L is for Lent

Every time Jesus mentioned the equivalent of a church tradition, the Torah, he qualified it with something like this: “The scriptures say thus and so, but I say…”

christianLeftI realize it’s rather late in the season of Lent. But I’m endlessly fascinated with it. Much of my favorite music is associated with the season.

Why DO we give up something for Lent?

Today we know Lent as a season of conversion: we acknowledge the ways we have turned away from God in our lives and we focus on turning our hearts and minds back toward God.

A piece someone wrote recently – I no longer remember who – has stayed with me:

I have a question for my friends who are giving up something for Lent: chocolate, Facebook, etc. I used to give up sweets etc. too. It just occurred to me, though, that instead of “giving up” something, if we all did MORE random acts of kindness (being extra kind or extra considerate, holding doors, letting people pull ahead of us, etc.), the world would be really great for those 40 days.

And who knows, maybe it would continue beyond that. And I think God would like that a whole lot more. I know the reasoning is to deprive ourselves. What if we deprived ourselves of being selfish or snippy or judgmental? Just a thought. I’m going to go eat chocolate now.

My church has expanded the season to Lentecost, from Ash Wednesday to Pentecost, to agree to take on service activities, such as our Author/Illustrator Day in April with a local school, the home repair & rebuilding program, and the FOCUS Breakfast Program, among several choices. Here is the FOCUS Churches Lenten reflections, created by forty men and women from the community of partner congregations, of which my church is one; I’m sure it’ll still apply AFTER Easter as well.

The religion page in the Huffington Post features a good read, WWJD: What Would Jesus Do? Do You Really Want to Know? It begins:

Once upon a time, a mother made her son a wristband. On it was written: WWJD? This, of course stood for: “What Would Jesus Do?” She instructed her son to look at the wristband before making decisions on how to live his Christian life.

A week later she was shocked to see that her son had become friends with prostitutes, was hanging out with ‘sinners’ — even buying people who were already drunk yet another round of beers!

I was also taken by a piece in Salon. Despite its probably polarizing title, Why conservative Christians would have hated Jesus, and some finger-wagging narrative, it did have some points that I could buy into:

Every time Jesus mentioned the equivalent of a church tradition, the Torah, he qualified it with something like this: “The scriptures say thus and so, but I say…” Jesus undermined the scriptures and religious tradition in favor of empathy. Every time Jesus undermined the scriptures (Jewish “church tradition”) it was to err on the side of co-suffering love… Every time Pope Francis sides with those the Church casts out he is closer to Jesus…

Perhaps what we need to give up is some of our rigidity about what God looks like.
Why I’m Coming Out as a Christian. “I’m not scared that non-believers will make me feel like an outcast. I’m scared that Christians will.”

ABC Wednesday – Round 16

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

20 thoughts on “L is for Lent”

  1. In many of the DOC congregations I’ve belonged to, the Lent focus is often less on “giving something up” and more on “taking something on” – either adding some kind of beneficial volunteer activity (with the idea you will continue it after Lent!) or striving to be more loving with those around you, or praying more….

    I often strive to put “Love thy neighbor” into better practice because I know I fail at this a lot (in the sense that I get angry at that person who takes the parking place I was heading for, or am less-than-patient with the student who comes to me with a long tale of woe about why they didn’t get their paper done on time….) I still do “tough love” when needed (e.g., with some student behaviors), but I strive to be less eye-rolly or heavily-sighing about things and more prone to listen.

    I still fail at it.

  2. Wonderful entry …the world and its living creatures need far more lent than they’re getting right now. We all can do better, just a little would be enough to make some changes for the better.

  3. I don’t give things up for Lent I just think of Jesus and his suffering on our behalf, Interesting writing Roger,

    Best wishes,
    ABCW team.

  4. Someone in our Bible Study shared this concerning Lent-
    The Call to Fasting

    Fast from bitterness – feast on forgiveness.

    Fast from self-concern – feast on compassion for others.

    Fast from personal anxiety – feast on eternal truth.

    Fast from anger – feast on patience.

    Fast from words that destroy – feast on words that build.

    Fast from discontent – feast on gratitude.

    Fast from discouragement – feast on hope.

  5. Interesting. I like the suggestion of giving more to the community as opposed to giving up something personal.

  6. I like that…Lentacost.
    I figure if I survived high school as a Coming out Christian I can survive any environment.
    Happy Easter to you.
    As we say in our Russian tradition.
    Christos Voskress…Voyestinya Voskress
    Christ is Risen – Truly He is Risen

  7. You’ve given some of the sanest insights that hold true for all religions. Fasting is a huge part of Hinduism too – yet giving up bad attitudes is way more sensible than giving up food. The idea of giving up rigidity would do the world plenty of good.

  8. Roger, what a great profession of your faith. If we don’t go into the world and spread the gospel to the unbelievers what good is it? Love the story about WWJD.

  9. I don’t give anything up for Lent and think the idea of increased random acts of kindness during this time is a great idea. I’ve seen too many people “give up” something for Lent just so they can bring attention to themselves. And that is not what this season is all about.

  10. Like often, there’s a humorous twist to your post (about the WWJD) – I don’t know if buying them another round of beer would be the best decision, but the whole idea about hanging out with sinners took me several years ago to Myspace. Have to admit that that scraped off a lot of religiosity (I didn’t know was in/on me), and my big surprise they wanted to be my friend, lol!
    A happy Easter – or whatever you my call it – to you.

  11. Roger, I stopped “giving up stuff cuz you’re s’posed to” about 20 years ago and replaced that with praying more and taking more people out to coffee to hear their stories. I don’t buy a round but I get the idea! It’s more about hanging with than hanging out. I am also A Member of the Christian Left, as defined on my email signature!!

    The first image, with the Rand Paul quote, says it all. I know an awful lot of supposed Christians who would FIRST look at that and laugh with it, not at it. Says tons about the attitude in our sad, sorryass country when people think poverty is funny as long as they aren’t the ones in it. Amy

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