Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
As I write this article, it is just two days before Ash Wednesday and the beginning of the Lenten season. As you read it, Lent has most likely already begun. This time of year, I hear the question again and again: “What are you giving up for Lent?” Or, perhaps a little more gently, “Are you giving anything up for Lent?”
The practice of ‘giving something up’ for Lent comes from one of the traditional practices of the season: fasting. But sometimes it seems as if this ancient practice has become trivialized. Lenten fasts become a second chance at failed New Year’s Resolutions, instead of practices aimed to
draw us closer to God. That’s not say that they can’t be good and meaningful, just that we ought to keep the purpose in mind when thinking about them.
Lent is a time to return to the Lord. To assess the ways our lives have gotten out of sync with God’s intention. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving have been the three traditional practices of Lent that seek to help us do this. I’d like to share what I’ll be doing for each of these practices—not just fasting—for this Lent.
Prayer: St. Paul’s Stephen Ministry dedicated part of December and early January to creating a Lenten Devotional. For each day of Lent, beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on Easter Sunday, there is a suggested Bible reading, a short reflection, and a prayer written by our Stephen Ministers. You can pick up a copy of the booklet in the narthex. I’ll be starting my
morning with these devotions throughout Lent.
Fasting: ELCA Young Adults and ELCA Advocacy has teamed up to encourage folks to fast from single-use plastics this Lent. That means no plastic bags at the grocery store, no plastic silverware in take-out orders, and no single-use water bottles (among other things). This is a fast that’s going to take planning, but its goal is to become more attuned to how our actions affect God’s creation and to help us be better stewards of the earth. I don’t expect I’ll succeed perfectly at this fast, but I do expect to learn and grow.
Almsgiving: Also known as charity. Every Lent, our Sunday School leads St. Paul’s in collecting for a specific charity. This year, we will be raising funds to help provide honeybees and training to people in Iraq and Syria through Lutheran World Relief. Bees are essential to our environment and keeping them for honey is a valuable skill and income source for refugee families.
However you observe Lent—whether it’s through one or more of these practices, or something else entirely—I pray you have a blessed and holy season. May we be drawn in by God’s never-ceasing love, nourished in our faith, and (re-)shaped as God’s hands and feet in the world.