I am inspired by the season of Lent which begins this year on Wednesday, March 1. During the 40 days (excluding Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Easter we especially focus on Jesus’ life, suffering and death on our behalf.
Each year I look forward to Lenten practices. I especially appreciate the “feasting” emphasis on the day before Ash Wednesday (Shrove Tuesday); the Ash Wednesday concentration on the finitude of humanity and repenting (turning back to God); daily Lenten and Gospel readings about our Savior’s life on earth; and Sunday School sessions and sermons centered on what it means to follow Jesus Christ.
Then, there is the question of what to give up for Lent. Sacrificial living is natural during this season of the church year when we particularly center on Jesus, the One whose very life was a sacrifice. Though our Lenten sacrifices tend to be miniscule in comparison to Christ’s death on the cross, they remind us of the sacrificial dimension of the Christian life.
Abstaining from a favorite food group (for me that is desserts) throughout Lent enhances our focus on Lenten matters. kipping a lunch a week to give money to a hunger organization serves as a tangible reminder that many in our city and world do not have enough food to eat each day. Observing a Wesley fast from Thursday after dinner to Friday mid-day is a way of reorienting ourselves to God. Fasting from social media one day a week gives space for us to listen more deeply to God’s leading in our lives.
“Giving up” for Lent is a powerful tradition that I practice and encourage. But why not also “add on” life-giving actions during Lent as a way to show respect to the One who offers every human being abundant life? (John 10:10) Add a “good deed” a day as a way of living out our faith. Honor God and encourage others by making weekly worship attendance a priority during Lent. Intentionally pray for 5 persons who are struggling with faith matters. Invite to Easter worship at least 3 friends, family members or colleagues who are not attending church regularly anywhere. Visit someone who is lonely. Help out in a community ministry. Develop a relationship with someone from a different socioeconomic background, race or faith tradition. Become involved in social advocacy work. These are but a few of the Christ-like, life-giving actions we might consider adding to our lives during Lent.
The very special church season of Lent begins on Wednesday, March 1. I invite you to join me in giving up something for Lent as a way to focus on Jesus’ sacrifice for us and our need to continually turn back to God. Also, will you consider adding an action during Lent that makes life better for someone else? I can think of no better way to honor the One who came to give life abundantly.
As always, it is a privilege to serve as your bishop.
North Alabama Conference