I’ve got an idea for you, but I’m going to tease a bit and make you wait to find out where I’m going with this. So, be patient…
Lent is on! Almost one week in already. Have you figured out what you are giving up for Lent? Dishes? Making your bed? Taking out the garbage? Or are you going to really take this seriously and sacrifice deeply, and give up chocolate?
The idea of giving something up for Lent goes way back, but has a story that you might not know. Long ago (like 1500 years or more), most baptisms were adults. That’s because not many people had been baptized!
A candidate for baptism would typically connect with a community of faith, and become a “catechumen.” He or she would have some involvement in the life of the community, worshiping and serving, as well as learning about the faith. Essentially what we call a confirmation student, just not yet baptized.
After several years of instruction, a catechumen would be deemed ready for baptism, and would be baptized on Easter Eve, during what is called the Easter Vigil. There, all the catechumens would enter the faith and become full members of the community.
In order to prepare for the final stretch, catechumens would “fast” during Lent. And those around them, the rest of the community, would support them by “fasting” in a small way – they would give up something as a symbolic gesture of support. That’s where the idea of “giving up something for Lent” comes from!
Just a quick sidebar…as time went on and most adults were baptized, the need for a “catechumanate” declined. But what to do with the children who were baptized? The church decided to continue to baptize children, but give them the “catechumanate” experience later, when they were older. We call that “confirmation.”
But back to fasting. So, OK, we kind of make light of fasting these days. I mean, let’s see…how about giving up football for Lent? Or going to the beach (sorry, no spring break trip!) Or maybe I’ll give up vacuuming.
Hardly serious, and hardly faith building. We make light of giving something up, and yet in a deeper sense that is what Lent is about. We journey to the cross where Jesus will give up his life for us. And as we journey, we reflect on what it means to be faithful disciples of Jesus, living out our baptism, surrendering (or “giving up”) ourselves to Jesus.
Which brings me to my idea for your consideration. This, however, is an idea that begins not with “giving up,” but with some “adding” and “gifting.”
Normally, this coming Wednesday would be our first midweek Lenten worship (following Ash Wednesday). The evening would also include our first “Lenten Soup Supper.” The proceeds from the supper, and the four that would follow, would go to the World Hunger Appeal. Simple soup so others can simply eat.
Not happening. Not this year.
But what if…you could still have your soup supper? Hey, you can! Make the decision to watch the Lenten worship video – it will be posted by late afternoon on Wednesday. It’s about 35 minutes, and includes Holden Evening Prayer and a message. The message this year will revolve around “where do we see God at work in our world these days.” Good stuff – more on that in a moment!
But as you watch, watch it a bit differently. First, watch it over a bowl of soup. Campbell’s, Ramen noodles, or even better, homemade! Make it your own little “soup supper.” That’s the “adding” part.
Then, and this will need to be intentional on your part, make a gift to the World Hunger Appeal. Send the check in to the office (make it out to Our Savior’s, but mark it clearly for world hunger), or go to our electronic giving page and make the gift that way (you can designate it there – check out www.oursaviorswestsalem.org/giving.) That’s the gifting part!
Now, notice I said “be intentional.” One of my pet peeves is people who say that they want to give when it hits them, when they are moved, when they are “in the mood.” Good thing God doesn’t work that way! God is intentional about giving us nothing more and nothing less than life itself, regardless of the mood. So be intentional, don’t wait until you feel like it. Give someone somewhere, someone you will never meet, the gift of life through your support of the world hunger appeal.
And maybe this little addition can even become a habit or tradition for you. When I was a child, once a month my parents had a simple chicken noodle soup and chili dinner (back then I didn’t like the chili, but the soup was great!) Crackers and some homemade bread rounded out the meal. But then, my parents would take what they would have spent on a fancier meal (which added up because we were a family of seven), and gave that amount, each month, to the hunger appeal. Just an idea…
Whatever works for you, find a way to make those intentional gifts. And however you do it, let it become a part of the rhythm and fabric of your life, of your journey as a disciple of Jesus. A way of sharing a small amount of “giving up” in order to “give”…and in order to practice making your faith more than words. Making your faith a living exercise.
But also, in a small way, becoming intentional, just like Jesus and the cross. And in a bigger way, becoming a part of God’s work in the world (remember, that’s the theme for the midweek worship messages.) Just think…God is at work in the lives of those who have nothing for dinner tonight. But you, yes YOU – you get to be a part of what God is up to.
And who knows? Maybe someday, someone who is fed by you and your “gifting” will be asked where they have seen God at work. And they will say, “Once when I had nothing, a meal was shared with me – and that was God at work in my life!”
And that is one thing I would not give up!