Spring cleaning

Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, or Pancake Day.

Pancakes came from the tradition of giving something up for Lent.  Eating pancakes was the way to get rid of all those things that you would give up – so that they weren’t in the cupboard tempting you.

I’m not a huge fan of giving something up for Lent – I prefer to take something useful on.  But it is important I think to take the opportunity to take time and reflect, and see what God is saying to us, where he is leading us. Whether we give something up for Lent or not, it is no bad thing to have the ‘spring clean’, to look in the cupboards of our lives and see what is there, and what should be there.

When I went to my cupboard to get out the ingredients for the pancakes, I found that my flour was actually out of date anyway.  I needed to get it out of my cupboard and get rid of it.  A good root through the cupboards also reminds us of the things that are missing.  My husband asked where the marmalade was – I was sure there was some in the cupboard, but there wasn’t – some more needed to be bought.  And you never know just what you might find!  Right at the back of the cupboard, hidden in a corner were some chocolates left over from Christmas – a treat waiting to be found.  Taking a good look lets you know where you are.

The same applies with our lives if we take a look through them.  We may find things that would be better not there.  We may discover some things are missing, and be able to put it right.  And we might find some good things that we had forgotten about.  We won’t know if we don’t take that time to stop and look.

Lent is traditionally a time to prepare for Easter.  Methodist Worship Book, in it’s pre-amble in the service for Ash Wednesday says…

Sisters and brothers in Christ, since early days Christians have observed with great devotion the time of our Lord’s passion, death and resurrection. It is the custom of the Church to prepare for this by a season of penitence and self-denial.

At first, this season of Lent was observed by those being prepared for Baptism at Easter and by those seeking restoration to the Church’s fellowship. In the course of time, all Christians were invited to keep these days carefully, to take to heart the call to repentance, to receive the assurance of forgiveness proclaimed in the Gospel, and so to grow in faith and devotion to our Lord.

In the name of Christ, therefore, I invite you to observe this holy season of Lent, by prayer, self-denial and charitable giving; by self-examination and repentance; and by reading and meditating on God’s word. (p141)

Lent remembers the forty days Jesus spent in the wilderness.  Preparing for his future, working out who and what his priorities were – and then he could go and do what he needed to, what he was called to.    It was for him, a time of contemplation, reflection and preparation.  Lent, then offers to us the same opportunity of contemplation, reflection and preparation.  An opportunity to join with Jesus on his retreat, if we wish to take it as such.  We too can take the opportunity to spend that time with God, looking at our lives and looking to our future.  Strengthened for the journey ahead, getting ready for Easter and the new life of spring.

In the Early Church, the focus of Lent was to:

  • A time for new converts to prepare for their baptism – on Easter Day.  To have intensive classes and teaching, before their important step.  In about AD 350, Bishop Cyril of Jerusalem told those about to be baptized, “You have a long period of grace, forty days for repentance.”
  • It was time for long-standing Christians to review their lives and renew their commitment to Christ.  By the time of Augustine, Lent had become a time of preparation for all Christians, baptized or not, in that “part of the year…adjoining and touching with the Passion”
  • It was time for backsliders to be restored to the faith – remembering always that Easter signifies the possibility of new life for everyone.

From his time alone, Jesus went to begin the task God had called him to – to call the people to repent.  Spending time alone with God, not only gives us the space to think, but also the strength to respond.

My old computer used to  flash up with a message, “Low resources”.  There was not enough power in the computer to do all the things I was trying to do on it.  Lent is a time to take a check on our spiritual resources – to recharge our spiritual batteries.  Jesus’ time with God was his resource.  Our time with God can be our resource.  Yes there may be lots to do, but aren’t they done better having spent some time allowing God to fill us and equip us?

Time with God is precious – he wants to challenge us and empower us – but it needs us to be close enough for us to do it.

So whether we are familiar with a Lenten observance or not, it does us no harm – and a lot of good – to take some time to be with God.  To reflect on our lives, taking the time to work through where our certainties and our loyalties lie; to bring to God our confession, to seek his forgiveness and seek to turn our lives in the direction he asks us.

~ by pamjw on February 17, 2010.

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