My wife and I have both been reading this wonderful little book, ‘The Circle of Seasons’ by Kimberlee Conway Ireton, which gives us ways of marking the seasons of the church year as a family. This idea comes from her wonderful book.
Lent begins tomorrow with Ash Wednesday, and today is Shrove Tuesday – best known for its association with pancakes. The idea is that we empty out our pantries and fridges so we are ready for the fasting season of Lent. So perhaps the ‘all-in’ omelette is a better idea!
For Lent we took our Christmas Tree which was sitting in the ‘to-become-firewood’ pile around the back. What was meant to be a purely practical task quickly became quite spiritual. At Christmas time, the evergreen tree reminds us of the everlasting life God invites the world to share in Christ. But when I found ours around the back, it was anything but green. This reminded me of the fact that Lent is about how the Light of the world submitted to darkness, and (at least for a few days) the darkness did overcome it.
The spiritual significance didn’t end there. Next I had to strip the tree of its branches. It was rough work, and I couldn’t escape the thought of Christ’s vulnerability in the hands of his accusers, his self emptying and nakedness.
Next I had to cut the trunk and form a cross. I only let myself use handtools so it was time consuming and surprisingly prayerful.
Now I had to create holes in the cross. I started with my hand drill and then had to ramp it up. It wasn’t easy taking a hammer and chisel to the cross. Again my practical task was overcome by spiritual musings on the brutality mete out on Jesus, and my partnership in that.
The holes are to hold candles – 7 candles to be precise. A candle to be extinguished each Thursday evening in Lent until Maundy Thursday, the night of the Last Supper, the evening before Jesus’ death. As in Advent we light candles as we approach Christmas and the coming of God into the world, so in Lent we put them out as we remember the costly love of Jesus in freely offering himself to the world and for the world.
So this is what we ended up with. Sam and I found the purple scarf at the Hospice shop (and totally overpaid for it). Its the key colour of Lent marking pain, suffering and mourning. Part of Lent is that we grieve at what Christ went through. I think we spend so much time enjoying the triumph of Easter Sunday that we don’t give ourselves the chance to linger in the pain that preceded it, which mirrors the fate so much of the world is currently caught in.
[We had hoped to find purple candles but couldn’t track down any fair trade ones. These ones were made in NZ, so we think we’re ok there. I had to raid my son’s playdough to make the candles stay put, and then dusted them with some redwood dust I had (literally) lying around in the garage.]
It’ll sit on our table for the next six weeks and remind us of a love which emptied itself completely for the sake of the world. We’ll be invited to wonder at what Jesus might be asking us to lay down, how he might be calling us to empty our hands and our hearts so we have room for his kingdom of misfits to grow in our midst. Each Thursday night we’ll gather with some friends, bake fresh bread, share some mulled wine and listen to what Jesus might be saying to us through the people present. That’s the voice of the living Jesus we’ll be listening for, who came through all this horror and invites us to follow him. It will be simple, soulful and beautifully sad.
Perhaps you can find a way to mark Lent in a way that will help you keep step with Jesus on his way to Jerusalem, all for love.