Today marks the beginning of Lent. These are the 40 days that lead up to Easter which mimic the 40 days that Jesus wandered in the wilderness. It is a season of preparation, a season of purging. Traditionally it can be a time of prayer, fasting, or almsgiving.
Lately many Presbyterians have been “giving something up for Lent” or taking on an additional spiritual discipline. Something that only Lutherans and Catholics did, it is good to see an air of intentional spiritual discipline in the Presbyterian Church.
Have you thought about giving something up? Some give up chocolate, or alcohol, or meat, or white bread. Perhaps now is the time to give up smoking, or cursing. Others give up Facebook or Snapchat, or television, or the PS4, or Family Guy. In this sense, giving something up isn’t so much giving up their favorite whatever just to deny themselves, but to open up time in their schedule for God to enter their lives in new ways. To rededicate the time they would have spent on that PS4 to pray or volunteer at a community center.
Fasting is something that I don’t hear about much anymore. I wish we would rediscover the power of fasting. In college I was the chair of the Campus OXFAM Program. Almost the entire campus at Westminster College would fast for 24 hours, only drinking water, and we would raise money for hunger. I helped contract with the cafeteria to cut back their meals and staff, or shut down completely, and the money we would save would go to OXFAM. Some, because of their medical condition, couldn’t fast, but they would give up their cafeteria plan for the day too, and eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their room.
Fasting can be a powerful thing, that wakes the senses, and awakens the soul. It can put one in touch with one’s body, and in touch with their dependence on God and the earth. It was even more powerful to fast as a whole group, like at Westminster.
Fasting is a willingly abstaining from something. Over time, the church has expanded this…it could be food, or water, or sex. It’s something to think about.
Almsgiving is an opportunity to “take on a spiritual discipline” rather than give something up. Perhaps it means giving more money to church. It may mean volunteering one day a week somewhere. Giving an extra hour a day to God.
I hope you consider Lent for your daily walk. Today we mark the beginning of Lent with ashes on our foreheads, remembering that we are dust, and to dust we shall return. We places ourselves in a mindset to reconnect with God in new and deeper ways.
Join us at 6:30 tonight for the Imposition of Ashes.