“I’m giving up [blank] for Lent.”
It’s a phrase you hear quite often around this time of year. Given that we here at the Orchard just celebrated an Ash Wednesday service last night (as of this posting) I thought it appropriate to write just a small piece on the purpose of the Lenten Season in the life of the church. If you attended the service last night you would have heard some of these same things, but I also wanted to add my own particular twist. [ed. That’s one of the benefits of having this job… 😉 ]
Most of us are familiar with the practice of self-denial, shown in the ‘things we give up’ as was mentioned above, but this is not the whole of what the Lenten season means for the church. Traditionally there have been three parts to Lenten observation: prayer, alms giving, and fasting. We Protestants have grabbed hold of the fasting bit, whether it be from food or some other item, activity, etc. But what of the other two activities?
How would our lives look differently if we were to actively pursue all three of these activities? What if during this time of the year we spent focused time in prayer, delving into the depths of God’s promises to meet us there? What if during this time of year we gave over and above what we usually do (do you?) to those less fortunate than us? What if that involved your whole body rather than just your money? And what if, out of giving in those two areas, your self-denial in the form of fasting would actually transform your life?
We live lives of functional materialism. We confess to believe in a supernatural god who works in and through us to effect change in the world. And we confess that he does these sorts of things through the means of spiritual disciplines. And then we reject those disciplines. Or perhaps simply pay them lip-service and then move on.
I stand just as guilty as the next person.
I think I’ll take this time and live it patterned by the rhythms of the kingdom of God rather than the hectic patterns of the blind-led world.