How does the liturgical season of Lent normally affect us? Well, for many, it is a time when we ‘give something up’ – maybe chocolate, or alcohol, or biscuits, or … well, the list is endless. And why do we do this? Because, in some way, our small sacrifice of self-denial encourages us to relate to Jesus Christ and his self-denial during the 40 days and nights he spent in the wilderness. It reminds us what it is like to confront temptation and, like Jesus, overcome it. And, what’s more, we can be morosely miserable about it and take great pleasure in telling people “No, no sugar in my tea; I’ve given it up for Lent.”
Was it Oscar Wilde who said “I can resist everything except temptation”? What good and faithful followers of Jesus we must be if we can go 40 days without caffeinated drinks or lemon drizzle cake. True disciples, undoubtedly.
And, what’s more, these little sacrifices we make usually have an added benefit – we lose weight, or we save money or we get fitter. It’s almost as though we’re not actually making a sacrifice for Jesus but, rather helping ourselves out instead.
Would we put as much effort into Lent, into our self-denial, our sacrifice, if we knew that someone else was to benefit instead? If we didn’t accrue the benefit of our labours but they were to go to someone else? Maybe someone who wasn’t expecting it … God forbid the beneficiary was someone who didn’t deserve it!
But isn’t that actually what happened all those years ago? Jesus made the biggest sacrifice of all, gave his life, not for His benefit – but for ours. And humanity didn’t deserve it then – and doesn’t deserve it now, yet still the sacrifice was made.
So this year, let’s not look at making self serving sacrifices, let’s do something for others.. Acts of Random Kindness for people who maybe don’t deserve it.
I was the recipient of an ARK 20 years ago in Liverpool – I’d parked in the City Centre to go to a meeting which had overrun. When I got back to my car I feared the worst as I saw something tucked under the windscreen wipers and knew I’d been ticketed for outstaying the parking meter. But it was an anonymous note which just said “I’ve put 20p in your parking meter; maybe you could do the same for someone else. God bless”.
So let’s not stop doing something in these days leading up to Easter, let’s DO something instead. It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture, sometimes just a small word or act can change the world of someone in need. The Dalai Lama is quoted as saying “If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito.”
If you need help with ideas, why not register at http://www.40acts.org.uk/ and they will send you daily emails offering ideas of what you might do to make a difference to someone or a situation.
By the way, I’ve not given up chocolate for Lent so, if any of you have done, and want to make sure that you aren’t tempted by that bar of Dairy Milk…. my address is in the phonebook