Lent for Me v. Lent for God

by Ericka Stephens-Rennie

I recently read this article on Lent and its connection to justice. As someone who grew up in a non-denominational church, I, like author Julie Clawson, didn’t know what Lent really was until university. She writes:

I was serving as a Children’s Director at a small Baptist church and was attempting to find a way to introduce the kids to Lent in tangible ways. As I pulled together resources, I discovered that many of the common practices of the Lenten season sprung from the desire for justice. Prayer represented justice toward God, fasting justice towards self, and charity justice towards neighbors. Through this threefold pursuit of justice I saw that the Lenten season encompassed more than just personal piety, but called for a period of restoration of relationships with God, with self, and with others. In essence, a specific time to focus on the ways Jesus had taught us to actually live.

I hadn’t thought about the link between Lent and the pursuit of justice before, but this approach resonates with me. I like the idea of thematically linking the Lenten journey to justice, rather than to personal piety. It strikes me as much more challenging (and perhaps more in line with taking up one’s cross).

According to this view, Lent becomes much more than just giving up chocolate (or, in my case, swearing), which is, arguably, self-focused. If justice is the goal, Lent must transform from self-focused to other-focused…and wasn’t that what Jesus was always talking about?

All this to say, I feel like I’ve suddenly been clued in to what Lent is really all about: forty days of remembering justice for others, rather than chiseling away at some bad habit (or bulge around the waist) on our own. What have you given up for Lent? And what do you think about the links between Lent and justice?

Ericka Stephens-Rennie

6 Responses to “Lent for Me v. Lent for God”

  1. Beth

    In the Book of Common Prayer, Isaiah 58 is one of the readings for Ash Wednesday, and then in case you didn’t get it, that same chapter is in the daily readings for the rest of the week. For me (and I’ve been a liturgical Christian for as long as I’ve been a Christian) this sets a real tone for the season away from personal piety and towards looking at how our lives affect our neighbors.

  2. lisa

    This Lent, I’m deliberately forcing some space into my life and doing without some stuff in order to feed and house someone who needs it and (even harder) offer communion and friendship.

    damn, it’s really hard! giving up chocolate was far easier.

  3. andrew

    Some days I wish it was just about giving up the chocolate or whatever. Luckily my health has forced me to give up sugar and any form of alcohol, so I don’t necessarily have to give those things up for lent – they’re already given up.

    But as for what I can do, be more intentional about in my life and in my interaction with others. As for what I can do to act more justly and to seek to truly walk the cross towards Calvary, I struggle with how to live that out.

  4. Ericka

    Beth – i had a look at Isaiah 58. Neat that it’s a passage for all of the first week of Lent. I think that’s a great way to (hopefully) focus people on the Cross / others, rather than simply giving up chocolate. That said, I’m with Lisa, chocolate is much easier. This Lent, I gave up swearing, and, like you Lisa, am trying to be more conscious of praying and reading my Bible.

  5. Liz

    I didn’t give anything up, but I started getting up at 6:30 to put that sacred space into my life… I agree with you Lisa, it was a heck of a lot easier to give up chocolate.

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