February 13, 2013
Since I went to Lutheran School, the idea of giving something up for Lent wasn’t part of my tradition. I’d never heard of it. For us Lent was about extra church services and minor key songs for worship. I loved those dirgy, gory hymns, as they reminded me of how lucky I was that Jesus was my Savior and that he had done everything that was necessary for my salvation. All I had to do was show up for the extra worship and be properly solemn.
It was a lot later that I joined the giving something up crowd. Giving up chocolate or French fries did make me pay attention to Jesus’ great sacrifice for me. But it didn’t seem like a big sacrifice, because I wasn’t really supposed to be eating that stuff anyway. How much of a sacrifice is it to get back on board with the things that are good for you?
That realization was what started to change my thinking about Lenten practices.
What about a practice of doing things that are good for you? Maybe waking up on Ash Wednesday to how you have slipped below the surface of your own good intentions into the mire of bad habits can re-invite you to live as God’s people live their freedom. Remembering that God’s overwhelming love for you caused God to become a real human being, can make you wonder if you can be a more loving human being yourself. Remembering that God’s love brings you forgiveness for your imperfection and restoration of the peace that comes from being beloved, gives you courage and hope as you meet life’s headaches and heartaches.
So the question for me becomes what can I put into practice for these 40 days that will keep me awake to what it means to be blessed and forgiven and loved beyond death into life? How can Jesus’ astonishing love for me invite me to do something everyday that will help me love myself and the people in the world around me?
How about this for starters: this is stolen from the website of the House for All Sinners and Saints in Denver Colorado, “Forty Ideas for Keeping a Holy Lent.” (These suggestions are on our website on the Pastor’s page.)
You can take better care of your health – eat better, exercise more. That will remind you that God made you beautiful and meant you to be whole and healthy. You can start reading a book about prayer or faith and read some every day: Sara Miles, or
Anne LaMott, or Barbara Brown Taylor, or Eugene Peterson. That will inspire you with the experience of other Christians who want to live out God’s love. You can commit to a time to pray every day, setting aside a special time and place to be with God in silence or over a journal. You can volunteer at the food bank or read to a kid or help an elderly neighbor with her grocery shopping. You can agree to do something at church that really stretches your comfort.
It’s important to remember that these things are not the way to heaven. You are not going to get Brownie points for them, or get God to love you any more by doing this.
God already loves you more than you can possibly imagine. You will simply be availing yourself of the opportunity to indulge in God’s love by treating yourself to something special.
I promise that you will find yourself being changed by your new experiences. God is always ready to walk with you and work with you to accomplish the new. So you may find that as we prepare for this time of lifting God’s power through the death and resurrection of Jesus, you, too, can find the beginning of the new as you let go of the old.
I pray that you will find blessings in this season as you carry the reminder of death and resurrection away from here on your forehead tonight. May God remind you of how love works as you live out the lavish love offered to you in Jesus’ journey to the cross. And may God renew your faith as you respond to this love by loving yourself and others. Amen.