LENT is upon us. What will you be giving up — or giving away? What, if anything, does Lent mean to you? What is your church doing — or stopping doing — for Lent this year?
Traditionally, of course, Lent has been seen as a time for giving things up, for travelling, metaphorically, with Jesus into the wilderness, for resisting temptation, for listening for the voice of God’s Spirit whispering to us as we take time out.
But how many of us can actually do that, take time out in Lent? Instead of allowing us to give things up or give us a little breathing space, churches seem to see Lent as a time to demand more: Lent groups spring up everywhere; clergy and Lent group leaders beat themselves up in the attempt to drum up support and encourage participation, losing themselves in a bewildering wilderness of planning and organisation… and somewhere outside of all our frenetic activity, the wind howls in frustration, unable to drive us out into the desert because we’ve battened down the hatches and locked ourselves in…
One way to break free that I’ve taken a liking to is the Church of England’s Love Life Live Lent campaign — as they say on the website, Love Life Live Lent is more than a booklet, more than a website: it’s a movement. And it’s a movement away from ourselves and our tendency to churchify everything — including Jesus himself: let’s say no to Christ churchified! — and to take our faith into our communities instead.
There are two booklets (only £1 each, from Church House Publishing) available to support the movement: the Love Life Live Lent: Adult & Youth Version (ISBN 9780715141762) and Love Life Live Lent: For Kids (ISBN 9780715141793) as well as a Love Life Live Lent: Family Book (ISBN 9780715141823, £4.99) which, alongside the suggested daily actions in the booklets, includes family activities, recipes and prayers.
All in all, Love Life Live Lent is a fantastic resource that — if we allow it to — will get us out of the rut of regular church activities and out into the wild wilderness of our communities and neighbourhoods where we’ll find the Holy Spirit already at work, doing his thing transforming lives without all the religious paraphernalia we’re so fond of piling up on top of people.
And finally: you’ll find Love Life Live Lent on Facebook and Twitter too — so even when you’re tied to your desk with your computer, you can still break free for a moment or two. This year, don’t endure Lent: enjoy it; and be prepared for God’s Spirit to take you places you weren’t expecting (says he, suddenly realising how risky saying something like that can be…).