The Meaning of Lent
A time to reassess
by Revd Sophie Jelley (revised, originally published in 2005)
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To explain the idea of Lent as a period of self-examination for Christians.
Preparation and materials
- You will need some chairs pushed together to make a bed. You may wish to have a sheet as a cover for the bed.
- You will also need a white lab coat (borrowed from the science department) and a volunteer patient. The patient only has to lie on the bed. You will not need to examine them; instead, simply speak about their head, eyes, ears, mouth, heart, hands and feet in generic terms.
- Ask the students if they enjoy eating pancakes. Ask if many of them have eaten them this year. Point out that traditionally, people eat pancakes on Pancake Day or Shrove Tuesday.
The day after Shrove Tuesday is Ash Wednesday, which is the first day of Lent. This is a period of 40 days when Christians remember the 40 days when Jesus went off into the wilderness to spend time alone with God.
- It is one of the two seasons in the Christian calendar (the other one is Advent - before Christmas) when Christians think especially about how their lives match up to the way God wants them to live. It’s a bit like having a spiritual medical.
- Show the students the makeshift doctor’s surgery.
Invite the patient to lie on the ‘bed’ and put on your white coat.
- Working from the head down, briefly ask the patient one or two questions for each part of the body, such as:
- do you have any pain in your head?
- can you move your fingers?
- do you have any shortness of breath?
In each case, speak to the patient first and then to the audience.
After you have asked one or two questions for a part of the body, declare that part of the body to be healthy. Then, refer to that part of the body to ask the students to consider the following questions.
- Head. How are our thoughts? The Bible urges us to think of good, wholesome and lovely things. Is this what we do? Do we need to change our thought patterns in some way?
- Eyes. How is our sight? Do we look at people judgmentally? Do we look down on people?
- Ears. How is our hearing? Do we listen to the needs of others around us? Christians believe that God wants to speak to them – do we spend time listening to God? Does the music that we listen to put good thoughts and information into our minds?
- Mouth. How is our speech? A verse in the Book of James in the Bible says that the tongue is small, but can do a lot of harm. Do we use our mouths to build people up or to tear them down? Do our words make people feel good or sad? Do we need to use our mouths to say sorry?
- Heart. How are our hearts? Are we loving and kind to those around us? Do we need to have a look at the attitudes of our hearts during the season of Lent?
- Hands. We have a choice as to how we use our hands: we can use them to help or to fight, to show care or to abuse, to work hard or to be idle. Are we using our hands as we should?
- Feet. Our feet take us where we want to go. It may be that during Lent, we need to think about whether we have been going in the right direction: are we following the crowd or going the right way?
Note: It isn’t necessary to cover all of these body parts; you may prefer to focus on one or two.
- Congratulate the patient on passing the medical.
Time for reflection
Encourage the students to use the season of Lent to carry out their own spiritual medical. Encourage them to find a quiet space to think about their lives and whether any changes need to be made.
Ask the question, ‘Are we healthy on the inside?’
Pause to allow time for thought.
Help us to be willing to examine our lives and to see where we need to make changes.
Help us to see the importance of taking time to think and reassess.
Thank you for the example of Jesus.
At this time of Lent, please help us to consider his love for others.
Please help us to demonstrate this love to others.