Mar 20, 2011
“Giving something up for Lent” has a sacred origin, of course; and an ancient origin. Sacrifice and self-denial are old Christian traditions, as believers wanted to discipline themselves to identify with Christ’s suffering.
As we noted last week, one reason that God ordained the manner of Jesus’s death – surrender, betrayal, suffering – was to show mankind that the Deity understands the human condition. Holy irony, beautiful synergy. Old observances of the church have changed through the years; for instance, baptisms once were performed only on Easter Sunday. During the Reformation, when there was a desire to push back on sacred rites that had become empty rituals, the long and hard fasts during Lent were changed: individuals made private determinations to sacrifice something precious in order to thank, honor, and “imitate” Christ, for the sake of our souls.
Eventually that became a ritual, or a joke, or a scheme to diet or save lunch money. Not with everyone, of course, but with many people.
This idea is not new with me, but since “giving something up for Lent” is not something from the lips of Jesus, but man-made, no matter how well-intentioned… could we not also thank God, honor Christ, and, yes, “imitate” Him, if we took up something for Lent, instead of laying something aside? That is, something for Him, not for us.
Jesus took up the cross! He allowed Himself to be lifted up in painful crucifixion! He willingly added burdens to Himself in the period before Easter.
Surely we can do the same, and for motives just as pure and God-honoring. Not to gain gold stars, or make a list of good works, or… turn this concept into an empty ritual. But we can all think of adding to our moral to-do list, not temporarily erasing from it, at least for this Lenten season (and beyond!)
The world is hurting… look everywhere. Charities are starving… of staff, not just money. Your neighbor needs a ride… and maybe a word from God. That broken relationship you have somewhere… needs reconciliation. Someone who wronged you… needs forgiveness. We all need forgiveness… so there is a model for us. We received it from the Cross.
“The Old Rugged Cross, so despised by the world, its shame and disgrace we gladly bear…”
Click: The Old Rugged Cross
The site of this performance is the neighborhood of Golgotha and the Tomb in Jerusalem. The Gaither Homecoming Friends gathered to modestly sing this dear old hymn. Great scenes, and great meaning, in this short music video…