Written by Pastor Andrea Asselmeier
We are now in the midst of the season of Lent, the time of preparing our hearts for Holy Week and ultimately Easter. At Emmaus, in our Bible studies and our Worship services (which now has turned into digital services and meditation online), we have been talking about Lent and the ways that people use this time to fast, reflect, and to reconnect with God. Many people give something up or take up a new practice for lent. While this practice is certainly not required, it can be a focusing practice for some. But I think that it is easy for this practice to become a production as much as it is a practice. I often hear conversations about what someone gave up for lent, how hard it was to give up, and so on and so forth.
One year, I gave up pizza for lent. It was way harder than it should have been, and probably the healthiest 6 weeks of my life, but I will be honest, the way in which I approached it was in no way helpful for my relationship with God or with others. On the other hand, a couple of years ago I decided that rather than give something up, I would take up a new practice. I decided to decrease my carbon footprint and didn’t use any disposable food items during lent- no paper plates, plastic silverware, bottled water, and I even took my own reusable coffee cup with me when I went to the local coffee shop. It was way easier than I thought it would be and did far more to help me consider my relationship with God’s creation and all that God has entrusted us with.
Whether you give something up, or take up a new practice, or neither one, scriptures remind us that we are to live out our religions activities in a way that builds our relationship with God and with one another, not in a way that builds our social standing or reputation. It reminds us of our calling to be dedicated to God, to be holy.
If we are going to change our practices during lent, let them be a change of not just diet or schedule but of heart and of mind. May we focus on our call to be holy, dedicated to God and God’s work in the world, and in doing so may we be willing to challenge ourselves to fast or not as a way of strengthening our relationship with God and with one another, to take up caring more for our sisters and brothers in Christ, to live out our calling to be the church, the hands and feet of Christ in the world- as the UCC words it in the Be The Church Campaign- to protect the environment, care for the poor, forgive often, reject racism, fight for the powerless, share earthly and spiritual resources, embrace diversity, love God, and enjoy this life, knowing that we are loved and though we fall short at times, we are forgiven.