Friday, February 24, 2006
Lent: Give Something Up, or Take Something On?
This Dali print hangs in my office; it’s a reminder to me of Jesus’ presence and his sacrifice. During the Lenten season, it’s a stark reminder to me of my need of repentance.
Traditionally and historically, Lent has been a time (40 days, not counting Sundays) when converts to Christianity began to fast and prepare for baptism. It was also a time for contemplation and penance for all Christians, in honor of Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness.
So what do we sacrifice? What do we give up or abstain from? I could say that I’m going to give up chocolate for Lent… but that would be an empty gesture, since I rarely eat it. I could give up eating between meals… but I ought to be doing that anyway. Eating sweets, smoking, watching television - you’ve heard them all before, and they aren’t bad ideas. But what about other sacrifices that help us identify with Jesus’ passion, death, and how we might be more faithful? Such as giving up some of our time?
It seems to me that in addition to giving something up for Lent, perhaps we also need to be willing to take something on. Adopting a shut in, going out of our way to foster a relationship with someone we don’t know well, dropping a letter or card to a young person to encourage them, or volunteering for one of those little known, behind-the-scenes ministries that always needs to be done. There are lots of things that need to be done in the Body of Christ.
So this Lent, just don’t be thinking about what you can give up; think about what you can take on. And don’t worry… the Easter promise still holds. But at least for forty days, let’s not forget the events that lead up to Good Friday.