Traditions of Lent: Mercy And Sacrifice

Traditions of Lent:
Mercy And Sacrifice
Part 2 of 3

Faith Perspectives – February 14, 2018

By Rev. James Miller
Trinity Lutheran Church, Nashville

Last week I wrote of the origin of Lent, how it’s derived from Jesus’ 40-day period of fasting and preparation for His public ministry. (As I like to say, it’s the penitential period prior to the Passion).
We also looked at what it means to give something up for Lent, to join Jesus in His temptation.
It should also be said that this whole devotional practice falls under the category of Personal Piety: some people cross themselves, some fold their hands to pray, some bow during Trinitarian Doxologies… And it’s just that: personal.
We shouldn’t cast judgement on someone else because they do this and you do that (Luke 18:9-14).
Well, as personal piety and giving up things is fine for one’s devotional life (and as a good Lutheran who dwells in the tension), I want to ask: does this please God?
What if, instead of just giving up something during Lent, we also replace it with something else?
If you give up eating chocolate for Lent, what about replacing it with fruit?
Or better yet, give up a bad habit (or at least a not-the-most-productive one) and replace it with a God-pleasing one, maybe where you serve your neighbor.
Give up spending hours browsing Facebook or Pinterest (God knows well enough how much time I spend on FB!) and instead spend that time praying, or reading scripture, or volunteering your time to serve your neighbor.
It’s fine to sacrifice something for God, but in comparison, God prefers mercy (Hosea 6:6).
Of course, scriptural comparisons tend to be strongly worded (cf. Matthew 6:24) so don’t give up sacrificing, but add to it and do something for God.
The entire practice of fasting was premised on reallocating time and resources. Because Moses or Jesus couldn’t just drive to Kroger and pick up a microwave dinner or walk to Tom’s for some chicken tenders, finding and preparing food often required great lengths of time.
So by skipping a meal, one could devote a lot of time to other things like praying and worshiping, or writing the Ten Commandments (cf. Luke 2:37, Exodus 34:28).
So this Lent, consider not only what you can give up, but how you can give back.
Give back to the Almighty One who gave you everything in the first place. Give back by serving your neighbor in Jesus’ name.
Thanks be to God for this opportunity!

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