Helen Kirk: February 2016
What are you giving up for Lent? My son, when he was only little, was asked this question and without a moment's hesitation replied "Vegetables!" It is how many people mark this time of year by giving up chocolate, wine, biscuits, sugar or whatever we feel is not good for us. In ecclesiastical terms this is the time when we should be penitent and repent; be truly sorry for our wicked ways and turn back to God. The problem is that most of us don't feel particularly sinful or wicked. So what does Lent mean for us?
Well, perhaps one way of looking at it is to say that our lives are a bit like a house whose occupants have gone away for a while — everything is quite neat and tidy but there is a film of dust that creeps over the furniture covering each and every surface. It is the dust of complacency, of apathy. It is dust that accumulates when we are too busy to care. It is the dust of unattended relationships, withheld apologies, face saving untruths, small moral lapses, the suppression of our spiritual yearning, our terrible hunger for God, for meaning and love. It is nothing incredibly 'sinful' but it takes the sheen off our lives. It prevents us from being all that God longs for us to be. We need a good dust!
Lent therefore is the time to recognize the dust that has accumulated in our lives. Through repentance (turning towards God), receiving forgiveness and then changing our actions we are dusted, refreshed, and renewed. It is not necessarily about what we give up but instead what we do. It is about our care and compassion; our relationships with others as well as with God; it concerns living justly and with integrity; the use of our time and our wealth. The challenge is not to give up one thing but to shake off the dust of our lives and follow Jesus as he journeys towards a cross that ultimately, through sacrificial love, transforms our humanity.
So the question as we begin Lent is not 'what are you giving up?' but 'what will you do?'
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