Today is Ash Wednesday, our church having a service tonight to begin Lent, symbolizing what our Lord has done for us in his death on the cross, and our repentance with ashes. I am a late comer to keeping (loosely) the church calendar year, but I think the more the better for me on that.
At the same time it is still a bit of a head scratcher to me when people talk about giving up something for Lent. Especially when they share what it might be. Seemingly meaningless, at least to my ears. Perhaps chocolate, or something else which seems trivial.
It’s interesting that the time of Lent stretching to Easter incorporates 40 church days, 46 overall on the calendar. It is thought that to rid one’s self of an old habit and start a new, takes around six weeks, or 40 days.
Actually Lent is to be a time of reflection on our Lord and his sacrifice of love for us and for the world. And a renewal of our commitment in faith to follow him. That renewal for us inevitably in this world involves ongoing repentance. So whatever one might choose to give up if one decides to keep this tradition, needs to be in that spirit and understanding.
There are certain sins which beset many of us, sins which we may easily fall into or may even have us in their grip. They may seem small and nagging, yet all sin looms large when it comes to real life, and the impact on it. Often they are sins which in one way or another violate love. And in a sense all sins do. I think here of love to God first, and then love to our neighbor as ourselves.
We could list sins. Some are noted today, even considered unavoidable by many. And then others are accepted with the idea that everyone does it. And then others are oh so subtle. They may even be couched with some good intentions. Or there may be good along with what is not good.
The question being, are we following our Lord truly in what we are doing? And if not, then we should repent of it, seek the Lord so as to follow him afresh, looking for no less than a change of heart along with practice.
And we need to occupy ourselves with something new in place of the old. Just the thought of how we are following Jesus is a good one for this. It will end up something in terms of love and obedience to him and his commands. There ought to be in our hearts a desire to want to please him. This is not just a religious practice, but one of commitment and devotion to God in God’s love to us in Jesus.
Of course this is all grace. If one makes a commitment, but fails along the way, that is an opportunity then and there to repent and go on. Perhaps what you gave up is only temporary, so that you can strengthen your focus on our Lord. That is of course well and good, also.
I think I know what I’ll give up, starting today. In my case I may be able to go back to it, but it can become a sin to me. Part of the change God is working in me. As along with others in Jesus we follow on in this life in the way of the cross as those who by the Spirit begin to share in his resurrection with the hope of the full resurrection to come.