As Lent approaches, we may be thinking of “what should I be giving up for Lent?” But, as is often said, it might be better to think more positively along the lines of, “What new godly practice might I take up in order to follow Christ more nearly?”
Here are some ideas for you to ponder: is there one of these suggestions that might make Lent 2023 more special for you—a time of personal growth?
Walking: We all need good exercise (not least if we’re not already active dog-walkers!) and time to enjoy God’s good creation. Walking on one’s own gives a great opportunity for solitude and prayer; walking with others a great opportunity for conversation. Why not phone someone and suggest a walk? After our Lent course on Wednesday lunchtimes, why not join others there for a short walk? Or why not join the Parish Walk (scheduled for Sunday 26 March, the first afternoon of British Summer Time)?
Fasting: This sounds like the negative one, but many find that setting aside a day a week for eating less and for putting aside some of our daily comforts, turns out to build their energy, to develop some needed self-control, and helps them to draw closer to the Lord. From Ash Wednesday onwards, how about setting aside Wednesdays as a 24-hour period for enjoying a lighter diet (perhaps just soup and fruit?)? Or Fridays (combined with Lent Lunch!)?
Bible Reading: A few moments each day reading a short passage from the Bible can have a transformative effect, helping us to fill our minds with godly wisdom—much needed for the day ahead. Why not read a Psalm a day for the 40 days until Palm Sunday and then read the Passion story in the Gospels during Holy Week? Or there are many good Bible Reading notes or Apps. One great resource I’ve recently discovered is John Stott’s, Through the Bible through the Year.
Praying: We all know in our hearts that we should do more of this, but few of us find it easy! One great resource that many began to discover during Covid-lockdowns is an App called ‘Lectio 365’, which provides you with a 7-minute guided meditation each morning and a shorter one in the evening. Or why not try praying each day through the words of the Lord’s Prayer, going slowly ‘line by line’?
Receiving Communion: Some in our church family—especially those with young families often find it difficult to attend some of our Communion services. The Lord’s table, however, remains a vital place for us to encounter the Lord and receive his grace. Why not join us for communion on Ash Wednesday or for the quiet, reflective service (in modern language) on Sunday 12th March at 08.30am in St John’s, Itchen Abbas? Both these services will focus on St. Matthew’s account of Jesus’ Temptations in the Desert.
Learning more about the life of Jesus: Finally, there’s always more that we can learn from studying the beautiful and powerful life of Christ. If you’re free during the day, why not join us on Wednesdays at 11.30am in St John’s, Itchen Abbas for a time of delving into the Gospel of Matthew? Of, if you’re only free in the evenings, please consider joining me in some of my three Zoom Seminars, showing you some of my In the Steps of Jesus videos. These are fortnightly on Wednesdays 8 March (Mount of Olives), 22 March (Jerusalem) and 5 April (Gethsemane)—all from 7.30pm-8.45pm.
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the benefits which thou hast given me, for all the pains and insults which thou hast borne for me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend and Brother, may I know thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly. Amen.
St Richard of Chichester (1197-1253)