Hang around a church this time of year, and eventually you’ll get asked what you’re giving up for Lent.
The tradition of fasting from food, alcohol, or anything you devote a lot of your time to is derived from Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness at the beginning of his ministry. So our efforts to abstain from certain foods, alcohol, chocolate, Facebook, video games, or cursing can be noble pursuits.
We also realize our attempts at fasting from this or that have been about as successful as our New Year’s resolutions or our commitment to the latest best-selling diet. For many of us these attempts at doing without are but a flash-in-the-pan, glittering promises of a new and improved life, that fade quickly back to routine comforts.
In the entertainment industry it is not uncommon for the host of an event to say something like, “Let’s give it up” for someone like The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, or Beyonce (depending on your age). This means we’re supposed to enthusiastically applaud and cheer for the performer. The phrase suggests that when we “give it up,” we hold nothing back.
So I propose that we approach Lent in a different manner this year and look at giving something up in a different sort of way. And although it might not be the kind of giving up or fasting Jesus did in his 40 day wilderness experience, it will be the kind of giving up he did during the three years of his public ministry. It can be the kind of giving up that gives us the strength to be committed disciples of Jesus Christ. So this year instead of giving up things like red meat, chocolate, cursing, or alcohol, over the six Sundays of Lent, during Sunday sermons we will be looking at giving up things like control, closed minds, expectations, superiority, dry-bones living, and popularity.
If we make these sacrifices we will find significant joy in the end. Because as paradoxical as it seems, the more willing we are to release something (give it up), the more we gain. When we let go of some part of our life that has a grip on us, we become open to new possibilities for living more fully.
Lent and Easter are not about deprivation so that we can better enjoy the candy or the ham-and-potato dinner with coconut cream pie at the end of our 40-day journey. Lent and Easter are about the shape and purpose of Christ’s life, death, and resurrection that were necessary to break down the doors of hell and death and help us enter into the kingdom of heaven that Jesus initiated on earth.
Rev. Bill Schram began his ministry with Westminster in March 2018 and is the current Interim Minister. Bill attended McCormick seminary in Chicago and met his wife Jenny there. They have served as co-pastors and in separate positions. He has served churches in urban, near suburb, small town, county seat towns in various positions such as pastor, associate pastor, interim pastor, and hospital chaplain. He and Jenny have two natural and one foster daughter. Delightfully, they now have a granddaughter to enjoy.