In our parish it is our custom have a Lent course over five weeks and to read an accompanying book. The book may be a course book or the one which the course leaders have used to base their prayers and meditations on. We have settled on the one we shall use in parish for our Lent course. Meanwhile, most of the ones I am reviewing below will work well for individual reading but do not easily work for as course.
“Sacred Space for Lent 2015” appeared in a “you might also like…” on a website. This is a series of short daily Bible readings intended for prayerful reflection and a couple of prayer actions. Each week also has an introduction with suggestions for prayer and meditation. The brevity of each day’s reading means that you can’t use the excuse “I don’t have enough time.” And you can take as long as you like.
The next book is more of a good read. I found the title “The Lent Factor” slightly off-putting as it is an obvious ploy to catch the attention of those familiar with the “X-factor” and the like on television. However, the content is more interesting. The author, Graham James, has provided us with 40 examples of Christians whose lives have inspired him in some way. A few of the names might be familiar to you, even fewer appear in any calendar of Saints. You will find Julian of Norwich here but not St Peter. A glance at a couple of entries drew my curiosity and I am looking forward to getting acquainted with these companions in due course. By the way, Lent is 40 days if you omit Sundays or if you start on the 1st Sunday of Lent (22nd February this year) which is the Sunday after Ash Wednesday.
Thirdly we have “Reflections for Lent” which is also taken from a larger volume, namely “Reflections for Daily Prayer 2014/15”. This provides a daily reflection to go alongside the lectionary readings for morning prayer from Ash Wednesday to Easter Eve (the day before Easter Day). It does not include readings for Sundays, presumably the editors think that its readers will be at church on Sunday and will be catered for there. Included in the book are short forms of Morning Prayer and Night Prayer as well as some introductions. The feature which caught my eye was the section by Samuel Wells called “Making a habit of Lent”. There he introduces the traditional Lenten disciplines such as confession, fasting, giving to charity and Bible reading. I think it is a helpful summary and I intend to refer to this in a later blog.
Finally, we found a book that we liked to use. It has been around a few years now but I had not noticed it before. The title “Spot the difference” lays down a challenge from the outset: how can you tell the difference that marks someone out as a Christian? After all, you do not need to be a Christian in order to be kind and generous. The author offers us five sessions (which neatly fit our need for a course in the weeks after Ash Wednesday and before Holy Week) with a variety of Bible readings, scenarios to consider and questions to discuss – as well as prayers for each session. The style makes suggestions, and asks questions to provoke thought and reflection rather simply telling us what to think. The underlying message is, however, quite clear; namely, that a Christian is someone who is committed to Christ and to following his will in every aspect of their life. One downside to this book is that it does very much leave it to group leaders to decide how much of the material to use each week. You could use it all in a couple of hours in the context of worship but not every group will have that expectation.