1st March 2022
Lent is the forty day season of preparation for Easter; preparation for the new life that we share with Christ through his resurrection.
Lent is marked by Christians as a time of self examination, penitence, self denial and moderation, spiritual discipline (usually involving prayer and study/ reading) and alms giving. More generally it is seen as a time for giving up on a luxury we enjoy or giving up on a vice which has become an unwanted habit. The climate crisis has prompted some to use Lent as a season for fasting from carbon.
Lent begins with Jesus in the wilderness, where with nothing to eat, he is totally reliant on his relationship with God. We might also think of other wilderness. The wilderness that lay outside the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve faced the challenge of tending and filling the earth so that it might bloom and flourish as it had in the garden planted by God. The wilderness between Egypt (where the prevailing system had been one of slavery and oppression) and the Promised Land. Here too the exiles had to learn to trust and learn from God how they should live, how they should adapt to a new environment.
Lent can therefore be the time when we should focus on how we tend and care for the environment, on how we pay attention and respond to God’s will, so that we can flourish in harmony with God’s gift of creation.
Jesus’s time in the wilderness occurs straight after he has been baptised by John in the Jordan. John too had chosen to locate himself in the wilderness, knowing its symbolic status as a place of encounter with God and a place of repentance. John called on the people to own up to their sins, to change the way they lived, to transform their lifestyles, and to prepare the ground for the new era – the new creation – that the Messiah was bringing. John’s challenge was tough: the rich were to share their wealth, officials were not to cheat, and soldiers were not to abuse their power. Every tree that did not bear good fruit would be chopped down and burnt!
Should we too see Lent as the time to call truth to power? To point to both what is wrong in the way we live and to what the dire consequences will be? Is it time to stand up in the wilderness calling on everyone to prepare for a new way of life, a new beginning, a fresh start? John and Jesus were charismatic activists. They spoke out, they told stories, they acted out their message. They spoke the truth. They healed and consoled people. And they showed people the right way.
This Lent we need to be up front and open in talking about the climate crisis. We need to talk about it with our friends and neighbours. We need to both console and inspire. We need to show in our daily lives how we can live differently. We need to repeatedly demand change from those in power, MPs and local councillors, business leaders and investors, local businesses, manufacturers and retailers. We need to be vocal in our churches and in the streets (a poster in your window or on your gatepost). Now is the time to repent and change if we are to avert great disaster and instead to welcome in a new age of hope.
Jesus answered, ‘The first is, “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” The second is this, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.” There is no other commandment greater than these.’ Mark 12:29-31
Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:6-9
At core the message is simple: Love God, love your neighbour. Learn these words, teach them to your children, talk about them, repeat them at home and abroad, know them you sleep and when you rise, imprint them on your heart, display them on your gate post and door post, wear them on your sleeve.