Sacrifice: the acid test

It is Ash Wednesday as I write – the day on which Lent begins, which is (in the Western church) the 7th Wednesday before Easter Sunday. Lent lasts for 40 days (not including the Sundays) and the number 40 is a significant number in the Bible:
  • In Genesis, the great flood was brought about by 40 days and nights of rain.
  • The Hebrews spent 40 years in the wilderness before reaching the Promised Land.
  • Moses fasted for 40 days before receiving from God the ten commandments.
  • Jesus spent 40 days fasting in the wilderness, in preparation for his ministry. 
It is, of course, Jesus’s time in the wilderness that is, for us, the key event behind our observing the 40 days of Lent. Lent is actually an old English word meaning 'lengthen' - Lent is observed in spring, when of course the daylight hours begin to lengthen.
I wonder if you have decided to give anything up (or perhaps take something up) this Lent? Maybe you’ll give up something – but be careful in these difficult times not to starve yourself of pleasure when things are already so difficult! Maybe you’ll decide to add to your pattern of daily prayer, or do a daily good deed, or start wearing the colour purple! Purple is traditionally used in some churches throughout Lent because it is associated with mourning and therefore it anticipates Jesus’s death at the cross, and purple is also the colour associated with royalty, and so it celebrates Jesus’s resurrection and sovereignty.
Can I encourage you to do something to mark the season of Lent? I often think that if something is important to us, it’s worth sacrificing something for. And, to those who follow Jesus, what could be more important than preparing ourselves spiritually for Easter – the most important days in human history?
Much love,
P.S. For lovers of poetry, a little something below with a Lenten theme from my favourite poet, John Betjeman. A little racy, perhaps, but there’s something deeply theological in there too! Enjoy!
Lenten Thoughts of a High Anglican 
Isn't she lovely, "the Mistress"?
With her wide-apart grey-green eyes,
The droop of her lips and, when she smiles,
Her glance of amused surprise?

How nonchalantly she wears her clothes,
How expensive they are as well!
And the sound of her voice is as soft and deep
As the Christ Church tenor bell.

But why do I call her "the Mistress"
Who know not her way of life?
Because she has more of a cared-for air
Than many a legal wife.

How elegantly she swings along
In the vapoury incense veil;
The angel choir must pause in song
When she kneels at the altar rail.

The parson said that we shouldn't stare
Around when we come to church,
Or the Unknown God we are seeking
May forever elude our search.

But I hope that the preacher will not think
It unorthodox and odd
If I add that I glimpse in "the Mistress"
A hint of the Unknown God.
- John Betjeman
Simon Lace, 17/02/2021