Written by Rev’d Dr Ian Coutts.
Easter is a fortnight earlier this year than in 2017. Therefore Lent starts equally early this year, with Ash Wednesday on 14 February. Lent, of course, is a penitential season in the Church leading up to Easter. It reminds us of our baptismal and confirmation vows ‘to reject all that is evil’, and ‘to strive to live as a disciple of Christ, loving God with our whole hearts and our neighbour as ourselves.’
For several years Anglicare offered the ‘Share the Benefit’ Lent course for churches. It was written by the Revd Michael Palmer, who is now part-time Rural Chaplain for our Anglicare on the Sapphire Coast. “Share the Benefit’ considers God’s attitude and ours to possessions and to stewardship in the Bible. It also invites participants to examine their weekly expenditure on food and other items and for one week to live instead on the government ‘Newstart’ benefit rate. A number of churches bravely accepted the challenge to run a ‘Share the Benefit’. We discovered in the process that quite a few parishioners are themselves largely dependent on government benefits. Very few Lent group members, however, found that they could manage one whole week on the ‘Newstart’ rates. In order to do so meant shopping very differently, watching every cent and choosing the cheapest wherever possible. Having coffee, drinks or meals out was impossible, as was entertaining, or purchasing any unnecessary and sometimes necessary items, from clothing to medicines.
The latest figures from our the Salvation Army and from own Emergency Relief Centres and from St. John’s Care suggest that more people in Australia are finding it very hard to make ends meet. We deeply appreciate the churches and individuals who recognise this and help by donating or collecting food. It is part of our loving God and our neighbour, and Lent is a time that begs importance questions about the seriousness with which we as Christians take these baptismal responsibilities.