Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Observance of Lent

The Archbishops of York and Canterbury encourage the observation of Lent by daily acts of generosity. Christian Aid encourages us to "count our blessings" by giving, acting and praying for change, and make daily donations to different aspects of their work. They are also encouraging a Journey to Jerusalem -- a virtual journey through the Holy Land with daily updates for us to think about, pray, reflect and take action.

Just as Jesus took 40 days to prepare for his ministry, we’ll be using this time to consider the practical challenges of faith in a world of poverty and violence.

Day 1 is the Mount of Temptation.
During Lent and during our journey we will face temptations.Most obviously, the temptation to make this pilgrimage about us and not the difference we can make in the world.

It will be tempting to spend our time looking at the churches that mark where Jesus was, and forget to meet with churches today, full as they are of local Christians. It will be tempting to think that the current situation is not our concern, or that there is nothing we can do about it. It will be tempting, most of all, to search for reasons to convince ourselves that the life and teaching of Jesus 2000 years ago has nothing to say to the situation today.

Delia Smith (A UK version of Julia Child) encourages CAFOD (Catholic Agency of Overseas Development) supporters to commit to 20 minutes of silence once a day during Lent.

Delia explains how she hopes the daily exercise will bring people “an increased trust and a knowledge that God does keep His promise: ‘come to me and I will give you rest’"

"It is His work not ours and if we trust in that, God can reach us even though we don’t know how.”

At a time of economic stress, the invitation to “let go a little, stand back and spend more time in the desert” is a welcome one. “Whatever dominates our lives, whatever worries we have, true peace can only come from God,” says Delia.

“The answer is so simple. Throughout the gospels Jesus spends time alone, away from the pressures of life to be ‘with’ his Father. How can any of his followers not understand their own need for this, faced with the challenges of life today?”

What about actions for peace? How about reflections and action on water justice, making "Seven weeks for water" part of Lenten reflections? Jane Stranz writes

Like the deer longing for pure running water in Psalm 42, there is deep longing in our world for things to be different, for clean water, for deeper relationship with God, for a more related and just way of living between people.

The water crisis and the lack of justice in access to water is part of the crisis facing the planet. “How, then, shall we live”? Seen this way Lent is more about taking time to ask questions, looking at God's beautiful creation, becoming aware of how the way each of us lives today is linked to whole of life on this precious and fragile planet, and asking ourselves what does it mean today to follow Jesus? It is about contemplating beautiful lakes, free running streams or simply a glass of clean drinking water and longing for justice. It’s also about committing to being part of the long term work for water justice across the planet.

As we walk humbly with God through Lent we are also looking forwards to the promise of the transformed world values offered by Christ's resurrection at Easter. That transformation has to begin with ourselves.

Achieving water justice for the more than one billion people on our planet who do not have access to clean drinking water will not come about over night. It will be a long process linking advocacy, campaigning and direct action. Sometimes it will seem as if we are having no impact. It demands not only our intellectual and political commitment, it also needs a spirituality of persistence which sustains us as we follow Jesus and try to be water wearing away at the mountains of injustice.

Here's a Spanish version, a French version and a German version.

God, our companion on the road, Enter with us the wilderness of our uncertainty, Be with us on this journey of discovery, And help us as we seek, however falteringly To follow in your footsteps. Amen

1 comment:

Jane said...

Thanks so much for this. We had a wonderful Ash Wednesday service today at the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva. It was according to the Anglican liturgy and mainly in English but with very international singing and so many people that we ran out of service sheets. Have a blessed Lent.