-absorbed world.
I would like many members of this church to join me in attempting to do the ‘40Acts’ challenge this year. 40Acts is a generosity challenge for Lent. We are invited to take part in 40 simple acts (one per day) that will challenge us to ‘do Lent generously’ this year. There are all kinds of different sorts of acts of generosity, but all are designed to help us to explore in a practical way what it means to be generous.
You can sign up to be part of this and do it at work or at home in your own time. Also, we have a Lent course which will encourage us through the 40Acts, and will explore the issues they raise. I hope many of you will take on attending this. The same course will be run at two different times. David will be leading a daytime course, at 3.00pm at 44, Southway on Wednesdays. I will lead an evening course on Wednesdays at 7.30pm at the Rectory.
Further details of the 40Acts Lent course will be available in church. If you want to sign up to do the 40Acts individually, do go to www.40acts.org.uk But whatever you do, or whatever you give up, I hope your Lent marks a closer journey for you, with Jesus towards the cross.