We have begun the season of Lent. One of the ancient practices of the Christian church down the ages is learning to do without some of the luxuries of life for a season, in order to be generous to others.
It’s a practice adopted from the Jewish community of Jesus’ day. People would fast for one or two days a week, not because they were on a diet to lose weight, but in order to save the money they would have spent on food for that day, so they had something to give to those in need. It was a way of reminding themselves that we are each other’s keeper; we are brothers and sisters made in God’s image and need one other more than we think.
I’m sure that most of us would like to think that we are generous. An elderly father who was very generous to many causes once complained that his children were not generous and was puzzled by that because he had always been generous to them; he had led by example! As I pondered his quandary I wondered if what was lacking was that his children had received all that had been given to them and taken it for granted, as though it were a right. But we can learn to be generous, and the season of Lent helps us in this by saying, ‘here is a season to practice generosity’. We practice by doing it daily, weekly. And I don’t just mean giving money – though that is important. Generosity is more than giving money away. Its about treating people well, respecting and not judging people; its about thinking about what others need. It’s about the way you treat the check-out chick at the supermarket, the waitress in the restaurant, the person sitting next to you on the tram. Its about the way you treat those who disagree with you over politics or any other issue.
You might have received the brochure on Lent last Sunday, with ideas on how we might prepare to celebrate the wonder and mystery of the resurrection on Easter Day. I offer it to you in the hope that you will find it practical and helpful in considering what practice you might adopt throughout the season of Lent.
On March the 8th I led a devotional walk in the City of Melbourne called ‘The Way of the Cross’. It’s a walk that takes about two hours and invites us to walk with Jesus toward the cross and all that that meant for him and for us. It’s a walk marked by large bronze sculptures by a Melbourne artist, Anna Meszaros. Walking prayerfully, going on pilgrimage either in company with others or alone is an ancient practice that is increasingly becoming popular. We only have to mention the name ‘The Camino’ and people think of that walk across the Pyrenees from France to Spain. But there are literally hundred’s of ‘caminos’ across Europe and other places as well.
One of my mentors used to make a walk every Monday with his wife. They would read a psalm before they started out, and then walked in silence until mid-day reflecting on that psalm and the beauty around them. Over a picnic lunch they spoke about their reflections before reading the psalm again and retracing their steps. It was a healthy discipline, and I hope that you might find a way to pick up one of these ideas to mark the season of Lent.