Christ Church Kenilworth > Resources > Blogs > Focus on Lent
lentTHE FOCUS OF LENT
 
The season of Lent has a special focus on three major areas of Christian discipleship:

SPIRITUALITY
SACRIFICE
SERVICE


Of course these three areas need to be part of Christian observance in all seasons of the year, but in Lent we highlight them and give special attention to weaving them into the fabric of our lives. Each of these areas needs to have a practical edge to it, so Lent is a season of taking specific action in regard to each of these areas. This practical and intentional ingredient in the season of Lent is what gives it its distinctive character and its power to take our lives further in the service of our Lord.
 
SPIRITUALITY 
Spirituality is an essential part of the richness of the season of Lent. Ideally it is a season of simplifying, where we cut out as much of the clutter and unnecessary busyness of life and create time for solitude, scripture reflection, systematic prayer,  the appreciation of beauty, and so forth. These are the important but not urgent elements of life that often get pushed to the margins. As I prepare for Lent I always start with my diary and take steps in advance to set aside portions of time for quietude and spirituality. Time that is not intentionally claimed will slip away, lost to the endless trivialities and distractions that life keeps throwing at us. I find it is good also to select a couple of thought-provoking books that I commit to reading through Lent. In addition I try to focus my scriptural reading on either a particular theme or book of the Bible. I reclaim other areas of spirituality, for instance, ensuring that times of prayer or self-examination that may have been eroded through the past year are restored to my daily pattern of life.
 
Part of the spirituality of this season is the recognition that Lent is not all about sober and joyless observances. It is an invitation to come back to our gracious Lord in the assurance of his love.  In Lent we prepare for Good Friday, but the radiance of Easter morning also underlies the spirituality of this season. Because of this, all the Sunday’s in Lent remain feast days when we, so to speak, “break the fast.”
 
I find that the enhanced spiritual disciplines of Lent actually make it a season of blessing, which is entirely compatible with the spiritual disciplines of celebration and delight. Because of this undertone of joy running through the simplicity of the Lenten season, we are better prepared to celebrate the story of the Resurrection as Easter dawns.
 
SACRIFICE 
Most of us probably associate this area most strongly with Lent. We always ask each other, “What are you giving up for Lent this year?” At times, I fear, we don’t make a close enough connection between giving something up and the deeper intention of fostering a healthy pattern of sacrifice as a core characteristic of our lives. Sacrifice is closely linked with simplicity. We tend to fall victim to an element of our unredeemed nature that looks for comfort or gratification in inappropriate ways. We pamper this “inner child” by giving it what it demands, but the result is not true contentment and peace. Each of us has our areas of false comfort: food, sexual fantasy, alcohol, shopping, mindless T.V. viewing, workaholism, and so forth. While sugar in tea or chocolate might be part of this, I fear that too often we shoo out a mouse, all the while leaving the elephant sitting in the middle of the room. Let’s make our Lent sacrifices in those areas that are going to really address our false comforts and deepen our ability to discipline our appetites.
 
Sacrifice is also about putting the needs of others above our own. There is a clear monetary side to the sacrifices of Lent. We spend less on ourselves so that we can give that money to the poor or to some project that will assist the disadvantaged. Because of our innate selfishness, our own wants tend to make a greater claim on our resources than the needs of others.
 
SERVICE 
Sacrifice naturally points us to service. Indeed, even sacrifice can become too focussed on ourselves and lead to unhealthy self-preoccupation. For this reason Lent needs to have a healthy element of other-centeredness to it. It is not simply about enhancing our spirituality, and the self-discipline of sacrifice, equally important is a commitment to serve others and to act with greater compassion. Our aim should not simply be to give money, but to seek to understand the context of the appeal and to give our hearts as well, Furthermore, the focus of service should flow into other areas of life as well. The claims of other-centeredness in the home, amongst our neighbours, at work, in our church life, and so forth, offer endless avenues for an enhanced commitment to service and compassion.

Blessings
Rob

Click here are some ideas to try for the Lenten Season.
   (Just pick one or two, not all. Lent is a time of simplicity.)


Rob Taylor, 01/03/2017

 
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