On a Lenten Thought

The season of Lent is an opportunity for self-reflection in anticipation to Christianity’s most significant celebration – Easter.

Lent is the time we hear people state “what” they are giving up. Everyone knows the common items as alcohol, chocolate, candy, and swearing – and in today’s electronic society, even Facebook. The Roman Catholics giving up meat on Fridays leads communities to the Friday night Fish Fry festivities.

I cannot recall exactly when I heard this, but my guess is 5-10 years ago, when (in a sermon) one of my pastors said, “It’s not what one gives up for Lent, but what one adds.”

Think about it, which makes more sense – giving up chocolate or volunteering in a soup kitchen? Giving up candy or helping out a senior citizen center? Giving up anything or adding prayer?

A short time ago at the Ash Wednesday service, the prayer below struck accord with me. (From the Evangelical Lutheran Worship: Leaders Guide)

As disciples of Jesus, we are called to a discipline that contends against evil and resists whatever leads us away from love of God and neighbor. I invite you, therefore, to the discipline of Lent – of self examination and repentance, prayer and fasting, sacrificial giving and works of love – strengthened by the gifts of word and sacrament. Let us continue our journey through these forty days to the great Three Days of Jesus’ death and resurrection.

I know that there is a lot of room for improvement in my Lenten practices, but at least I have processed that message – which is the first step before implementing. However, adding (over subtracting) during Lent still seems to be the profound thing to do. Of course practicing what one preaches is the hardest part.