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Lent is not meant to be miserable by Laurie Vere – 30th March

Extracts from an article by Laurie Vere published 3 March 2017

Lent is a re-enactment — an embodiment — of Jesus’s stay in the wilderness. There is nothing to suggest that Jesus went to the wilderness to bewail his sins or to be miserable. He went, as so many others did, to clear the decks.


The wilderness represents solitude, rest, and a profound trust in God to meet every need: emotional, physical, spiritual, and mental. It involves the acceptance of risk - all the dangers of isolation (loneliness, self-deception and hunger) - for the sake of a closer approach to God. The agenda is left entirely open to God.


It is not about being miserable or setting one’s own agenda for self-improvement (good resolutions, dieting and self-flagellation). It is not about following an agenda for social improvement, however worthy that is in itself. It is about stopping all that and waiting on God.


For this reason, I think that the people who say: “I am not giving up anything for Lent: I’m taking up something,” or “Lent should be positive: about doing something extra for God,” are equally mistaken. The wilderness invitation is definitely about refusing the temptation to do more, be more, or achieve more, and very much about accepting limitations and emptiness and discovering joy.


The wilderness is beautiful, revelatory and rewarding exactly because it clears the decks for God - which is why God invites us into it. And the experience is embodied in Lenten fasting and prayer, like Christianity itself: in the incarnation, in the crucifixion, in the resurrection.


Practising the steps in Lent — making these movements in precise and careful ways for love — are a helpful rehearsal for times when the Lord of the Dance leads us through dark places.


Lent is not a final retreat from the world, but a temporary refocusing. John the Baptist, Jesus, Paul, and the Desert Fathers and Mothers who withdrew to the wilderness did so not to engage in a life so heavenly as to be of no earthly use. These adventures were the essential preparation for their work in the world — the essential receiving of orders from God for the work they were to do.

Photo: Rev Sue Murray

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