Isabelle Hamley is the author of Embracing Justice, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent Book for 2022. The book asks what might a spirituality shaped by biblical portrayals of justice look like for the church of the 21st century? Homegroups has an insightful series to go alongside the book. https://homegroups.org.uk/series/embracing-justice/
Isabelle gives us her thoughts on lent in this blog.
There is something special about the ebb and flow of the church year. If it wasn’t for the period of Lent, I would never even consider given up chocolate. Actually, I have only managed to give up chocolate once. And I only managed, because giving up had a goal. Lent wasn’t so much about what I was turning away from (chocolate) but what I was turning to. Because I am so keen on chocolate, I asked my congregation whether they would sponsor me to give up – at a daily rate. All proceeds would go to a project really dear to me, a charity working with traumatised children in the refugee camps of Lebanon. We raised hundreds of pounds which went to help fund counselling, so that these children would be able to imagine life differently, and reach for a better future.
Lent is often made out to be about giving up things, about discipline. And that is part of it. But what matters is what we are making space for through the giving up. What is it that is allowed to grow within us and around us when we consciously change something in our life?
The practice of Lent is often linked to the 40 days of fasting of Jesus in the desert. The desert was not a particularly nice place; food and water were scarce, there were wild beasts, and little shelter. Going into the desert meant giving up people, good food and comfort for a while. But what was it making space for?
There was space for Jesus to be tempted, in solidarity with human experience. Space for Jesus to come to learn what may be tempting to him specifically. Space to express and embody a different way of being for his followers to follow: trusting in God; not trying to prove himself in face of taunts or disbelief; refusing to misuse his position and power, either for himself, or in service of any perceived goals for the world as a whole. The desert reveals something about God, and how God chooses to act.
Our Lenten disciplines may not be nearly as dramatic of course. But they can still make space for something to bloom in our lives; space for us to seek to know more of God, and explore our vocation in being the people of God. Lent isn’t just about individuals, it is something we go through together as a church. And therefore making space for something new needs to help us ask, how is our life as the people of God together in this place and this time reflective of the heart of God and the ministry of Jesus? What do we need to leave behind, and what orientation do we want for the future? Whether it is in doing a Lent course, in raising money for charity or trying to green our lives, or any of the other ideas out there, Lent is a time for reflection, for developing habits, and for holding the hope of the Gospels: for ourselves, for one another, and for the world around us.
Check out our fantastic homegoups resources to help you study over lent.