By Rev Fiona Bennett (From Seeds February – March 2023)
This year, Lent begins on Wednesday 22 February. It is the season when we are invited to strip back to what is truly important.
Matthew 6: 19-21: Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
The giving up, or taking up, of activities for Lent are disciplines to help us focus in on that which is of eternal worth.
I have been reflecting this year that the strikes across the UK, the wars in Ukraine and elsewhere, the conflict over the Gender Recognition Bill*, and the climate crisis all cast particularly pertinent perspectives on Lent. They have drawn me to the passage in Matthew 6 (the lectionary reading for Ash Wednesday).
As I listen to the strike messages: yes, it is for better pay, but it is also for classroom budgets so teachers are not paying for food for their pupils; it is for minimum levels of staffing to be achieved in hospital wards; it is for safety on trains. As a society, what does this say about where our collective treasure and heart lies? I have followed the creation of the GRB* as it seeks to offer a measure of dignity to people who often experience stigma and hatred – and I wonder, where are our treasure and heart as a culture when the protection of vulnerable groups becomes a battlefield rather than a meeting point for collective strength to develop non-violence and dignity for all?
And using the same lens, as I look at my own life (or the life of the church locally and as a denomination) and how I (we) use time, money and energy, what does it say about where my (our) treasure and heart truly are? Lent is a season of stripping back to ask hard questions, but sometimes what it can reveal is surprising.
Several years ago, the city centre churches in Edinburgh did an audit of the hours they donated room space to support groups and gatherings (such as Alcoholics Anonymous, mental health drop-ins, food banks etc.) and the numbers were astoundingly high, revealing a significant and strong layer of care in Edinburgh city centre. Where our treasure is, there our heart is also.
As we think about what could be useful disciplines to give up or take up this Lent, I hope we can find ways to reveal to ourselves where our treasure and heart are, so that we may choose to continue or change our lives and habits to invest ourselves in God’s Dream or Realm, which is of eternal worth.