What I’m talking about is the period of 40 days leading up to Easter, starting with Ash Wednesday, which happens at different times each year because it’s based on the phases of the moon. This year it was March 2. If you haven’t heard of Ash Wednesday, then you may know of Shrove Tuesday, the day before, because it’s usually called Pancake Day.
So, what’s Lent all about? Traditionally, it has been a period of fasting, based on the story of Jesus, after being baptised by John in the River Jordan, going into the Judean desert for 40 days to prepare for his mission.
Well, today, I don’t think we’re into fasting too much, but it is still a time of giving things up, not necessarily food, but perhaps giving up money to a charity or giving up bad habits.
However, the Patriarch Bartholomew, of the Eastern Orthodox Church, recently said that it is better, perhaps, to give, rather than to give up. It is better, he says, to replace greed with generosity, and wastefulness with a spirit of sharing.
How can we do this in these 40 days? One example might be giving time; time for someone else, such as making a phone call. You know, that call you’ve been meaning to make to someone who needs to be called, but you haven’t got round to it. Or, inviting someone round for a cuppa and just having a chat. Building up community.
We had a series of meetings in our church recently, looking at the future, and I was struck by the fact there were people in the groups I attended who I had not met before. I said to one person: “Are you new to the parish?” to which she answered: “Well, I’ve been coming for the last 10 years.”
So many of us go to church, but we don’t even know the person sitting next to us! That’s not community. Perhaps we can do one small thing to change that. Just a phone call, or a cuppa or two...