Friday, February 23, 2007


This was my Ash Wednesday sermon.

Lent is an interesting season. It's 40 days, excluding Sundays, of fasting, prayer, meditation and self-denial. Some people look on this season as something to be endured, a marathon of self-inflicted torture that saps all of the fun out of life until we get to Easter when we can return to normal. But returning to normal isn't the point of Lent.

The point of Lent is change.

Give generously, but don't tell anyone. Pray, but do so quietly. Fast, but don't make a show of it. Lent is the time when we examine our selves and our habits in the hopes of finding a better way of doing things.

Giving up sweets for Lent doesn't really accomplish anything. Why are we giving up sweets? If it's because we think we should suffer, we are off on the wrong foot. But if we see Lent as a season of change, and we give up sweets to change our eating habits, then we're onto something. That giving up should be balanced by a taking on, because giving up something often leaves a habitual hole that needs to be filled. Give up sweets. Eat baby carrots instead.

Some people, instead of giving up something, decide to take something on. This is a good idea as well. The problem though, is where are we going to find the extra time in our busy lives to cram one more thing that "we should do" into our schedule? That taking on should be balanced by a giving up. We are asked to read and meditate on God's holy Word. Take on reading the Bible. Give up TV for an hour.

Lent isn't about suffering and sacrifice. Lent is about change and balance. We are called to a period of fasting and self-denial because we have too much already. Those actions call to mind people who are perpetually hungry and constantly poor. Donate the money you would have spent eating out to the food bank. Balance what you have with what others do not.

Over the course of a year, we have a tendency to get out of balance. Meeting with friends over coffee is a good thing. But when we get to the point where we can't function without a double mocha latte grande skinny with a touch of caramel java juice (or whatever they're called) at $7 a cup, we've gotten out of balance. Find something else to do with the money. And if that feels like self-denial, so be it.

I said Lent is an interesting season, and I think that's because of the push/pull feel to it. Fast, but don't let it show. Pray, but do so quietly in your own home. Give money, but don't let your right hand know what your left hand is doing. Those actions are what make Lent introspective.

Why do you do what you do? Why do you fast? Why do you give money? Why do you pray? Only you can answer these things. Self-denial and sacrifice are important aspects to Lent; but they mean nothing if they don't lead to a deeper relationship with God or a deeper understanding of your faith.

Lent is about change and balance. How will you be changed and reclaim balance in your life this Lenten season?


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