In March we enter the season of Lent. Lent is a period of six weeks, 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter (the most important festival in the Christian calendar). Lent starts on Ash Wednesday, March 6th– the day after Shrove Tuesday (Pancake Day) on 5th. It is known as ‘Ash Wednesday’ because many western Christian churches hold Services in the course of the day during which Christians are marked on the forehead with a cross of ashes (that come from burning the palm crosses from Palm Sunday of the previous year). This is a sign of ‘Penitence’ or saying, ‘Sorry to God’ for any wrong doing and marks the beginning of ‘Lent Fasting’. Lent comes to its climax during Easter Week, the last week of Lent, which is called Holy Week. During the 40 days of Lent, Christians remember the time when Jesus went into the desert to fast and pray, following his baptism, before beginning his public ministry and ultimately fulfilling his divine purpose in taking human form – his sacrificial death for us on Calvary’s cross before his triumphal resurrection from the dead on Easter Sunday. During this time Jesus was severely tempted by the devil but was able to resist (Luke 4:1-13).
Lent is therefore seen, by many people, as a time for giving up things. It is one way of remembering the time Jesus fasted in the desert and is a test of self-discipline for us in the face of temptation. There are many foods that some Christians do not eat in Lent, such as meat or fish, fats, eggs, and milky foods. Some Christians just give up something they really enjoy such as cakes or chocolate or alcohol, so it feels like a hardship. People now may include a fast on television or social media or even their mobile phone. People also use Lent as a kind of ‘spring board’ to ‘take on something’ rather than just ‘give up something’. This may mean the breaking of a harmful habit such as giving up smoking and embracing a healthier lifestyle, or it could mean the taking on of other challenges. One example is the Church of England’s Lent Plastic Challenge.
As God’s people, we are to care for God’s good creation (Genesis 2:15). This is a vital part of God’s mission, known by the Latin term, the missio Dei, that we are called to participate in. The Anglican Communion’s Fifth Mark of Mission is ‘to strive to safeguard the integrity of creation and sustain and renew the life of the earth.’ We don’t have to be members of the Anglican Communion to buy into this – here is something that surely every Christian and church should take on board. Lent is a good time for all of us (whether Christian or not) to put this into practice in terms of our use of plastics.
Plastic is a wonderful substance but only if it is used wisely and recycled properly. Over 8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced since the 1950s. That is enough plastic to cover every inch of the UK ankle-deep more than ten times over. Just 9% was recycled. 8 tonnes of plastic is dumped into the sea every minute. Globally, plastics have reached every part of the world’s oceans with the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ thought to be six times the size of the UK.
We need to be more aware of our plastic use and this challenge could help us make some lasting changes. Have a look at the link http://www.churchcare.co.uk/Plastic_Free_Lent. Here you will find daily suggestions to give up single-use plastics – to reduce the actions which damage God’s creation. These include the following: –
• Give up disposable cups and drinks in plastic bottles
• Avoid over-packaged convenience foods
• Choose natural cleaning cloths instead of synthetic plastic ones
• Carry round your own reusable bags
• Use non-plastic containers for food
• Use a razor with removable blades not plastic disposable razors
• Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap
• Check labels of toiletries as some contain plastic beads
• Avoid wet wipes – they contain plastic fibres that don’t break down
These are just some simple suggestions and you may have others to make. The question is, this Lent, what lasting changes are you going to make? Are you prepared to look at plastics in a different way? Try and list three things that you are going to commit to changing.