Lent - give up or give?
February 24, 2009 by admin
Ash Wednesday is traditionally the day when Christians (and those looking for a helping hand with their diets) give up their indulgences for six whole weeks to remember Jesus’s 40 days in the wilderness.
Popular things to give up include chocolate, biscuits, crisps, smoking and brussels sprouts. Then there are the more individual, niche things.
This year, some people are giving up Facebook. But it’s not the strange sacrifice it might seem. There is a whole Facebook group devoted to the idea - try typing ‘Give up Facebook for Lent’ into the search tool. Ironically, it seems to me that anyone who joins a group on Facebook to abstain from the addiction to the site is never going to last six weeks.
Yet is sacrifice an old fashioned view of Lent? Many people are now of the opinion that rather than giving up things, we should do something positive instead. This is because the sacrifice of our daily dose of chocolate does not really benefit anyone, whereas giving a couple of hours a week to a good cause really does.
Many churches now have Lent Projects where congregations work together to raise money for worthy causes. This year, the Church of England is campaigning for people in Newcastle to try to reduce their carbon emissions with their project ‘Treading Lighter during Lent’ in an effort to help the environment, and do something positive.
Twins Jon and Tim Churchward, 22, are planning on making a real difference during Lent this year.
Tim, a youth worker for Life in Abundance says: “It strikes me that Lent is an excuse to give up something we should all be giving up anyway. People give up chocolate or television or perhaps even alcohol and use Lent as a tool of self-discipline.
“With this in mind I’m giving up nothing other than what is most precious to me, my time.”
Instead of going to the pub on Wednesday nights the pair are planning to reach out to the less fortunate. They want to help the hungry, the homeless and those addicted to alcohol and drugs.
“We’re going to feed people who are hungry with food cooked by our hands. I’m going to sit and talk to people who are lonely. Lent is not about me, it is about the people who I can help,” says Tim.
Jesus helped the less fortunate and that is what Tim and Jon want to do over the next six weeks.
You don’t need to take on a big project to make a difference to someone’s life during Lent. Mark Schofield, 50, a Deputy Head Teacher who attends St Helen’s Roman Catholic Church says: “In Lent, as well as giving up general things like treats, my family see it as a time to focus on making a difference in peoples lives. My children might just be encouraged to say thank you more often or to call an elderly relative for a chat. Simple things make all the difference.”
Keith Norman, a Worship Leader and Organist at Rayleigh Methodist Church agrees. “I remember, as a child, thinking that I was taking Lent seriously by rationing myself to only one Smartie sweet per day! I now see it as a season for reflection and preparation for the celebration of Easter.
“I try to use Lent as a time for “personal spring cleaning”, so as new life can be seen in spring bulbs and buds on the trees, I ought to prune back the parts of my life that are unproductive and look for new signs of a more effective life,” he said.
So rather than giving up chocolate this Lent, (then really wishing you hadn’t), perhaps you could make a positive change in either your life, or the lives of those around you. It doesn’t take a lot - but you could make a real difference.
by Alexandra Murphy