What do we do with the season of Lent and its historic spiritual discipline of giving something up? Our tradition tells us of the virtues of giving something up. It fosters appreciation for what we have forgone. It encourages discipline and restraint. It helps us to be grateful for all that we have. It reminds us of the suffering of others. It is a reminder to keep focused on spirit. It links us to Jesus. This tradition of giving something up has many, many dimensions that illumine our understanding and nourish our soul.
So, what will you give up for Lent this year? What will be a constant reminder for you of the sacred? Many choose to give up something food oriented for Lent. Maybe it is no sugar or no caffeine. For Catholics it has long been no meat on Fridays. Hence many churches have fish frys on Friday nights. The focus on a discipline around food and eating has many associations. Food is something that we need daily. So a food discipline is something we have to remember day in and day out. This keeps us aware of our spiritual lives. Food is a necessity. When we give some kind of food up, we see how many food options we have. And we are reminded of those who have little or no food so cannot entertain the idea of giving something up. We need food to live. Giving up a food for Lent reminds us of how we are sustained by creation which provides our food.
There are many good reasons to give up something food oriented for Lent. But there are many other options for fasting as well: Fast from TV. From driving. From technology. There are lots and lots of choices.
As we choose what to give up, we remember that we live in a society that is not about giving things up but about getting things. Accumulating things. Buying things. Having things. Storing things. So the very act of giving something up, anything, is an act of rebellion, of defiance, of constructive resistance to the consumerist culture around us which never satisfies.
The theme for Lent this year at Lakewood is “True Nature.” Nature will be our guide as we make our way through the Lenten season to the joys of new life celebrated on Easter.