I hear it every year... "what are you giving up for Lent?" There are many answers for many people. The most common responses I hear are chocolate, Facebook, coffee and technology. That's just a very small list of what I've heard people give up. Do we really know why we give up things for Lent? Is is just something that you do? Tradition?
My obvious vice is chocolate. A couple of years ago, I decided to finally give up something for Lent - chocolate. I made a concerted effort to avoid chocolate. That's harder than it sounds... it seemed to be in everything!
But why did I give it up? Because of what Christ did for me. We are now in the season of Lent, which is preparing us for the death and resurrection of Christ, which is obviously at the heart of the Christian faith.
So what did giving up the chocolate actually achieve? Each time I was given the opportunity to eat chocolate, I was given an opportunity to pass it up. But that's not my achievement - knocking back chocolate. My achievement was in remembering why I was declining the chocolate, bringing my thoughts back to Christ and what He did for me on the cross. His suffering and death. It was truly an amazing few weeks. With so much chocolate around me (I was still working at the time, so it literally was all around me - in my desk drawer, in my work mates' drawers, in the kitchen, in the morning tea that people brought in, not to mention everywhere I turned when I stepped outside!), I was able to reflect on what Easter truly means. I think it was one of the best, most meaningful Lenten periods I'd been through.
I haven't done it since... Ash Wednesday (the beginning of Lent) seems to sneak up on me each year, so I never have time to think about the lead up to Lent and what I want to give up for the season. So I don't fall into the trap of just doing it because that's what you do, I just haven't done anything. It's always disappointed me that I haven't had the chance for reflection, prayer and thoughts before Ash Wednesday, to get focused like I need.
Having just returned from 10 days in Victoria on Tuesday, I hadn't realised that it was the start of Lent this week, already! So, I felt I'd missed my chance for reflection, again!
However, after hearing what Big Spring's sermon topic was going to be for the Ash Wednesday service, I was renewed in my Spiritual reflection over the Lenten Season. It was a whole new perspective on the Lenten period. Instead of giving something up, I was challenged to take something on. Here is Big Spring's challenge, from his sermon:
"...the challenge for each of you this Lent is to take something on. To pull out your small catechism, dust it off and read from it every day - and then read through the Large Catechism once during Lent. I pray that if you do take this on for Lent that you’d grow in your knowledge of God and His will for your life, grow in your knowledge of the richness of God’s gifts at work in your life and overflow with thanksgiving as you look to your savior and His cross."
That night, he launched the "Big 10" - the 10 Commandments. Over this next week, I'll be reading about the 10 Commandments in both Catechisms... I haven't studied these since my confirmation classes, so I'm excited for the refresher course!
As a short reflection on the 10 Commandments, I want to share with you a few thoughts from Big Spring's sermon (being married to the pastor, certainly has it's benefits - being about to get a hold of the sermon so I can cut and paste!). I will italisise any quotes I copy from the sermon.
When you think about the 10 Commandments, what are you first thoughts? "Thou Shalt NOT"?
What about love? It doesn't really go with the image of Moses shaking in fear in the presence of God on the top of that mountain, with God's big booming voice laying down His rules while thunder and lightening crash as the commandments are etched on the tablets. Maybe I'm alone in that image, but it's what springs to mind in a Charles Heston kind of way! But I digress...
So, love and the 10 Commandments?
"In Matthew 22, Jesus summarized all the Commandments with these words: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (vv 37–40)".
"The first three commandments ... tell you that you are to love God ... with all your heart, soul, and mind. The last seven commandments tell you to love your neighbor as yourself. Love defines how we are to relate to one another."
That gives me a different perspective on the Commandments. Instead of looking at it as a list of rules, it's actually a guide of how to love one another! That seems like a much nicer way of looking at it!
So, that's only a very small bite of Big Spring's sermon, but it's one major mind shift in the way I view the 10 Commandments!
I look forward to taking something on this Lenten season and delving into Luther's Small & Large Catechism.
Are you going to take something on this Lent? Or perhaps you've given something up with deeper meaning than just 'doing it because that's what you do'? I'd love to hear about your Lenten experiences so feel free to share!