Celebrating Community in Lent

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I have successfully celebrated Lent one time in my life, and I look back on it with a mixture of horror and laughter; I would really prefer to never again go 40 days drinking only water! It was a valiant effort tied with a charity fundraiser, and I’m impressed I accomplished it. However, the following year I made it three days before coffee beckoned my name. I have never tried again, not even with much simpler Lenten practices.
Despite this, I maintain that Lent is an incredibly important time for the Christian community, and for me. My inability to tie a discipline to it aside, I have regularly marked these days with more thought and more conscious awareness of my beliefs than I do in other parts of the year. I think, perhaps, this is really the point of Lent.
This year, I have done quite a bit of thinking about what it means for me to be a Christian. There are, of course, theological aspects to this, and what I believe about Jesus, redemption, and hope have been the primary focus. Sometimes it is hard to hold these things, with the uncertainty of this time and the tendency toward pessimism that creeps along with my generation. But these doctrines have made me think more deeply on one aspect of Lent that I often forget; Lent is not simply about us on our own, our individual disciplines, what we will give up or start doing. It is about my relationship to God, to the work God has done, and to the Church.
As a Christian, I believe strongly that God works in the world. I don’t know what this work is most of the time, and sometimes I wonder why God doesn’t ‘do more’. But the belief that God does not leave us on our own, that God reached out to us in the person of Jesus Christ, reminds me that my Christian faith is not just an intellectual pursuit. It is a relational connection to God, and because of that, the world. For God so loved the world, and so must I.
One of my favorite theologians is womanist Rev. Dr. Katie Cannon. Her work discussing Christian doctrines like the image of God isn’t just academic for me. Instead, it is like a reminder of who I should be. She believed that as Christians we are to work toward the redemption hoped for in Christ. In her book, Black Womanist Ethics, she says
When the soul feels God’s presence, individuals are grasped by the divine essence, which heightens awareness of options and possibilities. This built-in sense of the Creator provides oppressed people with ultimate meaning and the ability to transform circumstances.[1]
I believe that Lent is a time to remember that our faith requires us to look outside of ourselves, and to remember the work of God. It is a time to reflect upon our role and participation in this work, and to reconnect both with God and the world around us. To do the work of God is not an individual act, and it isn’t something we do to earn our own accolades. Instead, it is active participation in the community God has given us, the world God so loves, and the relationship God desires to have with us.
This Lent I will not give up coffee or chocolate, and not even the Netflix addiction I have acquired this winter. Instead, I will spend each day in community, remembering that God is active in the world through the people who love as God does.

[1] Cannon, Ethics, 160.

Written by SCM Member Kirsty Whaley, who is part of SCM Glasgow. If you’d like to conttibute to the Scotland Hub to support our Regional Development Worker Caitlin in supporting students in Scotland you can do so here: www.movement.org.uk/regions

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