From The Manse

February 2021

 

It is hard to believe that Lent is upon us.

‘Lent’ comes from the ancient English word for ‘lengthening’ which is a word we often use to describe the increase in daylight as we emerge from winter and enter the spring. It is a time when we witness the rebirth of nature and new life all around us.

Lent lasts for 40 days. 40 is a number that is significant in the Bible. The people of Israel wondered in the desert for 40 years in search of the Promised Land. Jesus spent 40 days in the desert before his public ministry commenced. During that time he was tempted as he struggled to understand what he was being called to do and who he was called to be. 

I believe Lent reminds us that we are all on a journey. It is the journey of life but for the follower of Jesus, it is also the journey of faith.

There is within the Christian tradition a view that Lent is a time when we ought to give things up. That can be a good discipline and perhaps it would do us no harm to make some sort of personal sacrifice in order that we might focus more fully on that which is important and central to our faith.

Personally, I am more inclined to see Lent as a time for self-examination. It is an opportunity to reflect on our faith and to consider how it impacts on our daily lives. It is a time to think again about our faith and to explore anew what it means to us. For this reason, I tend to agree with the quote, 

‘Lent isn’t about what you give up, it’s about becoming who God created you to be.’

In his letter to the Church at Philippi, St Paul issues us with a great challenge. Here is part of what he wrote;

‘If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.’ (Philippians 2:1-2)

What Paul is asking is that we should be like Jesus. That, of course, is a big ask! But isn’t the journey we are on also a journey of discovery? A journey through which we learn more about Christ and about ourselves? So, how can we become ‘like-minded’?

I recall a saintly old man whose prayer was the same day in and day out; ‘O God, make me more like Jesus.

Lent affords us the opportunity to find balance in our daily life. It is when we ought to think about the amount of time we set aside for our devotions, the reading of the Scriptures, prayer and silence. There are so many things that can distract us and occupy our time and, alas, it is often our devotional life that suffers.  There are numerous devotional guides that can help us in a creative and meaningful way. And the result can be so enriching. Our understanding of God will grow, our relationship with Jesus will be strengthened, and we will know a real and lasting happiness and peace within.

But there is another side to Lent. As we spend time reading, praying and in silence, we are also called to show our faith in action and this should flow from our understanding of God and relationship with Jesus.

One eminent Church leader put it like this;

‘As followers of Jesus our faith does not permit us to pass by on the other side and so ignore the needs and sufferings of those around us.’

Our faith must be evident and one way in which it can be so is in our care and concern for the less fortunate, those who struggle to provide for themselves or their family, those who lack shelter and those for whom each day is a struggle.

Jesus often came across people in need and when he did, his heart went out to them. But he didn’t leave it at that. He was moved to help. This is the true meaning of compassion. It is not simply looking with pity. Compassion helps us recognise the suffering of others and prompts us to do something to alleviate it. These words I once saw on a poster have remained with me; 

‘Don’t ask God to move mountains unless you’re willing to pick up a shovel.’

Each one of us has a part to play in making life better for others and each one of us can make a difference so that the world becomes more like the world God created it to be.

Let us in this season of Lent endeavour to spend more time with God, and let that time motivate us, that our faith may reveal itself in action.

Every blessing,

Your Friend and Minister,

Gary J McIntyre