Sunday, March 1, 2009

I gave up chocolate for Lent...

This morning in Sunday school, as we began to talk about Lent, one of the youth said, "I gave up chocolate for Lent!" My reply was a question. "Why? Why did you give up something for Lent?" I wanted to know if she or anyone else in the class knew why people "gave things up" for Lent. Many times, during this Lenten season of the Christian year, people "give something up"... but if there is no understanding of the reason why this is done at this time of the year, then this becomes a meaningless ritual.

Lent is the 40 day time of the year [not counting Sundays] before Easter during which Christians take time for introspection, for soul searching, reflection and repentance... it is a time of growing in one's faith in preparation for the coming of the death and resurrection of Christ. In the earliest days of the church, Christ-followers re-dedicated themselves to the faith, and new converts learned about the Christian faith as they prepared for baptism. "Giving something up" was done to help a person focus on the ideas of reflection, repentance, renewal and spiritual growth during this time of the year.

While giving up chocolate might not seem to be something that would help a person focus on spiritual soul searching, it can still help as a little reminder... for example, every time you think about eating chocolate and then remember that you have given it up for Lent, as you begin to wonder, "Why did I give up chocolate?!!", you can then remember to ask yourself that question suggested by John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist movement... a question he suggested we all take time to ask of ourselves and each other on a regular basis regarding our relationship with God: "How is your soul really doing"?

While some people take it very seriously, giving something up for Lent is not a "legalistic" requirement of the Christian faith... and you don't have to give up only food items... you can give up watching TV for a certain amount of time each day, or give up some other activity for a certain amount of time each day... what you give up and for what amount of time is your choice... because ultimately, it doesn't matter what you have given up, or even if you have given something up... ultimately, what really matters is the answer to the question: How is your soul really doing?

Take this season of Lent to reflect on how your soul is really doing... and to grow in your relationship with God... and if you are wondering how you can grow if you don't currently have a relationship with God, all it takes is one small step of reaching out for God... and you will find that God has been there all along.

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