It’s lent! And what does that usually bring to mind? Memories of the past when we had all kinds of rules and instructions about these next 40 days and nights? Can you remember only eating fish on Fridays? Or fasting, which may have involved giving up certain foods, or eating nothing from Saturday night until Sunday night?
Of course the intention was always to experience some amount of discomfort and strengthening of will, to shift our focus to doing something for God. Isn’t that a strange thought though? If faith is about how we love each other and love God, how is fishy Friday or fasting showing our love to either?
What were we thinking? If we want to connect with God, a much better path would be to deepen our sense of gratitude for creation. We wouldn’t exist without this incredible, imaginative life-giving and life supporting planet. Most of what we traditionally give up for Lent isn’t about loving others, the planet or God and has zero impact on healing the planet, people, or our relationship with God. How does giving up a favourite food or thing impact the unfairness of the distribution of resources to the majority of human beings in this world?
Giving something up for Lent in the traditional sense has zero impact on changing the way we treat animals we use for food, and their suffering. Or the way we consume what God has made, replacing forests with monocultured landscapes, mountains with mines, ocean life with bleached corals and grey zones. What we usually give up for Lent doesn’t change the mountains of human waste in landfills, or the millions of tons of plastic floating in our oceans. Not by one molecule.
Does this sound negative? Harsh? Peter Singer, one of the greatest philosophers of our time once summed up both the passion for, and value of our lives. “To do as much good as we can.” So let’s make it real.
Become informed about how we treat animals in the food industry, and as a very dear friend of mine says, stop eating the suffering of animals (buy from local sources where animals are treated humanely and fed organically). Have a serious look at global human waste and toxicity, on land and in the oceans. Give up plastic and packaging for Lent… I promise you that will drive you crazy! But you will become an incredible earth warrior in the process. Give yourself one recycling bag, one garbage bag, and allow yourself no more waste than that for 40 days and 40 nights!
Don’t worry, if an angry Easter bunny tries to get you for not buying up all those shiny wrapped candies…. you can out run him because you are in such great shape eating healthy nonpackaged food!
Maybe target giving up processed foods, the single greatest contributor to disease and illness worldwide. And in the process, treat this vessel God gave you to walk the earth and do good, to better health.
Those are just a few examples. I’m sure each of us can find one way to give something up that has real impact. Give it some thought, and share whatever you decide to do … to love the earth, love each other, and love the One who made all of it.
During lent we will be having our regular services at 9 & 10:30am on Sundays, as well as special evening services Wednesday nights at 7pm (traditional compline, New Zealand evening prayers, and Celtic prayer services). Woven throughout will be a focus on loving God, each other, and the earth.
May your Lenten journey have impact!
The Rev’d Mark Pretty