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Lent Event Tag

The world is turning to Lent in record numbers. But why? Isn’t it just an outdated Catholic attempt to demonise chocolate?  As enlightened people who live by grace, why would we get involved?

Lent provides an opportunity for us to reset.

It’s a call to refocus, reflect and refresh our souls. A 40-day commitment to the “time out” we need.

And this is not just a religious yearning. “Lenten” practises have grown in popularity over the past couple of years – Mindfulness May focuses on mental health; Ocsober, Dry July and FebFast suggest giving up alcohol or sugar to kickstart body and mind while raising funds for others.

Lent, though, is unique in that it combines body and soul to concentrate on spiritual growth. Like its Islamic counterpart, Ramadan, Lent emphasises reflection and generosity, driven by a conscious turning to God and others. It calls us to slow down; to become aware of our bodies as well as our hearts and minds.

At the end of Lent, we’re different. We’ve tended the soil ready for new life.

Lent is as old as the Church itself. In 300AD, the Nicaean Council (from which the Nicaean Creed developed) referred to the forty days leading up to Holy Week as a special time of preparation for Jesus’ death and resurrection. Commemorating the time Jesus spent in the wilderness, it imagined that people would pray, fast, give and celebrate.

The preface written to the very first Lenten Mass puts it nicely:

Each year you give us this joyful season
when we prepare to celebrate the paschal mystery
with mind and heart renewed.

You give us a spirit of loving reverence for you, our Father,
and of willing service to our neighbor.

As we recall the great events that gave us a new life in Christ,
you bring to perfection within us the image of your Son.

And while Lent is most often associated with the Catholic tradition, it’s always been an Ecumenical practise. The Church of East and West were united at the time of the Nicaean Council that gave it life, and more than a billion Christians worldwide are on board every year. Some Evangelicals and Pentecostals have been suspicious of spiritual disciplines as an attempt to buy God’s favour, but Lent has evolved with us to represent far more than empty rule keeping. It’s an increasingly well recognised part of the Christian calendar, and growing in popularity as secularism and commercialism continue to cannibalise the meaning of Christmas and Easter.

What could you do for Lent?

Reflect: Set time aside to meet with others and explore the Scriptures using some of the many excellent resources available.

Say sorry: Repentance is a central part of the Lenten tradition. Most of us aren’t great at apologising, but there’s bound to be someone who would benefit from our confessing where we’ve failed. At the same time, take the opportunity to forgive someone. It’s good for everyone.

Sit with grief: The lead up to Jesus’ death saw his friends and family grappling with the vacuum soon to be left in their lives. While most of us prefer to ‘move on’ from difficulty, our loss, sorrow and suffering are no less real for our efforts to distract ourselves. Setting aside time to acknowledge our grief nurtures self awareness, gratitude and compassion for ourselves and others.

Fast: early Lenten practices encouraged fasting with the idea that hunger increased our awareness of our bodies and cultivated a sense of gratitude. These days, people fast from all sorts of things, from impatience to social media to caffeine. It’s the impact of fasting that matters – how does it stimulate our awareness of ourselves and our world? Find ideas about what to give or take up here.

Be generous: Lent is designed to sharpen our focus and extend it beyond ourselves and our own concerns. It’s about making space in your mind and heart for those around you. Extending generosity by setting aside some of your financial resources for others can have a big impact.

UnitingWorld is the part of the Uniting Church with the privilege of nurturing relationships with our global church family, and we love the season of Lent! Through Lent Event, we provide a Bible Study series to help you think through what it means to be a global neighbour, and encourage you to take action with a 40-day challenge to give or take up something that helps make the world a better place. With stories that show how your prayers and gifts are building hope and ending poverty around the world, we aim to cultivate generosity, compassion and awareness of others.

If you’re ready to take a new look at Lent, go for a deep dive online to find resources, and check out www.lentevent.com.au for simple ways to get involved.

Since 1980 the number of people living on less than $2 a day has halved.

Through Lent Event, you have been part of that success story, taking action to help provide access to education, healthcare and income opportunities that have helped break the cycle of poverty.

COVID-19 and its economic impacts are now threatening those gains. The World Bank estimates that 150 million people are expected to slide back into extreme poverty by 2022.

The season of Lent is an opportunity to reflect on the life of Christ, and re-dedicate ourselves to following in his way of justice and compassion.

And it’s an opportunity to take action alongside the global church!

Join us for Lent Event 2021:

  1. Download our Global Neighbours Bible Study or order a hard copy booklet and read a chapter each week of Lent.
  2. Give up something in solidarity with those who have less, or take up a new spiritual discipline for forty days.
  3. Donate to our global neighbours in places of critical need.

You can also take up a 40-day challenge and create your own fundraising page! Click here to create a page for an individual or church.


What about churches?

We encourage you to use the Global Neighbour Bible studies with your congregation and small groups over Lent (they’re really great!). But due to COVID-19 we’ve not been able to visit our partners and those they care for to produce weekly stories of transformation during the six weeks of Lent. We’re sorry that we can’t resource you for Lent as much as we would like.

Instead, we want to invite you to something brand new.

UnitingWorld’s Seven Days of Solidarity invites you to celebrate the risen Christ with us and bear witness to how and where God is changing lives through our partners.

After Easter, for seven days starting on April 18, we’ll provide you and your congregation with videos, stories, prayer requests and action ideas to encourage you to lift up your eyes to see where God is at work in the world.

Each day, you’ll encounter the faithful Christian leaders who are training others, equipping people to make a living, working for peace, raising up women and girls, empowering people with disabilities and responding to disasters and a changing climate. Pray and take action as part of our global family of faith.

On April 25, come together with your congregation to celebrate God’s faithfulness and pledge yourselves anew to God’s global mission. We’ll show you the incredible gains the Church is making around the world in Christ’s name, and invite you to make a response in prayer and giving.

We believe this is the faith-fuel our Church needs right now, and I’m really excited by this new initiative! If you are too, please ask your minister and organise your church to take part in UnitingWorld’s Seven Days of Solidarity.

Here’s a video invitation you can show them:

Visit the website for more information: sevendaysofsolidarity.com.au

This Lent, I took up a Lent Event challenge. In an act of defiance against the gathering gloom of a world bent on madness, I decided to seek each day a story of the Kingdom coming. Not just any feel good story. A story of people, faith and God, making a difference. It was my act of re-commitment to mission – for a world renewed and reconciled.

When your brain is the kind that turns everything a day brings into a list of problems to be solved, then this is a difficult challenge.

I managed 20-something days straight before I flagged. They were the 20 days in which a disaster story from China became a global pandemic.

I learnt the obvious lesson. As I looked for and wrote up my stories of God working in the world, I remained hopeful and resilient. I was calm, I wrote my COVID-19 risk management plan, put in business continuity provisions for my team and slashed our income forecasts. But it got harder to do. The news got grimmer from our partners in lockdown. I was worried about my staff, our partners, my kids, my parents, my minister husband trying to pastor a community that couldn’t meet. And soon, I couldn’t see past the tsunami of problems, I was too tired to go hunting for that elusive glimpse of God at work. I stopped doing the stories.

The day I got the email from South Sudan, from my friend who reminded me that hand-washing was the privilege of those who had clean water, that staying home was only an option for people who owned fridges and spare food.

That was the day I lost it.

That email was on my mind as I dropped into the supermarket to pick up some stuff. But my fellow Sydney-siders had cleaned out entire aisles. With our wealth, our security, our abundant food and our healthcare systems, my brothers and sisters thought they needed to hoard toilet paper and dishwasher tablets, leaving none for others.

I wasn’t sad or scared. I was furious. The rage and contempt I felt in that moment for my fellow humans was such that I had to run out of Town Hall Woolworths before I yelled at someone. In that moment, I felt that no race so greedy, selfish and stupid should survive; that dying in our millions was exactly what we deserved.

And then into my black mood came the little messages. People telling me that they were holding me and my team in their prayers. People asking after my husband and kids. People telling me what a great job my staff were doing. They’ll know who they are when they read this.

And slowly, in the darkness, I could see God at work again. In the thoughtfulness of people, who were not my close friends or family, but who reached out to bless and encourage me. When I was too downhearted to see great works of justice and reconciliation that God was doing in the world, what saved me was seeing God in the acts of kindness extended to me. God, acting through people, to pull just one insignificant person out of my own mire of despair.

I’ve always loved the story of Peter stepping out of the boat onto the water at Jesus’ invitation. It’s a lovely metaphor for how we stay above the waves when we keep our eyes on Jesus, but get overwhelmed by the tumult when we lose focus. But I’ve always thought that keeping my eyes on Jesus was about my personal devotional practices – to pray, to study the scriptures, to gather in worship.

But now I think it’s more than that. It’s keeping your eyes peeled for Jesus out and about in the world. Training myself to seek out and recognise the breaking-in of the Kingdom in everyday life is a necessary discipline. To be Christian is to believe in a God who is alive and active in the world. Easter isn’t just a celebration of the resurrection two thousand years ago, it’s a celebration of Jesus alive today – changing lives, changing communities, getting stuff done. How can I join in this great work, if I’m not training myself to see it, recognise it, bear witness to and celebrate it?

So I encourage you to do it too. Keep looking for Jesus in the world – he’s out there walking on water every single day.

–Sureka

[P.S. I also gave up eating between dawn and dusk during Lent – which makes it sound grander than simply skipping lunch and daytime snacks between breakfast and dinner, which is what I did. But I did manage to stick to that one, which wasn’t hard after the first few days. And the $$ I saved has gone to Lent Event, with a big thank you to all those who sponsored me.]

Dr Sureka Goringe is the National Director of UnitingWorld. This reflection was originally posted on her Lent Event fundraising page here.

Click here to donate to Lent Event.

Attika has been to hell and back. Many of you know her story: her village was destroyed in conflict between Muslims and Christians in 1999; she lived for years as a refugee before returning to a community shattered by suspicion, resentment and economic ruin.

Last year, Attika (pictured above) painstakingly built a new home with $5 weekly savings from a small business our partners helped her establish. A few months later it was destroyed in a series of earthquakes. She lives today in its shell with her daughter, waiting for the chance to rebuild. Due to begin re-construction with a team of Muslim and Christian builders funded by UnitingWorld, the work is now on hold as Ambon goes into lockdown to deal with the global threat of COVID-19.

It’s hard to predict how many of us would react to such a prolonged season of suffering. And yet here’s where this story has a new and delightful twist: Attika has become our church partner’s newest Emergency Team volunteer. Connecting with the Protestant Church in Maluku through livelihood training among a group of Christian and Muslim women, Attika is now a vital part of the volunteer effort. Together, the team deliver food, clean water and emergency supplies to those hardest hit by last year’s earthquakes on the island and check in on people isolated by COVID-19.

“I could never have believed something like this would happen to my home,” Attika told us. “I am so, so sad to see it. But working with the team at Sagu Salempeng Foundation (our church partner organisation) helps me forget my pain and makes me so happy! I have found something to keep me strong.”

N.T. Wright famously said: “Jesus’ resurrection is the beginning of God’s new project, not to snatch people away from earth to heaven, but to colonise earth with the life of heaven.”

Surely Attika’s experience of finding new life in service to others is what he had in mind: absolute dedication to each other in the midst of suffering; the ability to love beyond boundaries; the promise of redemption.

Attika refuses to give in to despair, and nor does she long for release. For her, there’s heaven to be found here and now, among the living. This is the reality of resurrection life.

Thank you to all who’ve been part of Lent Event this year. Your gifts are very much needed to continue this vital project, building peace while giving people the chance to increase their incomes and overcome poverty.

Help us continue this vital work with our international partners.

Click here to donate to Lent Event.



YOUR 2019 LENT EVENT GIFTS IN ACTION!

Our staff have just returned from critical training sessions with IPTL, our partner in Timor-Leste.

They’re delighted to report that more than 17 teachers took part in new training to implement strategies that protect children against violence, including verbal abuse. As a result:

  • Attendance in Sunday School is up among children and their parents
  • Education and awareness among community leaders is increasing
  • Seven focal point workers to keep child protection on the agenda have been newly appointed.

Cycles of poverty and violence are deeply entrenched within Timor-Leste, and you’re playing a critical role in shaping the future for a whole new generation.

Thank you!

Peace. Compassion. Security. They’re the building blocks of a world we all long to see, but how do we make it happen? In a world where extremism, intolerance and fear threaten to turn us inward, how do we build peace and beat poverty?

Lent Event 2020 takes us to the Indonesian province of Ambon, where our church partners are working with Christians and Muslims to overcome decades of suspicion and resentment after religious conflict in 1999 took 5,000 lives and left 70,000 people homeless.

Meet the people, watch video stories together, engage in Bible studies, raise funds for projects that show the future of God’s people alive and at work in the world.

We’re really excited to share the inspiring stories of our church partners during Lent again in 2020 and we hope you’ll join us on the journey.

Preview video series for Lent Event 2020 here

Sign up now: www.lentevent.com