It was a cold February day a few weeks before Lent. I was sitting in the apartment of my living room in Grafton Wisconsin. My roommate was watching TV with me. He turned and asked, “Ryan, I think I may be giving up soda for Lent.” My inward piety groaned. It happens every year. Lent comes and I hear someone, usually in good faith, want to give something up. During Lent, many people decide to give something up that they love - perhaps chocolate, sweets or even using social media. In the past I have called this practice the “Christian Second Chance New Year’s Resolution.” Why? Because, like most resolutions it starts out in good faith and by the end of the forty days it becomes utter failure.
Have you ever thought why? Why do people do this? I am not sure many people understand the concept behind the “giving stuff up for Lent thing.” Well, as in all things it starts in God’s word. This practice represents what Christ did for us. At the start of Lent we read about Jesus going into the desert. He does this before He starts His earthly ministry. In doing so, He fasts. And this self-sacrifice of giving things up in some small parts can help us empathize with the Son of God. It is a representation of what Christ has done for us. So, in that sense, it is a really good thing! It gets dangerous when we use it to push our personal piety on others. Too often I have heard people brag about what they are giving up for Lent. Are you really giving up soda for Jesus or do you just understand it’s bad for you and you need an excuse to give it up? Ouch! That reality can hurt.
So, as your pastor. This year I urge you not to give anything up. But, rather I urge you to rearrange for Lent. Rearrange things in your life to make more room for Jesus. This weekend we are starting a new sermon series entitled, “Rhythms of Faith.” Every week we will be talking about a different spiritual discipline to help you grow in your depth and knowledge of the love of Jesus.
I believe these small habits will have a real impact if you stick with them throughout the forty days of lent and even afterwards. We will be talking about how to rest, oh man that sounds nice, finding time to rest. We will be talking about fasting, ever fast before? Me neither, but it is a wonderful practice that, done in the right way, can have a huge impact on your faith. Other things will be, public worship, scripture reading, prayer, and confession. Each week we will give you a handout to take home and practice a new rhythm.
During Lent, yes we will hear from lots of people talk about giving things up. How about we rearrange instead? And make some more room for Christ. In him we receive love, kindness, mercy and grace.
Pastor Ryan Taylor