Preparing for Lent

The season of Lent is considered a time of preparation and discipline.  While advent prepares us for the birth of Christ, Lent is a time when we prepare ourselves for Easter, the commemoration of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.

In the early church, the 40 day period of Lent was a time when new converts to Christianity would prepare themselves for their baptism.  This period of preparation was marked by: taking vows of abstinence (choosing not to do something for a period of time) in order to physically discipline the body; devotion to prayer in order to spiritually align oneself with God; and almsgiving, performing acts of charity to demonstrate ones love for God through service.

Over time the tradition evolved to include old converts who would use the celebration of Lent as a means of remembering their own baptism, and re-dedicating themselves to Christ.

Today many Christians continue to observe lent as a way of spiritually realigning themselves by focussing on disciplines of reflection and repentance; and by making ‘vows’ which represent their resolve to live their lives differently.

When setting Lent goals the first thing many people often think of is:  What is something that I can handle giving up for 40 days?  While this can be valuable, it doesn’t quite get to the heart of what celebrating Lent is all about.  While giving things up can be an important part of the process, the real goal is seeing our lives transformed into a greater likeness of Christ.

If you’re considering setting your own goals for Lent, here are some questions that might help guide your process:

What area/aspect of my lifestyle/character do I most want to see change occur in?

What are some steps that I need to take in order to reach this goal?  (These could be things you need to do or things you need to stop doing.)

Which step could I action over the 40 day period of Lent to help me start moving closer to my goal?

How am I going to put this step into action?

Who are the people I need to talk to about my Lent goals so that they are able to help support me and keep me accountable to the decisions I have made?

*This post contains material originally published in the cession|community Lent Preparation Pack.  It is re-published here with the Author’s permission.

rain

It’s one of those Auckland days; a heavy wet heat rests on the city’s shoulders, the sky a bright silver grey.

A soft mist of rain falls steadily to ground, its almost imperceptible echo a welcome reprieve from the loud chorus of cicadas; its persistence a reminder of the unpredictable and untameable nature of the earth, the hopeful promise of things being made new.

In this moment of stillness my heart is pulled both near and far as I remember those who today live in the shadow of present or recent violence, disaster or tragedy.

I invite you to join with me in remembering:

We remember Ukraine
[silent reflection]

We remember Venezuela
[silent reflection]

We remember the Philippines
[silent reflection]

We remember Syria
[silent reflection]

We remember Christchurch
[silent reflection]

We remember…[insert your own thought here]…
[silent reflection]

Waitangi Day Reflection

Growing up in towns/cities with a mixed Māori/Pakeha heritage I’ve spent periods of my life (depending on where we’ve found ourselves) more engaged with or estranged from my Māori tanga. Still, ours was never a particularly militant whanau. My nan taught us to treat all people regardless of race/religion/etc with respect and grace, if not to agree with every idea they might espouse. Consequently I find myself not apt to dwell heavily on the injustices of the past but rather to focus on positive ways of moving forward as diverse peoples in this land of Aotearoa. This is not to say that I’m unaware of the difficulties some of my friends and wider whanau encounter trying to bridge the various cultural divides we meet day to day but rather that I can’t personally live in a place of anger and distance. This context wraps into my current relationship with Waitangi Day. In one sense I view the day as a holiday to be enjoyed with family and friends; a celebration of and reflection upon ‘nationhood’ for all who consider themselves New Zealanders. But always, in the background, is the itching reminder of the constant struggle we Māori—tangata whenua!—face in defining our place in New Zealand society today and of holding close to our cultural values and heritage, so often at odds with typical ‘Western’ paradigms. Mine might not be the brownest face around, and many of my attitudes pretty enmeshed with a lot of current urban culture, but that doesn’t mean I don’t see or feel the underlying attitudes of a significant number of New Zealanders who don’t see Māori as having any special relevance to the country, who harbour some latent resentment to what they see as unfair ‘positive discrimination’. Despite this, each year it seems to me more and more non-Māori are embracing Māori culture/language/history as part their own identity as New Zealanders: something internationally unique of which they too can have a part and to which they can contribute. Maybe this is a function of the circles—professional, social, faith related—that I find myself in these days but to me this is a great part of the beauty, power, and value that the observance of Waitangi Day offers to all New Zealanders. We can embrace together our diverse cultural histories and respectfully blend them into shared values and stories of the nation we are becoming. My picture of this cultural tapestry holds all viewpoints as valuable and important as we make our way forward; Māori tanga being no more or less important than Pakeha culture or the other newer cultures that make up Aotearoa.  Which brings me back around to the struggle of many Māori: to have our contribution valued equally not just as an acknowledgement of some past significance but as a central part of the ongoing formation of our national story.

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A prayer for the faithful observance of the Treaty of Waitangi

Though Te Tititi O Waitangi was signed on 6th February 1840, it was not until almost 100 years later, in 1934 that Waitangi day was first celebrated.  On that day the Bishop of Aotearoa – Lord Bledisloe, prayed this prayer, expressing his hope for peace between Maori and Pakeha and that the covenant made between Maori and the British crown would be honoured.

For the faithful observance of the Treaty of Waitangi

O God, who in Thy beneficent wisdom 94 years ago ordained that strife and bloodshed between races and tribes in this territory should cease, and that the inhabitants of these islands should thenceforward be knit together as one people under the British Crown, grant that the sacred compact then made in these waters may be faithfully and honourably kept for all time to come, to the glory of Thy Holy Name, and the peace, contentment and ordered progress of a united nation, for the sake of Him Who brought peace and goodwill upon earth, Jesus Christ our Lord.