Dear First Church folk, Happy New Year!
We have entered the season of Lent, the seven weeks (forty days plus Sundays) leading up to Easter.In the church this has often been used as a time for self-examination and repentance Repentance is not about self-loathing, nor about making excuses. Repentance requires a healthy realism about ourselves, so that we can face up to and accept responsibility for our mistakes and shortcomings, and realism about the nature and purposes of God, who is always coming towards us with grace and blessing, seeking our willing response, so that we can recognise the reality of judgment, which is happening now in the consequences of our decisions and choices, and the hope of grace, because God will always have the last word.
A traditional practice in Lent (though not so much in Presbyterian tradition) has been to ‘give something up for Lent’. But for some it may be more helpful to take something on, a new habit, a new practice, a new discipline. I read an article recently that made some suggestions of things to take on (not all of them – one is probably enough for this year):
• a creative activity: paint, take photos, garden, write
• reading a book: spiritual or religious or fiction, and maybe read it with a friend and then discuss it. Have you read “The Shack” by William P Young, or “Meeting Jesus again for the first time” by Marcus Borg, or the “The Return of the Prodigal Son” by Henri Nouwen, or “What’s so Amazing about Grace?” by Philip Yancey?
• building relationships: a meal with family or friends once a week, invite a friend you don’t often see to have lunch with you, write a card or call someone each week
• find out more about a current issue of social justice and consider how you can respond to it (Isaiah 58 says “Is not this the fast i have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and …. set the oppressed free?… Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter, when you see the naked, to clothe them, and not to turn away from your own kin?)
• care for yourself: a walk round the neighbourhood, take a half day or a whole day to be intentionally with God, sleep, go for a walk at lunchtime
• attend the Tuesday lunchtime service (12.15-12.45), come to the Wednesday Bible study group (3-4.30pm), meet up with a friend to pray.
Whatever you decide to do for Lent, the point is to do something that feeds your soul without draining your energy or making you resentful or guilty.
“Observing Lent” is about walking with Jesus to Easter, learning from him. following him, becoming more like him. That is the
discipline of discipleship. That isn’t something only for Lent, but for always. As we journey towards Easter this year, may we draw closer to Jesus and thus closer to one another. God Bless You – Anne