Sunday, 14 February 2016


At the beginning of Lent we say that we will give up something or if we are really thinking ahead we will take up something.  Often those things that we give up are gestures in the way of food and drink to make us think that we are being 'good'.  They are fun to do as we can say to our neighbours and friends "Oh, no I won't have any chocolate because I have given it up for Lent."

However, right away we begin to feel the niggle of doubt as to whether we have enacted the best thing.  Does it really matter if we take a small bit of that chocolate cake, or the bar of favourite chocolate that our friend has just given to us?  What will it do, no-one will know especially if we do not tell them?  Christ's first temptation was also over the trivial, although at the end of 40 days not so trivial, requirement to self indulge in our gustatory senses (Lk 4.3-4).  Bread at the end of a long fast would seem like heaven on earth, forget the chocolate!  In the end when Easter comes we know that we will indulge in our favourite food once more.  Easter eggs and chocolate bunny rabbits. Rather Christ enjoyed companionship and hospitality with others, thus forming community.

Yummy!  Lord forgive us our temptations.

Not all of us are offered power on the scale that Christ is offered in Luke's gospel (4.6-8) but each of us is offered power as we are asked to take on ministries or are considered leaders of communities.  The power that is on offer is the power of authority, to play the dictator and to do those things that 'I' want done. So often we succumb to this temptation as we believe that our way and our needs are the best for the community we lead.  It is an insidious temptation as others look for saviours in us rather than facing the challenges as a community.  Ronald Heifetz quoting from his own book on leadership in the forward to Rabbi Sacks' Lessons in Leadership suggests:

 "We should be calling for leadership that will challenge us to face the problems for which there are no simple painless solutions - the problems that require us to learn new ways."

This is Christ's way, a way of challenge to us today.  Christ formed relationships, he refused the temptation to be dictatorial.  In relationship we grow whilst in authority situations there is a tendency towards stagnation, like an enormous mono culture pine forest that does not harbour growth and community below its branches.

Of course who cannot resist the need for fame in some form.  Even if it is for a moment. We all hope our blogs, pictures, comments will go viral.   Some will go out of their way to court that fame and encourage it within their lives.  Yet, one wonders how sterile some of those 'famous' lives are as they have everything and partake of everything to excess,but end up broken, depressed, alcoholic or worse.  It is no wonder that with the role models kids have of broken fame that our kids are themselves broken and depressed.  Christ resists the temptation of instant fame, the instant millionaire syndrome.  Who wants to be a millionaire? Christ models the wholeness of long term interaction not short term fame that so often leads to brokenness

So if we are taking up something there is still the temptation to give up because it becomes a too hard basket phenomena.  Yet, Lent is about discipline.  The discipline of maintaining a change of life so that it becomes part of who we are.  It is not just for Lent that we do these things.  If we are serious about our intentions as Christ was, then we must be serious about the continuation of our Lenten discipline as a life changing event.  Lent becomes our precursor to our new life in Christ at Easter.  What we have given up or taken up becomes and forms part of our lives.  Why should we revert to chocolate because there is plentiful supplies?  Why should we give up that hour of prayer that we took up when it has become a part of our daily routine?  Or the Gym or the reading of Scripture...  If we allow these our Lenten disciplines to become habit they become part of ourselves; our new life in Christ as we resurrect ourselves at Easter.

The Gospels show Christ living out the foretelling of the temptations.  He does not take the route of authority and power 'over' in his relationships.  He does not seek for his own welfare over others but pus himself into 'danger' to help others.  He does not seek fame and fortune but rather moves on and often seeks the wilderness to avoid that form of relationship.  The time in the desert forms part of his life long action to form relationship and model a way of being. If we follow Christ then our Lenten journey should become our life in Christ.

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