So, on Ash Wednesday (March 6th this year) we’ll find ourselves at the start of the Lenten season … again. When most people think about Lent, they think about Christians “giving something up.” I’ve certainly given things up for lent – certain foods, social media, television, saying mean things about people who drive less efficiently than I’d like, to name a few.
Historically, we’ve done this for many reasons. It’s been a way for some to follow Jesus’ 40-day example of fasting in the wilderness. For others, it can be a way to change behavior (or “repent”) from ways we fill our lives with non-essentials. It’s can also be a tool to help us refocus on things that give life, and that last beyond this moment.
There has even been some debate in recent years about whether we should “give” something up (say, chocolate); or “take” something up (like prayer). But I’ve never been a big fan of “should’s” and “ought to’s,” so I’m not going to go there.
I like to think about preparing for Lent the way Paul talked about giving: “Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. God has the power to provide you with more than enough of every kind of grace. That way, you will have everything you need always and in everything to provide more than enough for every kind of good work. As it is written, ‘He scattered everywhere; he gave to the needy; his righteousness remains forever.’” (2 Corinthians 9.7-9, ceb)
So, listen to your heart. Chances are you already have a good idea what direction honoring Jesus wants to take you this season; but if you need something to get you started, here are a few of my favorites.
Be kind. Be merciful. Be forgiving. Do something nice for someone with whom you often disagree. Accept that those who are different from you are precious to God. Do these things once a day for the 40 days between Ash Wednesday and Easter (excluding Sundays). Make a mark or place a sticker on your calendar for every day you do your thing.
Here’s the truth – no matter how much we give, or how often we give it, we never run out of anything we really need. Even if it sometimes feels that way (and it often does). We always end up with more than we gave. Because that’s the nature of faith, and hope, and love. And that’s the nature of the God we serve.
Pastor Peter Raser