“Overdose for Christmas, give it for Lent” sang Robbie Williams in his song Millennium. Perhaps this was a critique of modern society/religion but the idea of “giving it for Lent” has been around for as long as I can remember – the “it” being whatever we choose – coffee, chocolate, alcohol, etc.
This may be a way in to Lent but it misdirects us from the richness of the season. In her recently published book the Divine Heart of Darkness, Methodist Minister Cathy Bird reflects on her experience in Longyearbyen in Svalbard – the most northerly inhabited town in the world. Staying during a period of perpetual night Cathy delves into the darkness “finding God in the shadows”.
Lent offers a time to explore – the idea of giving things up flows from the tradition of fasting – a practice of self-denial allowing us to focus more thoughtfully on our relationship with the living God.
The first words Jesus speaks in the gospel according to Mark includes the phrase “repent and believe the good news”. It is both a turning away from but also a positive embracing of the kingdom. In this spirit I invite you to join with me to take some time, delve into the darkness, and as part of this pray week by week for the communities of which we are a part; as a member of the local church to pray for the preacher who is preparing to lead worship at the church in that week; and for Preachers to pray for the churches where you will be leading worship. Together we build one another up to the glory of God. (And if you are still worried about chocolate – don’t give it up just commit yourself to buying fairtrade)!