As I was reflecting on the readings for Lent in the Revised Common Lectionary, I noticed that running through the sections from the Hebrew Scriptures is a theme of God’s faithfulness to God’s people and the way this brings joy, renewal and life.
Many of us will have taken on Lenten practices and disciplines to help us to enter the season and prepare for the journey to the cross. As well as helping us enter into a season of penitence, prayer and reflection, Lenten disciplines can prompt us to be alert for signs of God’s renewing work in the world.
In the story of Noah, God gifts a rainbow to us as a sign of God’s desire to love the world no matter how much the world turns its back on God’s ways.
Facing the almost complete destruction of the world, God makes a promise to Noah and his family – and to the whole world for all generations – that God will never again destroy the earth. God will endure with us in love no matter how much we turn from God’s ways for us.
The rainbow reassures us that God loves us no matter what and that no Lenten discipline can make God love us more than God already does.
Lenten practices are not about earning love. They help us learn radical dependence on God’s goodness and mercy.
Sarai and Abram are old and have no children when God promises them a child with many generations to come. The new hope they have been given is symbolised in their new names. This pattern is repeated throughout Scripture, as life in the form of a child comes to women and men who had given up hope of ever having a family.
Lenten practices that help us see signs of new life and hope assist us to live into Sarah and Abraham’s story. They invite us to be people confident that God is bringing us renewed life. Prayer allows us to dwell in God and opens us up to see where God is at work in the world. Prayer calls us to join God working for renewed life.
The Ten Commandments are given to God’s people to shape their new life set free from slavery when they are wandering in the desert, struggling to make the transition from slaves to the free people of God. The Ten Commandments are a gift from God to help the people live into this new life as God’s free people. God, and love of God, is set as the beginning of freedom and new life.
New life invites to us to take a day to rest and remember that all depends on God. From this flows a commitment to live as a good neighbour, a loving child, a faithful partner. In the Ten Commandments we see that new life is both freedom from enslavement and freedom to live for God and our neighbour.
Lenten disciplines invite us to the renewed life we have in God that the Ten Commandments shape in us. Disciplines such as giving up chocolate or wine to support those in need is one way to live in freedom for another. It can allow our lives to be shaped by love of God and neighbour.
Jeremiah reminds us that God is constantly writing a covenant of love and faithfulness onto our hearts. God’s faithfulness to us and to all of creation allows us to face who we are and confess our sin. God’s faithfulness and love of each of us calls us to live life anew in love, for love.
As you journey through Lent may the practices you take up and the things you give lead you to the life of hope and joy which is God’s gift to us in every season.