Today is the first Sunday in Lent.
Lent is the time when we prepare for Easter.
But Easter is still a very long way away,
it isn't happening until April.
We get just over six weeks to prepare, which is quite a long time, really.
At Christmas, we only get four weeks,
can you remember what that time is called?
The thing about Lent is that it's traditionally been a time of fasting.
This means some kind of physical deprivation,
to help you with your spiritual preparation.
Some people find that not eating sweets, or meat, or fizzy pop –
booze if you're grown up –
or something like that helps them to be more spiritually aware,
and more ready to think about Jesus at Easter.
In my church, King's Acre, we don't have flowers in Lent,
to remind us that this is a special time.
And then we appreciate the Easter flowers all the more.
And in churches where they have different colours on the communion table or the minister's robes at different times of year,
during Lent and Advent it's purple.
This can be a good discipline, but of course it can just be done for the sake of doing it!
I don't know if any of you know the children's author, Noel Streatfield?
She wrote a lot of books for children,
the most famous of which is called Ballet Shoes.
Well, she and her sisters grew up about a hundred years ago,
and in their family, as in many others,
it was assumed that nobody would want to eat sweets or cake or jam during Lent, so they were never served!
So even if you had wanted to eat them, you couldn't have done so.
And I don't really see what good that did, as it wasn't a voluntary thing,
and just made the children dread Lent each year.
My mother used to say that if you give up something for Lent,
you ought to put the money you save aside,
and give it to Children in Need or a similar charity,
so that you aren't just doing it for yourself.
She has a point!
Some people take on something extra during Lent.
Perhaps they go to a study group, or read a bit of the Bible every day,
or spend time visiting someone who isn't well, or something.
Or maybe you could do something like remembering to say "Thank you" to God for something every day.
One year I did that; every day, I wrote on my blog something I felt thankful for.
It was surprisingly difficult to do, too, to find something different to say “Thank you” to God about every day.
I’m doing it again this year, but it really isn’t easy.
The thing is, it doesn't really matter what Lenten discipline you choose, as long as it's something that helps you come nearer to Jesus.
If it doesn't, don't do it!
Oberstdorf as Austria, 22 May
2 hours ago