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Assembly Title
Lenten Endurance

Submitted by
S. Daly

Age Group

To consider the meaning of Lent and how to prepare for Easter

Faith Group

Sporting objects, messages e.g. emails, letters

Time of Year

Other Details
Particularly appropriate in an Olympic year

Spirit of the Living God by D. Iverson (Celebration Hymnal for Everyone number 666)

1. Today's assembly is about Lent. Lent can be seen as a time of endurance.
As Jesus fasted in the wilderness for forty days, so Lent lasts for the forty days leading up to Easter (not counting the Sundays).
Many people associate Lent with fasting or giving up some luxury. Today, we shall think about the true meaning of Lent.
First, a poem in which the writer tries to examine the question of what a Lenten fast means and should be.

2. Is this a fast,
To keep the larder
Lean and clean,
From meat of veal and sheep?

Is it a fast,
To empty the dish of flesh,
Yet still to fill
The platter high with fish?

Is it to fast an hour,
Or ragged to go,
Or show
A downcast look and sorrow?

No, 'tis a fast
To give a sheaf of wheat
And meat
Unto the hungry soul.

It is to fast from strife,
From old arguments and hate,
To purify
Your life.

To show a repenting heart,
To starve out sin
From within,
That's how to keep your Lent.

3. The poet says that, rather than thinking of Lent as merely a time of discipline and self-sacrifice, we should consider a deeper meaning. This is to give meat and wheat to the hungry soul and to give up strife and hate. This requires endurance and perseverance.

4. Saint Paul likened this to people taking part in sports.
"All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one of them gets the prize. You must run in the same way, meaning to win. All the fighters at the games go into strict training, but they do this just to win a wreath that will wither away; but we do it for a wreath that will never wither.
This is how I run, intent on winning. This is how I fight, not beating the air . I treat my body hard and make it obey me, for having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified."

5. Paul was a messenger; he wrote letters. All messengers need to go through some form of training. In the old days, they had to be fast runners or expert riders, and it was their training that made them so.
Even our postmen must be trained - and our sportsmen (footballers, wrestlers, and others) must train if they wish to be successful.

6. The Olympic Games began in Greece in 776 BC. The athletes arrived at Olympia in early summer and were examined by the judges to make sure they were Greek.
Then they swore an oath to Zeus, that they would in no way sin.
Then they swore an oath to say that they had kept the training regulations for the past ten months.
Then the athletes spent a month training in the camp.
They were vegetarians, eating mostly cheese and figs. They were supervised by tutors who made sure that the athletes did strict training and had the correct amount of sleep.

7. The athletes had to be tough, to treat their bodies hard. In another of his letters, Saint Paul said, "Love is tough - love can face anything."
During Lent, Christians try to be extra tough with themselves, so as to have more to give to others. They try to do without something they like. They try to pray more often. They give to others what they have denied themselves. This makes them more like Jesus, their leader, who always served and helped others. Lent is a time for Christians to undertake a bit of extra training as followers of Jesus. Are you tough enough to do that?

8. Of course, we don't have to do this alone. God will help us, just as he helped Jesus in the wilderness and just as he helped Jesus just before he was crucified.
"Jesus set off for the Olive Hill - a spot he was very fond of - and his friends went along with him.
"The real test is coming," said Jesus. "You'd better pray that you won't have to face it."
He went off a little way by himself. He knelt down on the ground.
"Father," he prayed, "take this suffering away from me. Yet I will do what you want, not what I want."
God gave him the strength he needed. Jesus was in very great distress. Sweat fell from him onto the ground. He finished praying and stood up. He went over to his friends and found them asleep."

9. Lord, sometimes we are weak and give in in the face of difficulties. Help us to be strong and to persevere.
Lord hear us...
Lord graciously hear us.

10. Lord, help us to always try to finish what we start.
Lord hear us...
Lord graciously hear us.

11. Lord, help us to overcome our greed and selfishness.
Lord hear us...
Lord graciously hear us.
We will now sing 'Sing it in the Valleys' - by M. Anderson (Celebration Hymnal for Everyone number 648)

S. Daly 2000

Last updated 25-7-12.