Traditions of Lent:
Part 1 of 3
Faith Perspectives – February 7, 2018
By Rev. James Miller
Trinity Lutheran Church, Nashville
As we get ready for the season of Lent, the ubiquitous question arises: What are you giving up for Lent?
Abstaining from certain foods or activities is a long-standing tradition in Christendom and can serve a great purpose.
In the Roman Catholic Church, many people give up meat on Fridays and eat fish instead, and that’s a fine tradition; it even has some health benefit to cut down on red meat and get the nutrients and minerals found in fish! But why do we give up things?
Just because we’ve always done it so dagumit, we’re going to keep doing it?
That’s a bad reason.
Do you give up things because it’s a cool devotional practice and an exercise in self-control?
That’s a better reason.
The whole practice of giving up things in Lent stems from the Biblical source of Lent, the 40-day period when Jesus was fasting in the wilderness (see Matthew 4, Luke 4).
Scripture tells us that Jesus was led into the rather-barren countryside so as to be tempted by Satan.
Really? Jesus was intentionally led to temptation?
Well, this points back to when the People of Israel were wandering the same wilderness for 40 years.
They routinely encountered temptation and failed… miserably.
They grumbled about their hunger, worshiped a golden calf, and didn’t trust in God’s protection.
However, Jesus went through the same steps and did it perfectly for us.
Jesus voluntarily encountered temptation and resisted; He defeated the power of temptation and the power of Satan so we, in our sanctified life who are connected to Christ in Baptism, have Christ’s own power to resist temptation.
So in our devotional practice, as we abstain from some foods or activities for this season, it’s sort of like voluntarily encountering temptation (being tempted to eat a steak instead of a fish fillet?) to remind us of Jesus’ temptation.
Because Jesus went without food, because He stood up to Satan and did not stumble, we, too, can resist temptation in our lives (and also chose that fillet over the fillet mignon!).
As you give up things for Lent, may it direct you back to the One who gave up everything for you.
Thanks be to God for that!