What Is the Meaning of Lent?
Are you giving up anything?
by Janice Ross (revised, originally published in 2012)
Suitable for Key Stage 3
To reflect on the practice of abstinence during Lent.
Preparation and materials
- You will need some students to read the poem ‘Abstinence’, which appears in the ‘Assembly’, Step 3. You may wish to choose two, six or even 12 students for this.
- You may wish to display the poem during the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly, in which case you will also need the means to do so.
- In the Church calendar, Lent is a season of 40 days before Easter. This is a time for Christians to stop and reflect on the attitudes of their hearts, their priorities and their spiritual life as they prepare for Easter. Special services are held in churches during Lent, and there are special times of prayer and special readings from the Bible.
In the Early Church, there were also strict Lenten laws to help with this ‘spiritual spring clean’. Abstaining from all meat and animal products was thought to be a helpful discipline: all the body needed was a simple snack in the evening.
Nowadays, many Christians still consider it helpful to give up something during Lent as a reminder of the sacrifices that Jesus made and the temptations that he resisted in the desert. Giving up something helps them to reflect on the important things in life. Many people give up eating chocolate or biscuits, watching TV or playing computer games. Others try to make more time in the day to think about God and pray.
- This is also the time of year for spring-cleaning our homes. The idea is to clean the house thoroughly from top to bottom: under the beds, on top of the wardrobes, all the curtains . . . even rugs are lifted and beaten outside. People want to get rid of all the dust and dirt that was only barely tickled during the long, cold, tiring months of winter!
- The season of Lent might be a good time for us to attempt a spring-clean of our lives too. There may be attitudes that need to be dusted down, habits that need a deep-clean or behaviour that it would be a good idea to give up.
We will now listen to a poem that will help us to reflect on some of the things that we might like to address.
Invite the students who are going to perform the poem to come forward.
Today, I’ll give up grumbling and complaining;
Instead, I’ll be thankful for all that I have.
Today, I’ll quit worrying about the ‘if onlys’ and ‘what ifs’ of my life;
Instead, I’ll trust that God knows and cares for even me.
Today, I’ll stop criticizing all those around me;
Instead, I’ll take a good, long look at my own faults.
Today, I’ll refuse to use the words ‘I’m bored!’;
Instead, I’ll be grateful for a brain, and for education, and for every opportunity to learn.
Today, I’ll give up speaking unkindly and negatively;
Instead, I’ll make an effort to use positive words and to be an encourager.
Today, I’ll abstain from my mobile phone, my computer, my DVD player and all emails;
Instead, I’ll practise the art of talking to my family and my friends . . . or I might just eat chocolate!
Time for reflection
If possible, display the poem ‘Abstinence’.
Did any of these things ring true for you?
Are you willing to make some changes? Remember, only you can change you!
Pause to allow time for the students to reread the poem and reflect upon it.
We are approaching Eastertime, when we will hear again of all that Jesus resisted and gave up for us.
Please help us to take the time to look at our own lives and consider how we want to live them.