Dear Risen Lord disciples:
“What are you giving up for Lent?” When I was a kid, it was a yearly question my catholic neighbor and best buddy Mark would incessantly pester me with, despite my insistence that we Lutherans didn’t believe in “works-righteousness” (although obviously my young self was rather full of self-righteousness…).
Later in my life I began to appreciate the discipline of focused Lenten reflection and self-denial as a helpful spiritual practice during this annual journey following Jesus to his cross. For some Christians, this is still a time of giving up. Out with the chocolate, or the wine, or social media. Such practices of self-denial can be useful, especially if they lead to meaningful change that outlasts Lent. Other Christians focus on taking up something new. Perhaps this is a time of increased generosity or service to others.
Whether you take up or give up, it is appropriate to focus on the changes in our lives that can be wrought through spiritual discipline. Lent is the journey to Easter, after all. As sure as all this snow we dealt with in recent weeks is now melting away, we are moving from death to life. We are not meant to remain unchanged.
Here’s one suggestion I’d underscore that I have read about in this newsletter and have heard members of your Leadership Team talk about when I “zoom” into their meetings: how about “taking up” the practice of “checking in” on your fellow brothers and sisters at Risen Lord? This time of necessary pandemic distancing has sadly meant relational and spiritual distancing, even isolation for many. How about a daily phone call to someone you haven’t seen for a while, just to say hello and to assure that person you are thinking and praying for them? Better yet, how about a call to a neighbor who is not a member of Risen Lord or any other community of faith, just to say the same thing?
Regardless of what else you’re taking up or giving up this Lent, I hope you’ll take seriously the opportunity this season brings us for growth in faith, discipleship, and acts of love. As we deny ourselves and journey to the cross, we are reminded of the most remarkable thing of all: Jesus never gives up on us.
Be well, friends. You are loved.
Pastor Dave Schreiber