And so Lent begins. It always amazes me that we seem to attach...
Mardi Gras’ parades from Rio to Sydney observe Fat or Shrove Tuesday before Lent. Music and rhythm celebrate bodies, colour and movement- the more outrageous the better. This excuse for excess is a reminder to use up the rich, sweet, fatty foods, like pancakes, before the ritual fasting and abstinence of Lent.
There has been a shadow cast this year with the Zika virus. One Olympic committee advises athletes and staff to consider missing the Rio Games. It is no wonder that Partygoers in New Orleans dress up as skeletons, as a reminder of the imminence of death. Two German trains crashing with 16 dead and 150 injured, show us the frailty of life. North Korea’s launch of a rocket has stirred up old fears of nuclear warfare. Was it a communication’s satellite or a missile practice? South Korea and the US are on high military alert. China complains that such military responses threaten its sovereignty and safety. Our world is anxious. The New Hampshire voters went to the polls in the arduous process of electing a new leader of the free world. As they cast their votes, they were thinking ‘What kind of leaders do we want in this fragile and dangerous world?’
Jesus refused all of these temptations, using what God had said and promised, as a bulwark against sin.
I was a once-a-year Anglican. A devout friend would take each me to his church every Ash Wednesday and after every service we emerged with the mark of an ash cross on our heads. It is a visual reminder that Lent is a time for serious reflection. Jesus, after His baptism, was led by the Spirit into the desert. He fasted there for forty days and was tempted by the devil. The temptations were direct and he was asked by the devil to show himself as a provider by turning stones into bread and as a performer by leaping down from a pinnacle, where angelic hosts would save him, in exchange for all earthly power and rule over the kingdoms of this world. Jesus refused all of these temptations, using what God had said and promised, as a bulwark against sin. Lent reminds us of the reality of temptation and the need to stand against the subtle temptations of the world, the flesh and the devil. Jesus was tempted in all points as we are; yet he did not sin. We needn’t be victims to every physical and psychological desire. We can refrain from excess and dependency and can be restrained by the power of God at work in us.
People ask what I am giving up for Lent and my glib response is, ‘I am giving up, giving up’. It is good to reflect on what matters most to us and it is never a bad thing to stop and reflect. Taking time to ask, ‘Who are we and where are we going?’ is important. Elections, train crashes, world events, and annual celebrations are opportunities to decide again what is truly valuable. After the Mardi Gras parades, there will be tons of rubbish to clear, hundreds of sore heads and aching limbs. There is also time to remember the Lenten season leads to the Cross of Good Friday and the joy of Easter. Before that, we have to live in a world full of choices, temptations and threats to life and well-being. Choose wisely.