an incomplete idea for Lent

I’m heading off on holidays… but first, a quick idea for Lent that I would have liked to develop more… so bear in mind that it’s in draft form!

I’ve always liked the idea that the seasons of the church year, like lent, are about helping people practice for the moments in life when they are, for example, in the wilderness – practising putting a story of faith and a way of living alongside those times. A lot of people in Victoria are living the wilderness – if not Good Friday and Holy Saturday – at the moment. Lent this year shouldn’t be about teaching people how to live in these moments, but giving them the space to be allowed to.

The lectionary readings for Lent are woeful this year… do we really need Noah and the flood? promises that the earth will not be destroyed again? or the other passages that all seem to draw a direct connection between sin and the devastations that come upon the earth? I’m sure they can be redeemed [well, maybe], but I’d ditch them, and use a compilation of readings from other years.

I think i’d do a labyrinth each week [thanks jenny for that idea, all the way back at christmas!]. Very simple, and with one station in the centre. One idea might be to put a bowl of oil at the beginning of the labyrinth each week, for people to mark their hands with a sign of the cross, and then a jug of water with glasses at the exit, for when people leave.

ash wednesday:
I’d not make this anything it’s not – i’d just put a bowl of ashes in the centre of the labyrinth, with the traditional words and ask people to mark themselves with a sign of the cross.

week 1:
[I’d place the story of Elijah and the wind, earthquake, fire into the centre – the NRSV translation, which ends with the lines ‘ after the fire was a sound of sheer silence’. I’d put some writing charcoal out, and black paper, and some words out like this:]

We wait for the silence.
We would rather no words.
Any talk of hope, in this wilderness,
only echoes off the scarred landscape;
hollow promises that deny the truth of this reality.

We long for a silence, God,
that is big enough to hold all the things
we cannot say out loud.

We long for a silence
that does not try to answer them.

If there are things you need to say, for which you want no answer
write them onto the paper here.

week 2:

[print out Mark 1:12-13
put it next to a loaf of bread and these words:]

we wander the wilderness,
longing for glimpses of familiarity
– a roadsign
a playground;
some certain belief,
a moment of grace.

Was your wilderness this unfamiliar,
this disorienting,

We know all too well the temptations
we long for the company of angels…

take some bread
let it be food for the journey
you are not walking here alone

week 3:

[Put a bowl of rocks into the centre, and start making a cairn for people to add to]

Hold a rock, tight in your hands.

Let its sharp edges cut into you
-like the unanswered questions of faith
or the anger that shapes our days
or the grief that doesn’t seem to end.

If you would like, add your rock to the cairn

– cairns mark moments in the road where something significant has happened;
they mark the way across a difficult path –

your story of walking this wilderness is part of the faith of this community.

week 5:
[Put out words to Isaiah 43:19-21, a bowl of dirt and a bowl of water]

If you can’t quite perceive it yet;
if the vision of this new world
is too blurred by your tears,
then write your fear and doubt into the dirt.

If you are able to, let those
who have walked the wilderness before
and found an unexpected spring
hold faith for you…
run your fingers through the water.

week 6:
– this is holy week. I’d put a bowl of water in the middle and wash people’s feet – thinking of the woman washing Jesus’ feet, not him washing the disciples’.

that’s it! hope it’s a useful beginning, feel free to rip it apart and remake it to work where you are…

i’m on holidays for the next two weeks. see you on return…


  1. craig

    thank you for week 1 words.

    that says the elijah stuff for me. i had been wanting for them

  2. Ellie

    Very late comment but just found these words on an incoming link and found them so beautiful and moving, particularly the first ones which I found so helpful on what has been an upsetting evening. The idea of a silence big enough to hold all the things I cannot say is so beautiful, I hope you don’t mind if I use this outside a Lenten context and put it on my wall where I’ll see it when I get up. Thankyou.

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