Lent officially starts this Wednesday. Did you know? Maybe you’re taking it as a convenient opportunity to diet or exercise…or maybe you’re a bit more traditional and you’ve been eating pancakes tonight then will be smearing ash on your forehead on Wednesday….but what is this season all about?
Lent is a 40-day season of reflection and preparation for remembering and celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. It is a time of repentance, of considering Christ’s sufferings and rethinking how we are called to take up our own crosses. Some of us give up things like chocolate or television during this season as a sort of fasting, and other try to integrate something new into their lives, like visiting folks in prison, sewing clothes, exercising or praying. It is a good season to rethink how we live and let some things go, or maybe even develop some new holy habits.From Common Prayer: A Liturgy for Ordinary Radicals, which I personally use for my time with God every morning….it’s amazing
This year we’ve been praying about what Lent may look like for us as individuals and as a church community here at Barking Riverside. My sense is that, rather than giving up a cheeky treat or something like this, there is an invitation for us to take something of a journey together, with some intentional steps each week, asking Jesus to shape our thinking and our hearts ready for what He is wanting to do in this community. Let me unpack that a little bit….
Often, during Lent, we think about when Jesus himself spent 40 days praying and fasting in the desert. It happened straight after being baptised, which was like the announcement to the world that Jesus was more than an ordinary man, but was the Son of God who had come to help people come back to Father God. It was only after this, at 30 years old, that Jesus began to go around the country teaching people about God, calling people to come to Him, and showing through his love and miracles that Father God was really here and good. Before all of this started, Jesus fasted and prayed in the desert.
And was tempted. You can read here how the devil came and tempted Jesus three times. He was trying to get Jesus to doubt his identity, Father God’s love, and to choose an easy way out…one that would not involve suffering and the cross. But Jesus stood firm. He chose to trust Father God and commit himself totally to His way, even if that was difficult, more painful, and harder to understand. Yet it was that choice that led Jesus to the cross and resurrection – the greatest act of love and the way that all people everywhere can now be forgiven and come back to Father God. The act we celebrate at Easter. The act that changed history forever.
What’s incredible, is that Jesus then sent his friends – his disciples – to go and do the same thing that he had done: to love people like he had, to teach them about the goodness and nearness of God, and to invite people back to Father God through the incredible love of Jesus on the cross.
We are those friends of Jesus, his disciples, sent by him today.
And, as a small church community in this particular part of East London, we’re wanting to use this season of Lent as a time to say, “Jesus, please shape my thinking, my actions, my priorities and my heart like yours, so that, in the places you have put me and with the people you have surrounded me with, I can love like you love and point to you”.
In Hubs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays we’ll be reflecting together what it means for Jesus to be our King, to dream about the difference he makes in the people and places around us, and to take steps to pray, love, listen, and share Jesus with those people. We’ll take a simple practical step each week to do something about what we’re learning, and we’ll see how we can do that together in our families and households.
If you want to join the journey you are more than welcome. Connect with our hubs, look out for these blogs and other social media inspiration. Our simple prayer is this: that by the end of Lent we will find ourselves shaped to be at least a little more like Jesus in the way we think, act and the things we want….and that we’ll have been able to love and encourage at least a few people around us.