Learning the lessons of Lent

Cadbury Creme Egg. NNL-150120-133539009
Cadbury Creme Egg. NNL-150120-133539009
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I am being tormented by Cadbury’s Crème Eggs. It is always the same at this time of year, writes Canon Missioner Sarah Brown from Peterborough Cathedral.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know better than to give up chocolate for Lent. Those cocoa plantations in the developing world could so easily go bust with such a sudden, dramatic decline in consumption, potentially depriving thousands of struggling families of their livelihood. I couldn’t sleep at night.

That said, between Christmas and Easter I do try to restrict my chocolate consumption to the Plain and Ordinary Slab. Whether you understand “slab” as a modest sliver of Dairy Milk or something closely resembling the altar table in the cathedral is entirely your call. I couldn’t possibly comment.

The point is that at this time of year I abjure anything egg-shaped, by which I mean, of course, anything egg shaped and chocolate. Obviously I don’t want to harm the poultry farmers either. It is so complicated trying to live God’s way sometimes. Everything we do has consequences for somebody else.

But everywhere I go there are boxes of Cadbury’s Crème Eggs. NB. These are not “Cream eggs” which sound a bit like part of a sponge recipe. These little “crème” ovules are deliberately intended to seduce.

Ooh La La! This is temptation of the most blatant variety! But I shall fight the good fight. I refuse to celebrate Easter before Easter and miss the struggle, the drama and the misery that makes Easter worth celebrating.

I don’t know if you have given up (or taken up) anything for Lent - or indeed, if Lent is even on your radar. It is a 40 day period from Ash Wednesday until the Saturday before Easter in memory of Christ’s fasting and temptation in the desert. During Lent many Christians give up things such as chocolate, smoking, alcohol and computer games and take up being irritable instead (or is that just me?).

The point is not that these pleasures are bad in themselves but that they play a disproportionate part in our lives and prevent us concentrating on things that really matter.

Lent is a time to realise our part in the world’s problems, to seek meaning in our lives and to get closer to God in preparation for the inexorable tragedy of Holy Week and the events of Easter Sunday. Lent is a real opportunity for prayer, reflection and self-examination (in a non-weird sense).

Of course I can do all of that even if I do accidentally consume a Cadbury’s crème egg or six. The decision to resist the temptation (“fasting”) is a prod that reminds us to be disciplined about the bigger stuff. Nobody, as far as I know, ever got saved for not eating Crème eggs in Lent. I don’t suppose either that anyone has perished specifically because they did indulge.

I’m less confident though about those who fail to even consider their spiritual fitness – whether through ignorance, weakness or decision.

We are part way through Lent but it is never too late to do something, learn to pray, talk about God, ponder your own funeral, think about what Easter might mean for you if you let it – even (gasp!) come to worship…but please do not bring me any crème eggs…yet.