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'For Everything There Is A Season'

'For Everything There Is A Season'

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Giving up? Taking up? 

Read : St Matthew 3:13-4:11 (NIV) 

Chocolate? Red wine? Neither, as it turns out, but more of that later. For many of us as the season of Lent approaches, the question that we ask ourselves is "what are we going to 'give up' for Lent?" It might not be chocolate or wine but is often something in the food or drink line that we enjoy. Let's however first look at what the gospels tell about concerning this season that we call Lent. 

In the passage from Matthew's Gospel, Jesus, was led by the Holy Spirit, into the wilderness for a period of 40 days. This took place just after He had been baptised by his cousin John. Before the start of his earthly ministry and even before he had called his disciples. (Interestingly a couple of weeks ago a few of us discussed this at a Lenten study group. We associate Lent as coming in the period before Holy Week but this wasn't the case in reality.) 

In the wilderness, Jesus was tempted by Satan, or as some translations say tested. Jesus fasted for these 40 days and one of the temptations was to turn stones into bread. How tempting that must have been when He would have been so hungry. On another occasion, He was challenged to throw himself from the highest point in the temple and save himself. Jesus was able to rebuff Satan by quoting from the scriptures. At the end of the 40 days, Satan left Him and Jesus was ministered to by angels. 

The season of Lent is often referred to as a journey and as you walk around the sanctuary you may liken it to a road with traffic like signs. For Jesus, His journey took Him into the wilderness. A lonely retreat, into a barren, inhospitable place, full of danger. Our Lenten journey tends to be a simpler, easier experience 

For Jesus, this time in the wilderness was a time of retreat away from the many distractions of life although not, as we have read, from temptation. Ultimately, having to choose between the kingship of an earthly kingdom or as a suffering, servant king which was the will of His father. This retreat also was a time of preparation before the start of his ministry. 

Lent can be a season of choices for us. Traditionally it has been about giving up as mentioned previously. This giving up can be likened to fasting, although not usually as extreme! Might there however, be other things we can give up that aren't food related? 
lent soul space

Nowadays, if you pick up a magazine or go online, you will find articles on "decluttering" and the need for this in our modern lives. The 'experts' claim that by getting rid of excess possessions, and unnecessary items from our homes it make our lives easier, even giving us more time. Having just gone through my wardrobe and taken 2 large bags to a charity shop, I can find some truth in this claim. The tidier sock drawer certainly saves time in the mornings! 

Maybe though it's not just our possessions we need to review. What about our time? The time we spend on social media, online, on our mobile phones, watching TV and DVDs and (especially in my case) Sudoku. Time that could be better spent on occasions? 

In a recent article in The Times Magazine, the author Polly Vernon describes her experience of having a trial separation from her smartphone. It makes very interesting and even alarming reading. 

Another author, Bronnie Ware, in her book, The Top Five Regrets of the Dying: A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing, tells of her experiences as a palliative caregiver. She asked her patients about any regrets they had and anything they would do differently. Of the five top common themes, one is 'I wish I hadn't worked so hard'. Many expressed regret at spending so much of their lives trying to earn as much as possible. Ware suggest that if we could adopt the discipline of simplicity and make conscious choices by creating more space in our lives, we could become happier and would probably need fewer material possessions. 

This discipline of simplicity enables us to better serve Jesus. By giving up we are better able to take up. Jesus chose the way of the cross. The words of the hymn, 'Take up your cross, the Saviour said…' , challenge us to better serve him. 

Finally, in recent years I have followed Christian Aid's Lent and Easter Appeal, 'Count Your Blessings' which takes you through the whole of Lent right up to Easter Sunday. How apt that this year's appeal is entitled 'Walk into the wilderness this Lent'. Both giving up and taking up are encouraged as you journey through Lent with this thoughtful and meaningful material.  

Giving up? Taking Up? Either or? Both? You choose. 

Maggie Romanis, 2018


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