As part of our Lent reflection series from Christian authors, Simon Jenkins shares a bonus reflection for halfway through Lent.
Flying a kite for Lent
Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, was on 1st March this year. That afternoon, I was out walking my dog in our local park and as she ran between the trees I noticed that daffodils were pushing their way up into the light. Their green heads were already turning yellow and about to burst into flower.
For a living-in-London Welshman like me, that was a real St David’s Day moment. It almost made me want to get online and buy one of those giant daffodil costumes you see people trapped inside at rugby matches.
The rare coming together of Ash Wednesday and St David’s Day reminded me that Lent is an Old English word that means ‘spring’. If that’s a bit of a surprise, then it shows how settled we are in thinking of Lent as a time of temptation and going without, instead of fresh air and new beginnings.
I’ve just had a new book published with the unlikely name of Jumble Sales of the Apocalypse. It’s about the human and often hilarious side of faith, like those moments when the vicar tries to process up the aisle in a dignified way while the organist is playing ‘Send in the Clowns’. Or the manufacturer who produced a religious loo seat cover bearing the words, ‘Let my people go’.
One of the chapters in the book is about Lent, and is entitled ‘The seven deadly chocolates’. I gave it that title because chocolate has been married to Lent since the 1950s at least. So giving up Mars and Flake, Twix and Galaxy, KitKat, Milky Way and Aero (my seven deadlies) has often been the way we think of how Lent should be.
But Lent doesn’t have to be that way. It’s not necessarily about giving up beer, Facebook or daytime TV, but can also live up to its Old English name and breathe in the fresh air of spring. Looked at that way, it’s about new life, warmer days, April showers and strong breezes.
In fact, Orthodox Christians living in Greece spend the Monday before Lent going out into the countryside and flying kites. (I ought to mention that they also fire kalashnikovs into the sky to celebrate Easter Sunday, which isn’t such a great custom! But bear with me, because I think this kite flying business is a really good thing.)
That image of fluttering kites and strong winds is a great picture for this season of the church year. Lent is a time for flying kites. For new adventures in the spiritual life. For catching the wind of God’s change. For being brave enough to turn away from the old me and do things differently. It’s a time for being generous, mending relationships, eating differently, listening to God. It’s a call to do some serious spring cleaning.
So for me, these few weeks of Lent aren’t about closing down, but opening up. I know that my wintry heart longs to wake up, get up, and get out into God’s spring.
March 22nd, 2017 - Posted & Written by Laura White