Lent – a time of abstinence for some. In many parts of the world Lent begins with a carnival time when God’s goodness to his people is remembered and celebrated. Of course, here in the UK we have the fun of Shrove Tuesday and the making, tossing and racing with pancakes. I know that the Young at Heart group certainly had lots of fun tossing pancakes when they met together.
But, what is the purpose of these six weeks of Lent? For Christians it is the time we prepare ourselves to remember the events of Easter; of Jesus’ suffering, death and resurrection, and to focus more clearly on our how with live our lives and to ask God for his help. Are we following the example Jesus Christ set us in prayerfulness and the reading of the Bible? Do we seek and offer forgiveness in the way Jesus did? Is God’s love seen in action through us? Are we living with the generosity of spirit that Jesus had?
This year during Lent, the churches in Belton and Burgh Castle are focussing on Faith in action: some of you might be on the receiving end of an act of kindness during this month. We are joining in the 40 Acts challenge (as are the children of Moorlands Academy) that encourages people to approach Lent differently and in a big-hearted way so that this Lent might become a preparation for a lifetime of big-heartedness. Each day the adults who have signed up to participate receive an email or message with that day’s challenge. For the children and families there is a wallchart with a daily challenge that can be marked off. The activities might be anything from having a day full of smiles for everyone, or opening the door and letting others go through first, to making a cake, or paying for someone’s coffee without them knowing who did! Lots of creative ways of being generous.
40 days of generous living requires every bit of discipline, humility, obedience, patience and love. Christians are not just called to talk the talk of faith, but to walk the walk and show God’s love in action.
At the end of March, in the week before Easter, the churches will once again follow Jesus on his way to the cross through reading the accounts of the events of that week building up to the celebration of Easter Day. We will remember how the crowds welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem waving palm branches then turned against him, preferring to have him crucified rather than Barabbas; how he was betrayed by his close friend, Judas, and deserted by his other friends/disciples as they scattered in fear of their lives and how Jesus chose to die on the cross, putting himself in our place so that we could receive the forgiveness of God and know his love for us personally.
Lent traditionally has been a time for prayer and study of God’s word; and it still is, but a faith that is not seen in action does not truly follow the example of Jesus. Jesus’ generosity is recorded in amazing events such as the feeding of 5000, and the healing of many people; the kind words spoken to the woman at the well and to his Mother, Mary, as he was dying on the cross. 40 Acts gives us an opportunity to rise to the challenge of showing the love of Christ in action. If you would like to join in, you will find the details at www.40.acts.org