What are you adding on for Lent?

The following article was published in the Shenandoah Valley Herald on February 15, 2013.

We have entered the season of Lent. Many Christians will be asking, "What are you giving up for Lent?" And so we answer, "chocolate" or "sweets" or "a trip to Cancun" (which you were not planning on anyhow!). It's as if we have to punish ourselves in some way to observe Lent. This has become a normal question for Lent. We are so used to it the habit is hard to break.

However, Lent is a 40-day "season of spiritual preparation. During this season converts to the faith were prepared for Holy Baptism [on Easter Sunday]. It was also a time when persons who had committed serious sins and had separated themselves from the community of faith were reconciled by penitence and forgiveness and restored to participation in the life of the church." (UM Book of Worship, 1992) I doubt that giving up chocolate is what the early church had in mind!

So what might we do differently? Instead of focusing on what you are giving up, find ways to add on to your spiritual life. What disciplines can you practice that will grow your love for God?

Here are some ideas…

  • Add a bible study, add Sunday School, add a small group study.
  • Add regular worship, going to worship every Sabbath day during Lent, through Easter, and don't forget Holy Thursday / Good Friday.
  • Add prayer time, tack it on to the start of your day when maybe you can find some quiet space. Go to the park to pray, just get alone with God.
  • Add works of mercy and compassion and justice
  • Add the tithe as an expression or your faith, or add to your tithe if you already do. The tithe is not about you, it's about God and Godly priorities.
  • Add the reading of the passion story from each of the gospels, maybe one a week. It does not take long but have you ever read it for yourself?

Fasting is a great way to enrich your Lent, but expand fasting to include many things that can gain too much control over us. Certainly food is one, But how about fasting from the internet? Or e/mail and texting? Or from watching television? Set aside one day a week to add this fast to your Lenten disciplines.

Add a time of silence and solitude. You will have to plan for this. Is there a place for ½ day or more you can go and leave the noise behind? It might be a room in your house or a retreat center or a cabin. Read Psalm 62.

The best biblical expression of the proper fast is found in Isaiah 58:6-9. And it is laced with action—positive action—that addresses injustice, the poor, the hungry, the homeless, the naked, the prisoner. "Is not this the fast that I [God] choose…?"

— Pastor Dave
February 15, 2013