Lent is the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday, a time when Christians prepare and reflect, engage in spiritual journeys or pilgrimages, in preparation for Easter Sunday.
The number 40 is a special one in the stories contained in our Scriptures:
Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness after his baptism
Moses spent 40 days fasting before he received the 10 commandments
there were 40 days and nights of rain which flooded the earth in Noah’s time
the Hebrew people spent 40 years wandering the desert after escaping Egypt
Giving up? Fasting?
Some people give up something for Lent and donate the money saved to the Lent Appeal of the Uniting Church – https://fundraise.unitingworld.org.au/event/lent-event/home. Giving up something you enjoy like chocolate or dairy is similar to fasting as, each time you think about eating it, you remember why you’ve given it up.
Others might sign up for a Bible study – Manningham is offering 3 options for study this year – or a commitment to pray each day – you can sign up for daily emails from Common Grace here: https://www.commongrace.org.au/jesus_says_i_am?utm_campaign=lent_launch_2020&utm_medium=email&utm_source=commongrace
Lent is traditionally the time when Christians fast and so the day before Ash Wednesday, called Shrove Tuesday, is when all the eggs and dairy was used up before the fasting began. English speaking countries often call it Pancake Day and hold fundraising pancake drives. We do this for what used to be called the Uniting Church’s Share Appeal but which is now simply ‘Uniting’ – https://victas.pancakeday.com.au/
In some countries, Shrove Tuesday is called Fat Tuesday because of the fatty ingredients people were using up, or Mardi Gras which is a carnival celebration when people eat loads and have a party before they fast and give up everything they enjoy for Lent. ‘Shrove’ is from the word ‘shriven’ which refers to Christians confessing their sins and being forgiven by God so that they were ‘shriven’ before Ash Wednesday.
This marks the beginning of Lent and it’s a time to pause and reflect on our lives and how we live in creation and with others. It’s a time for Christians to think about changes we can make to ensure we are living God’s way rather than our own.
Worship services are held to mark this beginning.
The ashes – created by burning the previous year’s Palm Sunday branches – are used to make the sign of the cross on the foreheads or backs of hands of worshippers. This is an ancient tradition and very symbolic. Some people believe it represents the prophets who, when they were telling people to turn back to God, would throw ash over themselves as a form of lament and sorrow.
We will be holding 2 services this year with ashes – a reflective intergenerational service at 7pm on Ash Wednesday at Atkinson Street, and a communion service the next day at 11.30am at Westfield Drive. Both will use some of our ancient rituals which we will reimagine.
Lent studies help us to focus on God and reflect on the way we live our lives. This year, we are studying Holy Habits by Rev Andrew Roberts. This is a book about spiritual disciplines and how we can incorporate them into our lives, and why. We are offering Monday mornings 10-12, Monday evenings 7-9pm, Tuesday afternoons 1-3pm, all at Westfield Drive. The cost is $5.
We won’t have time to study the whole book so we’ll will focus on particular disciplines. The book is $20 from Gwyn if you’d like to buy a copy but we will have the resources for the study each week. Please sign up for this so I know numbers either with Gwyn or the hub – firstname.lastname@example.org
Purple is the colour of royalty – it was incredibly expensive to produce the dye and it worn by Roman Emperors. It’s also a colour for mourning and grief. So it reflects the royalty of God but also the grief of Good Friday. During Lent, my stole will be purple as will the banners in the church.