Some random thoughts on Lent and such
Over the last few weeks in church we have heard Jesus teaching us in the Sermon on the Mount. He has invited us to be perfect – which does not mean without fault but being complete or mature. He has also invited us to be righteous – which does not morally upright but living as we were intended to live, as bearers of the image of God. We are invited to live out the character of God as Jesus lived out the character of God. We are perfect when we live out our righteousness. We are righteous when we live God’s compassion, generosity, justice, love and mercy. A few years ago at our missional planning session we called this incarnational living.
Several years ago I suggested the three big questions for churches are: whose are we (or who is this God we seek to follow); who are we (in light of the character of this God); and what is ours to do? In the Sermon on the Mount the answers are – God is love; compassionate, generous, just, merciful beyond measure, and we were created to be the image of God’s character in this world and in our community. To be righteous, perfect, is to enflesh God’s compassion, generosity, justice and aroha. This is incarnational living.
Today, as I write this, we begin Lent. Lent is traditionally a time of prayer, fasting and alms giving. It is a time of being in the wilderness, like so many in the Bible before us. The wilderness is a good place. It is the place where Jesus went to know who he was and what it meant to be called “Son of God.” The wilderness of Lent is a time for us to remember that we bear the image of God. It is a time to embrace whose we are, who we are and what is ours to do.
It is also a time to notice those ideas and habits that divert us from this. It is a time to take account of our ways of seeing the world that places us at the centre and God and everyone else on the edge; ways of seeing the world and responding that we need to give up or let go of that distract us from being image bearers.
It is also a time to try new ways of living and seeing the world that help grow as image bearers, that help us respond and live with compassion, generosity, justice, love and mercy.
Lent is also a time for us as parish to take stock. At the AGM I asked people to think about how we as a parish live God’s generosity and justice, and how we might build on that. I wondered what our annual reports would look like if all we focussed on how we live as image bearers as a Parish. Maybe next year they will.
May this Lent be a time of letting go and taking up, a time of growing in knowing whose we are, who we are and what is ours to do.