Thursday, 11 February 2016
Why Lent is a 'Yes' to life
One of the characters in Bruce Chatwin's novel 'Songlines' says: “If the world has a future, it has an ascetic future.” The point was that unless we learn the disciplines of self-denial there is little chance of a future for the human race, and indeed the very planet on which we live and depend. We know this with our bodies – unless we learn to limit our intake of unhealthy food, our health and wellbeing will suffer. The same is true for the whole world. If we continue to disregard the deep rhythms of creation, consuming all we can of the earth’s resources without limit, we will destroy ourselves, our communities through competition over increasingly scarce resources, and eventually, the very earth God has given us to sustain life. Our culture often subtly treats us first and foremost as consumers – we exist to consume food, wine, TV, clothes, gadgets and all the rest, and so keep the economy afloat. And we can just as subtly buy into that agenda, thoughtlessly consuming our way through life, trying to quench our spiritual hunger with things, when it can only be satisfied with God. As Jesus himself said facing his own ‘Lent’ in the desert: ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." Lent can seem a life-denying period of austerity. And in some ways it is a time when we learn the habit and skill of saying ‘no’ to desires which can so often mislead us. Yet looked at another way it is time for positive witness. By denying ourselves some of the things we usually take for granted, and especially when we give more time for prayer, we are saying publicly that we are NOT first and foremost consumers, we are people made for relationship with the God who loves us in Christ and whom we are learning to love. It is a way of saying that there is something, or better, someone who is more important to us than chocolate, wine, gadgets and Facebook, however good they are. It is a time when we re-assert our true identity and loyalty, both to ourselves, because we often forget who we are, and to the world, because it needs to know the liberating message that we are not here primarily to consume but to love and be loved. And the way we do that is to re-connect with the One who loves us, with the Giver behind the gifts.