A Lent unlike any other

As you can see below, the Twitter bird has taken up residence in my Bible. It is looking up at me with a quizzical expression as if to invite comment. It’s not the only one!

When I first became a Christian, we used to talk about the importance of having a ‘quiet time’ – just me, my Bible, my God and a quiet place. This Lent you could almost be forgiven for thinking that has gone out of fashion. Now there is chatbible, #lentread, BigBible, EasterLIVE, Big Read to name but a few of the Bible-based initiatives on offer.In addition to all that there are various gifted writers blogging their way through Lent. My quiet time just got noisy! Or did it?

The wealth of opportunities for biblical engagement this Lent is unlike any I have ever known. However, if it is to be of benefit, we need to observe some simple rules, I believe.

Select on the basis of temperament – if you are a chatty person, select a Biblical engagement which allows you to chat, to exchange part-formed views without feeling obliged to go into enormous depth. If, on the other hand, you are the kind of person who likes to form a well-rounded and well-crafted argument, then perhaps the Lenten blogs are the place for you.

  1. Select on the basis of time – God has lives for us to live, engaging with the word and serving in the world. Find a means of engagement with all these online initiatives that can be accommodated with your primary calling, rather than interrupting it. If you can only access them over a hurried sandwich at lunchtime, then perhaps the Twitter-based initiatives are best. If you log on to engage with the world in the evenings, then perhaps you need to choose something where you can linger for a longer period.

  2. Select on the basis of skills. How can you best bless the online community? If you have a gift for pithy humour or skilful scriptwriting, EasterLIVE would love to hear from you. If you have a knack for making people think with just a few words – try #lentread on @chatbible. If you have the insight or connections to link the great stories of Matthew’s Gospel with the needs of the world, then the Big Read could do with your help.

Social media serves you, not the other way round. As someone who loves all these forms of online exchange, I nonetheless have to remember social media’s best kept secret.  No matter how un-traditional your Lent may be, and no matter how much the online community is blessed by your presence, there may still be a place in it for quietness and contemplation

When talking about temptation, Martin Luther said, with characteristic bluntness, that you ‘couldn’t stop birds flying around your head, but you needn’t let them build nests in your hair‘. My little blue companion is welcome in my Bible, but I shan’t be letting him take up residence there.