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Lengthening Light

This past week saw the church observe Ash Wednesday and, with it, the commencement of the Lenten season. Literally meaning ‘lengthen’, we begin to witness the natural season change as the daily hours of light are extended slowly each 24-hour cycle. After long, dark Scottish nights, spring daylight can come painfully slowly.

With numerous Christian traditions in the world, there comes a vast array of ways in which people mark this season. I wonder if you’ve taken time to consider what this might mean for you? Some denominations offer strict observance whilst others barely give it mention; some have taken the essence of the season, yet attempted to remove any aspect that may be considered legalistic or forced. Instead, encouraging the believer to discern how they feel led to acknowledge and journey through these 40 days (well it’s 46…or maybe 44, we couldn't even agree on that!!), in a way that is meaningful for them.

I guess we could all start by revisiting the scripture from Genesis that accompanies our Ash Wednesday reflections:

“…..for out of the ground you were taken; you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

We are ‘Adamah', from the Hebrew meaning ‘of the ground, soil or clay’. Our Father, the Author and Creator breathes life into us ‘of the earth’ beings, in a beautiful joining together of body and spirit. You may recall a previous reflection where we looked at ‘breathing in Christ as we pray and breathing out Christ as we engage with the world around us’. I’m left wondering if this intimate encounter with life-giving breath is the invitation we are repeatedly receiving - to relive the process of God’s breath entering us each day.

So then, as we enter Lent through the doorway of Ash Wednesday, we consider the invitation to fast, and discern how that might fit in with our Lent observance. We seek to reflect and ponder, which is essential, but to enter a period of fasting is one of the ways we embody prayer..…another joining of body and spirit. Fasting returns our attention to just how much we’re rooted in our bodies. Fasting creates space, and in the busyness and pace of our modern world, space is in short supply and must be fought for. Through fasting we humbly posture ourselves in prayer. Isaiah (58) tells us that the fasting God has chosen loosens the chains of injustice and sets the oppressed free.

If you were to intentionally put yourself into a place of lacking, how might an injustice be addressed?

As Isaiah suggests, maybe the hungry would be fed, or the poor wanderer be given shelter? Maybe the naked would be clothed?

He goes on a little further, stating that if one would spend themselves on a worthy cause, then “light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday.” Sounds a bit like Lent to me.

Fasting no doubt leads us towards greater intimacy in prayer, but perhaps it also speaks of lengthening light too, rising from the darkness, bright as the noonday! Lengthening the light that emanates from us as we breath Christ out to the world. Then, just as St Francis wanted after his many periods of ‘lent prayer and fasting’ each year, we might transition from simply praying to ‘becoming totally prayer’.

You may have already prayed and discerned how you will observe Lent this year, in which case I pray that your journey through is season is a rich pilgrimage.

If you are still considering and discerning, here are some questions/thoughts to bring to God. Perhaps you could use a journal to reflect on these; it may be helpful to return to.

  • Read Psalm 139. Receive the truth once again that you are known and loved.

  • Use verses 23-24 to pray for guidance.

  • Revisit and reflect on Isaiah 58 and Jesus’ teaching on prayer and fasting in Matthew 6.

  • Is there something that you could lay aside that would bring freedom, help or provision to a person or group pf people?

  • What does it mean for you to move from simply praying, to embodying prayer in your life and in the world?

  • Don’t forget to rest in the loving embrace and affection of God as you journey with Jesus towards Easter. As we read of His approach to Jerusalem, we see that Jesus was in deep need of God’s closeness. We need that too!

May your Lenten season be everything it needs to be for this stage of your life, and may you always follow Jesus, resting and moving under His love and grace as you journey with Him towards Easter.

Jon Timms Director: Scotland & Northern England


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