This is an online version of my column for the 22 February 2023 edition of the Billericay & Wickford Gazette.

We are just about to enter the Season of Lent which begins on Wednesday 22 February 2023. 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 for all Christians. 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 countdown to the end of Lent and begins with Palm Sunday and Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem, his subsequent trial on Maundy Thursday, death on Good Friday and concludes with Holy Saturday.

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. Dry January just doesn’t work for some people!

Jesus’ Lenten focus was the renewal of people’s lives and to align them with the values of the Kingdom of God and, given the constant stream of depressing stories on our news programmes and in our newspapers, such as political unrest, the potential European War, families choosing whether to ‘eat or heat’, the ever increasing rise in utilities, along with the rise in nationalism, I’m sure you’d agree that the world is in desperate 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:

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.

This Lent, why not make an effort to attend a church near you? You are sure to receive a warm welcome and, who knows, something you see or hear may touch your heart and might just be the tonic you need at this time of your life.

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

The following might be interest to some of you …

Lent Course 2023


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