Haven’t we given up enough for Lent in 2021?

Easter has been the most holy day that followers of Jesus have celebrated for the last 2000 years. It’s a day that is set aside from our normal distractions and expectations to think about something more…something deeper…something holy.

The word “holiday” literally means “holy day” in old English and while the majority of Americans use “holiday” to mean any day set aside to celebrate something, for Christians, the most holy day is the day we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus. It’s the day we remember our sin and the gift of Jesus to forgive us and offer us salvation in the form of his substitutionary atonement on the cross. It’s the day we are reminded that over 500 people witnessed Jesus living and breathing AFTER walking out of the tomb. And it’s the day that we continue to pledge to follow him.

This holy day became so important to Christians that as early as the 4th century, they began preparing themselves to celebrate it since it’s ramifications were so much bigger than just a day of celebration. It was a change in the fabric of reality and our lives.

So, for 40 of the 46 days leading up to Easter, disciples would focus on prayer and fasting to prepare themselves with hope and anticipation of the resurrection of Jesus to be fully experienced in their lives. They would take a break from fasting on each Sunday so they could fully participate in and live out the “Lord’s Day”, which would account for the other 6 days.

It was a call to remember, to confess and to renew their hearts and faith. This 46 day season has come to be called “Lent” which literally means to “lengthen” or to lengthen the anticipation and celebration of Easter,

It is often marked with a season of giving something up or fasting from something like a meal during each day or something else entirely that you are accustomed to and enjoy which brings me to the title of this blog…haven’t we given up enough this Lenten season? This entire year?

Absolutely, we have given up much this season. For some the forced fasting of Covid has pushed us to the edge of sanity. But, I would also argue that we have gained much during this season. More time with family, more time to reflect, more time to figure life out, a much needed break from the rat race of life to name a few.

However, fasting isn’t fasting if it is forced on you. It’s only fasting if you voluntarily give something up for something more. You see during times of fasting, we don’t just try to suffer. We spend the time away from a meal, from entertainment or social media to focus on something else…to reflect, to confess and to renew.

Can I encourage you not to bypass Lent this year because of all the things you’ve have to give up? Instead, can we fully lean into the wonder, glory and anticipation of the risen Christ?

As I mentioned last week, there really is a renewal of seekers looking for answers during this tumultuous time. People are asking new (or rather very old) questions about life and they are looking for answers in God’s word.

Can I encourage you not to give up less but perhaps to give up more?
To give up the idea of going back to normal?
To give up the extra activities and distractions that keep you from growing in your faith and experience of Jesus?
To give up living a margin-less life so that you can fully rest and reflect?
To stop seeing your faith as a part of your life and make it your whole life?

I know this year has taught me many things. Perhaps the greatest thing I have discovered is how distracted I can become. Will you join me over these next few weeks to fully live into Lent and to anticipate the risen Savior with new vigor?

I would love to hear some of the ways you are preparing yourself this year, too.

With great love,

Pastor Mark

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