Kirk Moderator reflects on the season of Lent

As we approach the second Sunday in Lent, Rt Rev Colin Sinclair, the Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, has written a reflection on the season – and what we could learn from the Church in Zambia.

Rt Rev Colin Sinclair in Zambia
Rt Rev Colin Sinclair thinks the Church in Africa may "know more than us on how to mark Lent and anticipate Easter"

Ash Wednesday signals the beginning of Lent. This is the season every year when we take 40 days (actually 47 but Sundays don't count) to prepare our hearts for that great weekend in our faith that begins with Good Friday and ends with Easter Day.

On the first Sunday of Lent this year I preached to about 1,000 people in Trinity United Church of Zambia (UCZ) congregational Lusaka, the capital of Zambia.

In the order of service the following explanation of Lent was given.

There was no mention of giving up chocolate!

Instead, in this thriving denomination of three million members, it was written:

"This is a time to open the doors of our hearts a little wider and understand our Lord a little deeper, so that when Good Friday and eventually Easter comes, it is not just another day at Church, but an opportunity to receive the overflowing grace God has to offer.

"Lent is also an opportunity to contemplate what the Lord really did for us on the Cross. It does not stop at sadness and despair, but points us to the hope of the resurrection and the day when every tear will be dried.

"It is the preparation of the believer through prayer, doing penance, mortifying the flesh, repentance of sin, almsgiving and denial of ego."

Can you imagine all that being written in an order of service in our churches?

However, it seems to me that they have got to the heart of its meaning.

Lent begins with Jesus, not us.

As there came a moment when Jesus set his face towards Jerusalem, followers of Jesus are asked, at this time in the Christian year, to focus on the final events leading up to His death.

Indeed, the Gospels seem to encourage this, devoting considerable space to the events of His last week.

It is as if the action slows down, until it stops at the foot of the Cross.

It is only when we consider Jesus' life and His death, that we have a measuring stick by which to reflect on our own lives in comparison to His.

Self-denial is not about doing without so we will look good in the summer.

It is about remembering how much He gave up to be our Saviour, and, in a small way, imitating Him by living our lives for God and for others.

As I listened to the vibrancy of the worship and saw the engagement of the congregation, it struck me that perhaps the Church in Africa knows more than us on how to mark Lent and anticipate Easter.

Why not live Lent differently this year?