We are soon to enter the Season of Lent which begins on Ash Wednesday. Ash Wednesday, as it is known, falls forty Days before Good Friday and remembers Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness when, it seems to me, he shaped the vision for his ministry and mission through prayer and fasting.

Historically, Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a season of penance by all Christians. The Bible readings for the first Sunday in Lent describe Jesus’ temptation and the Sixth Sunday (Palm Sunday) describe Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem and his subsequent trial and death.

It’s worth noting that the readings during Lent, until Palm Sunday, focus on the meaning of baptism and what it means to follow Jesus – in line with the season’s original purpose. Holy Week is the final week of Lent and begins with Palm Sunday and concludes with Holy Saturday. These readings focus on Jesus’ last days here on earth.

The word Lent in Latin means ‘spring’ – the season of new life and of growth out of the darkness and dormancy of winter. Lent, for some, is a time for ‘navel gazing’ and truthful honesty about the state of their lives – spiritually and morally. For others, Lent provides a focus to practice some form of abstinence or to commit themselves to a less indulgent lifestyle – especially after the excesses of the Christmas season.

Jesus’ Lenten focus was the renewal of peoples lives and to align them with the values of the Kingdom of God and, given the constant stream of depressing stories of political unrest (dare I mention Brexit?) violence and sectarianism on our news programmes and in our newspapers, I’m sure you’d agree that the world is in need of renewal.

And, whilst not one of us would ever lay claim to be able to change the world, each of us can change the world in which we live by doing something a little different this Lent by Fasting AND Feasting. For example:

FAST FROM             FEAST ON 
Judging others Loving others
Discontentment Gratitude
Complaining Appreciation
Words that hurt Words that bless
Anger Patience
Pessimism Optimism
Worry Faith
Negativity Positivity
Idle gossip Silence
Bitterness Forgiveness
Self-concern Compassion
Discouragement Hope

And so, I could go on … why not add to these or make up your own list?

The church of my formative years as a Christian (I wasn’t an Anglican then) did not recognise the tradition of Ash Wednesday nor of Lent. However, over the years I have grown to appreciate the benefits we can receive through observing these events in the Church calendar and how they can enhance our Christian spirituality.

If you’d like to begin this journey of Lent, you are invited to join us on Ash Wednesday at 8.00 pm at Saint Mary’s, the Church in Billericay High Street, for a Traditional Service of Communion, along with the ‘Imposition of Ashes’.

May God’s richest blessing be upon you and your family as you FAST and FEAST this Lenten season.

This is a copy of my article for the March 2019 edition of the Billericay ‘Around Town Magazine’

Read my article Lent: Self-Examination and Confession