By Barbie Perks —
At our home church, a Methodist church, someone introduced the idea of pancake Tuesday as a fund-raising community event which proved immensely popular and successful. The funds raised go towards the feeding scheme which provides nearly 200 food parcels to HIV-AIDS affected families, and the church community has a wonderful time eating and working together – it takes a lot of work to make, fill and sell over 5,000 pancakes in one evening.
This year I will be introducing a similar event to our local international Christian fellowship, but obviously on a much smaller scale! I was asked to prepare a short devotion on the meaning of Lent, so I have been researching, reading, meditating and in general, just thinking about exactly what this activity means to me.
Lent has always been a time where folks have chosen something to ‘give up’, where they talk a lot about what they have given up, and how good they are at not eating that chocolate, drinking that soda, going on Facebook, etc. It would seem that we are in danger of making Lent into a ‘works’ activity and looking to God for approval for how good we are at disciplining ourselves!
In actual fact, Lent is a 40 day period of preparation for Easter, in the same way as Advent is a 40 day period of preparation for the birth of Christ. Traditionally, we remember the 40 days Christ spent in the wilderness, fasting and praying in preparation for his ministry on earth.
Shrove comes from the word “shrive”, which means to repent of sin, confess that sin and receive absolution. The ashes used in Ash Wednesday services are Old Testament symbols of repentance (sackcloth and ashes), as well as a reminder of our own mortality. Entering into this Lent period by becoming aware of our own sinful shortcomings, repenting and asking forgiveness, helps us to prepare for the reality of the great sacrifice Jesus made and enables us to celebrate anew the wonderful gift of resurrection, the amazing gift of eternal life.
The recently released Kendrick Brothers film, “Overcomer”, has a very strong Christian theme about realising one’s identity in Christ – based on Ephesians 1-2. We are using the accompanying Bible study notes in our weekly fellowship group, and it is proving to be a very insightful study. Looking deeply into how we form our identity, and how it can sometimes become an idol is a very sobering process. Working through realising, repenting, confessing and seeking new ways to live for Christ is a huge challenge. This period before Easter will be a very opportune time to examine ways in which I can truly become a new creation in Christ, as I give up that identity which I have come to see has such a strong hold on me.
John Ortberg’s book, “Overcoming Your Shadow Mission”, is also an excellent book to help you see how Satan can take a perfectly good mission (even identity!) and subvert it, and derail it, so that God is no longer glorified.
If you want to hear his talk, visit here.
The trailer for Overcome is here:
Psalm 139:23 Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. What a wonderful verse to meditate on during the Lenten period.