Lent begins tomorrow with the observance of Ash Wednesday. The journey of Lent leads us to the joyful expectation of Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter morning. Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. Today many around the world will give something up for Lent as a way of fasting. And I understand the principle of giving something up but if we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps then shouldn't we also give something in return? When Jesus died on the cross he sacrificed his life so that we could have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven. Jesus gave his life to give us life. So if we just give up something, do we really understand the way to the cross?
As I've been praying about what I should do for Lent, God showed me something different. Instead of just giving something up, I’m going to give. My word for 2015 is “time” and I’m trying to incorporate it into every aspect of this year, including Lent. But what does that look like? To give time, use time?
Maybe it’s helping someone in need, volunteering at the food pantry, collecting items to give to one of our UM missions, meditating on God’s word, knitting a prayer shawl, taking a prayer walk each day and surrounding myself with God’s beautiful creation, writing a note of encouragement to a family member, friend or parishioner each day or reading the words of a Christian writer or theologian to broaden my faith?
As I look over this list it occurs to me that I will be giving up my time in one way or another to do something meaningful. To give up watching T.V. or social media is a way of fasting, but what will you be doing instead? What will you use that time for? When you give up a certain food, what will you do if you’re not eating it? Will you just eat something else? If I give up coffee will I just drink tea? If I give up T.V. will I just turn to my phone or computer? If I give up Facebook will I just spend time on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram?
I believe that when we give something up for Lent we should give something in return. When a person fasts they are to spend that time they would have been eating a meal and instead spend it in prayer.
I like what God is leading me to do. Jesus didn't just die on the cross; he gave his life to give us life. He died so that we could be saved. He died so that each time we sin, we have the choice to ask God for forgiveness and in return God washes us clean with the blood of Christ.
That is what Lent is about. It’s preparing ourselves for what Jesus did for us so that we can give of ourselves to others. We are called to walk this journey of Lent following in Jesus footsteps.
Will you be giving up or giving to?