We are one week into Lent, the 40-day period of repentance and reflection that many Christians observe before Easter. I did not write about Ash Wednesday this year, but I did revisit my previous Ash Wednesday posts and re-watched the Lent “highlights reel” video. Most importantly, I made it to an Ash Wednesday service, at a new-to-me church near my office. As I’ve shared before, the Ash Wednesday liturgy is my very favorite and I didn’t want to miss it.
Fasting For Lent
As for fasting, I’ve never felt that fasting–or restricting my diet in a specific way–would bring me closer to God. A few years ago I did give up meat for Lent, but I still question whether God cares what I eat. At last week’s service the priest commented that fasting and alms giving go hand-in-hand, because church tradition holds that you give what you save from fasting to the poor, but I’m not really saving money eating salads instead of sandwiches, and I’m certainly not saving money buying fish instead of chicken.
A few weeks before Lent, our readings included Isaiah 58, and its message on fasting (quoted above) resonated with me. I may not feel called to fast from food, but I do feel called to work against injustice and help the hungry. I also feel called to do so in a personal way that involves more than writing checks and sending them to a distant address.
Both of the churches I am affiliated with (my “old” church and my “new” church) cook and serve dinner at homeless shelters during the winter. Last weekend I served with my “new” church, and next weekend I will serve with my “old” church. Coincidentally, that shelter made the news after ICE targeted clients as they were leaving in the morning. In years past, I never considered the immigration status of any of the men and women we served. Now, I will wonder if it’s one more thing that puts them at risk and keeps them up at night.
Reading Scripture During Lent
As much as I love hearing the Bible readings in church, I am horrible at committing to devotional time at home. For a few years, I compromised by listening to a Daily Prayer podcast by a priest in New Zealand. When I tried to renew this practice last week, I learned from his website that he passed away from cancer in June 2015.
After I finished chastising myself for taking so long discover he was gone (did I really not listen to any of his podcasts last year???), I spent the evening reading all of his blog posts, from before and during his short illness. Although he questioned his mission from time to time, he seemed to realize that he was reaching people around the world, and meeting an important need. (I traded emails with him myself when I first discovered his podcasts.)
This whole experience has reminded me of the importance of letting people know I appreciate the ways in which they touch my life. That brings me back to my word for the year, and my commitment to treat people with kindness and compassion because everyone is divinely-created and divinely-loved.
Do you observe Lent?