I hope that we all had plenty of pancakes on Pancake Day, aka Shrove Tuesday, which was on Feb 28th this year. That, of course, was followed by Ash Wednesday, the start of the season of Lent – the 40-day period leading up to Easter (not counting Sundays). I remember that when I was at school, all the girls were interrogating each other about what we’re giving up for Lent. The answer was usually chocolate or pudding, without really giving thought to why we’re giving up these yummy things. If truth be told, it was just an excuse to go on a diet to look more gorgeous, which isn’t really in the spirit of Lent.
So, what is the spirit of Lent? In order to try and explain that to our Kids’ Club kids, we take a look at Jesus:
Jesus in the desert
After being baptised in the river Jordan but before starting his public ministry of preaching and healing in Israel, Jesus goes into the desert to fast for 40 days and 40 nights. (Hmm… that is so drastic, but I guess that’s where the giving up of food during Lent comes from.) He needs to get away from the crowds and the distractions in order to find out exactly what God the Father wants him to do and say.
There is nothing to do out there in the desert, unless you’re David Attenborough with a camera crew. You’re alone with your thoughts, and you have no one to talk to but God. Perhaps we talk to ourselves, and argue with ourselves. At least there isn’t anyone else we can blame, and we’re forced to face our own demons.
So, Jesus is pretty hungry and the Devil comes to tell him to turn stones into bread if he is the Son of God…
Resist the temptation to take the easy way out! Jesus doesn’t just think of his own tummy. He is sure of God the Father’s love and care for him. So what if he’s really hungry for a while? He understands that there’s more to life than consuming things. It’s important to feed your soul too, and he has been doing just that. He goes for the long haul, not just short term gratification.
There it is again! The Devil’s having another go at Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down (from the highest point of the temple).”
If you’re not sure of who you are, you’d be trying to prove yourself, to prove that you’re worthy of something, of someone’s love and respect. If you’re feeling insecure, you might want to test your significant other’s love for you. Haven’t we all met someone who’s basically said, “If you love me, you’d do this or that”? Testing someone will actually sabotage your relationship with them. Or haven’t we seen a child wanting your attention by shouting the loudest or doing something naughty? You know that it’s easy to cave in, but in doing so you also know that it doesn’t help in the long run.
Well now, by this time the Devil knows better than to attack Jesus’ identity. So he’s offering Jesus all the power and kingdoms of the world, if he would bow down and worship him.
Maybe the Devil doesn’t yet know how it’s all going to end. I think it’s a bit like a con man trying to sell you your own piece of land – your family estate which you’ll eventually inherit, but saying that you can have it now and don’t have to wait till your parents die, if you sign on the dotted line with him! Surely we’d all slam the door in his face, which is exactly what Jesus does.
Spirit of Lent
So what does all this tell us about the spirit of Lent? Jesus here shows us that he knows who he is – the Son of God. He has the power to turn stones into bread. He can call on God and have angels sent to protect him and do his bidding. He shall rule over all the kingdoms of the earth. Yet he refrains from using any of his privileges. He doesn’t have to have everything now – he trusts God’s timing and bigger plan. He knows he is loved by God the Father, and so he loves him back by faithfully sticking up for Him.
And what about us? We don’t have special powers like Jesus (maybe that’s why he didn’t use his special privileges, in order to be just like us), but we can follow his example this Lent:
Don’t take the easy way out! Believe that God cares about us and loves us. It doesn’t mean life is easy, but it doesn’t mean God loves us less.
It’s not about me! Let’s not demand attention on ourselves, but let’s give our attention to others, and to God.
Be patient and loyal! Trust God with the bigger picture. Let’s not let anyone or anything undermine our relationships with our loved ones or our families.