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March 2017

Hilary writes:

There are lots of traditions associated with Lent, the span of time between Ash Wednesday and Easter Day. Probably the most famous is the practice of giving something up.  It might be something edible: chocolate, wine or cake.  It might be a regular activity: computer games or watching TV.  Or it might be giving something up to make a lifestyle change: smoking perhaps, or foregoing the car in favour of walking.  Giving something up has its roots in the centuries old Christian tradition of fasting, which created time and space for devotion to God, a greater awareness of others and a more disciplined life of prayer.

In recent years, the idea of giving something up has been replaced for some by the idea of taking something up.  Instead of attempting something which might end in disappointment or failure, the idea is to do something positive which makes a difference to us, our family, friends, the local community or the wider world, and which might last beyond Lent.  It could be volunteering, actively supporting a charity, or learning a new skill which will benefit others.

For many, Lent has become an opportunity for both.  A time to give something up which has become distracting or unhelpful in order to create some valuable time for reflection.  And a time to make a commitment to doing something which might be life-enhancing or even life-changing.

One of my favourite prayers asks that we would forget the God we don’t believe in, and find the God who believes in us.  So many of us build up a picture of God which might well be distorted or unhelpful.  We might imagine a God that is too small, or a God that is petty, judgmental or distant.  Perhaps the best thing we can do this Lent is to ‘give up’ the God we stopped believing in long ago, find some time for reflection, and ‘take up’ the God who has never stopped believing in us.

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