Due to technical issues, we didn’t manage to record the sermon this week. Hannah has kindly given us her notes.
Lent – focusing on God
So here we are in the middle of Lent and I wonder how your Lent is going? Have you given something up? Did you take something up? Do you know what Lent is or are you confused by the whole thing?
Well Lent is a church invention, it isn’t found in the Bible, although some of the practices which are often observed during Lent are found in the Bible. Lent is the season in the church’s year before Easter. It starts on Ash Wednesday and lasts until Easter Eve (Easter Saturday). It lasts for 40 days and in the Western church Sundays don’t count in Lent (if they did we actually end up with more than 40 days!). It is traditionally a time of reflection and preparation before celebrating the death and resurrection of Jesus. During the season of Lent the colours of our altar cloths and vicars outfit change to purple. Purple is used for 2 reasons, firstly it’s a colour associated with mourning and it looks ahead to the suffering of Jesus. And secondly it’s a colour of royalty, reminding us that Jesus is King. The word Lent comes from an old English word meaning lengthen, and the days of spring are lengthening! Also during Lent we don’t say the word ‘Alleluia’ in our services.
But for many people, Christians and non-christians, lent is about giving something up. Its about denying ourselves of something which we like. This cartoon shows us that! One book I read this week said that Lent is ‘a solemn period of disciple, repentance and growth’ which reflects the time that Jesus spent in the wilderness. Its sometimes marked with fasting to prepare us to remember and celebrate the good news of Easter. Not many of us fast during the entire period of lent but some people do give up their favourite food, or an activity. In theory this helps us to reflect that Jesus was deprived of food whilst in the desert and it’s a test of our self-discipline.
I’ve only ever fasted once. I did a 24 hour sponsored fast, along with the rest of my youth group when I was 17. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done, as at the time I was working at McDonalds and did a 11 hour shift surrounded by food that I couldn’t eat! But it did help me to reflect on the fact that many people in our world are starving and in desperate need of food.
So how is your Lent going? Heres some questions to think about and talk to your neighbour about while we have coffee…….
So hows it going? If you’ve given something up for Lent are you succeeding? If you’ve taken something up are you succeeding? For me Lent is a time when I’m challenged to focus again on God, on the things that I do which enable me to learn more about Him, and which help me to focus anew on the promise and hope of Easter. If we think about Lent being ‘a solemn period of disciple, repentance and growth’ then for me the key thing is that it gives me a chance to refocus, get disciplined and grow.
As I said earlier, lots of people, both Christians and non-christians give up something for lent. And that’s good, but we need to make sure that whatever we are doing it is helping us to grow closer to God. If for example, we’ve given up chocolate for Lent, and all we can think about is chocolate, then perhaps its not that useful to our growth in faith. But if it means were using that money which we would have spent on chocolate to support a charity then that’s good. Or if it means were praying more because were asking for strength not to be tempted to eat chocolate then that’s good too. Lent gives us the opportunity to growth in faith and dependence on God.
I’m rubbish at being able to give up things. Its not something which I find all that useful to me. So instead I take something up during Lent. And again taking something up should be about strengthening our relationship with God, about becoming more like the people he desires us to be. This year I’ve been listening to about 30 mins of the New Testament each day. Its something which is enabling me to remind myself of the promises and truths of the Bible, as well as helping me to focus on God. Its putting into place a ‘new discipline’ which I hope will continue after Lent!
But it doesn’t have to be something that is ‘religious’ that we take up. Maybe you’ve taken up tidying your room, or doing your homework on time, or spending more time with the family, or friends. Taking something up during Lent which makes other people happy is good too. If we tidy our room, our parents are happy and that means we have good relationships, something which god wants us to have. If weve made a commitment to spend time with family then that’s good too as again it allows us to grow and means that we share love with one another.
But giving or taking something up in Lent isn’t easy!! I get distracted and have sometimes got to the end of the day and realized that I’ve not listened to the reading for the day. Or I forget to charge the i-pod which means I’m unable to do it! And its at that point when I need to focus again on God.
I wonder what things distract you from reading the bible or praying or doing the things that you know will please God, or the people around you? Sometimes its little things, an extra ten minutes in bed when im tired is often more appealing for me than reading my bible before I start the day; or just playing another game before tidying up the toys; but sometimes those little distractions become bigger, like just checking facebook to see what happens that then turns into a lot longer than a quick check; or putting it off til tomorrow which becomes a few more days. Distractions are all around us and while we can normally get focused again, sometimes its hard. But the key thing is that however distracted weve got, God hasn’t been distracted at all. Hes still there patiently waiting for us.
In the bible reading we heard about Jesus walking on water. He was doing something amazing and spectacular. Peter wants to check that it is Jesus so he asks if he can do it too. And because of who Jesus is, Peter can walk on water for a little bit. He does something which is impossible for humans to do and because he is focused on Jesus he can do it. But then he gets distracted, he notices the wind and the waves and panics. He loses his focus on Jesus and he’s distracted. He starts to sink! But its ok, cos Jesus is there with him and helps him back into the boat.
And that’s like us. Life is full of distractions and temptations. But God is always beside us, we just need to focus on him again. Lent gives us a chance to re-focus on God. It gives us a chance to try something, like giving something up, or trying to read or pray a bit more. And because of God we know that we can do it.
And its never too late. Any time we want to try to learn more about God we can. He is always there with us, waiting patiently for us to take a step out of the boat and do something that will challenge us, whether its trying to pray a little more each day, or trying to read the bible more, God will help us, if only we stay focused on him.