What have you decided to give up for Lent? Theological considerations aside, the question is timely and appropriate after the excess of the holiday season and the string of broken New Year’s resolutions.
As children, where I grew up, we earnestly promised to give up candy, soda pop, buttered popcorn and similar delectables. For me, it was arithmetic. Try getting away with that one!
As we matured, the list might have included, at least for those privileged among us, various pleasures like haute cuisine and expensive wines, vacations at posh resorts or trips to luxurious spas. In short, all the “vain things that charm us most” (Hymn 474, v.2).
These temporary sacrifices are trivial compared with what God asks that we sacrifice: our self-absorption and callous indifference to the needs of others; our inordinate preoccupation with wealth, glamour, power and social standing; and our idolatries, whatever form they may take. So what does God really call us to do during Lent?
He calls us to confess, seek and act. We must honestly acknowledge our many transgressions. With a humble and contrite heart, we must ask God’s forgiveness and mercy. And we must do those things for ourselves and on behalf of others that are necessary for our life and for our salvation. (BCP, p.41)
Only then can we hope to experience Christ’s promise of new and abundant life. Real life. The life God intends for us to live.
The sacrifices God demands are not limited to these forty days. The challenges are ever-present. Are you up to the challenge? Am I?
– Bob Beizer