What are you giving up?

What are you giving up for Lent? In his sermon on Sunday Pastor Jim mentioned that many people give something up for the 40 days of Lent – chocolate, take-out, smoking, etc.  The idea of giving something up for Lent is modeled on an ancient practice that included fasting and prayer that helped the devout focus on their spiritual journey through the spiritual discipline of fasting. 

            Now, I’ve never given up something for Lent. I grew up in a New Jersey beach town where about half the population was Italian Catholic. So many of my Catholic friends would have to give up something for Lent and they would whine about it for the whole 40 days.  However, my home church never emphasized this practice so as I child I thought it was just one more thing my Catholic friends did but that we as Presbyterians didn't do. As I got older I realized that isn’t true, anyone can take up this practice of fasting at any time as a spiritual discipline. 

            At our Ash Wednesday service my friend Leah Miller who is the pastor at the Anchor Presbyterian Church asked a different question for this Lenten season – Why don’t we give up something that we don’t want to pick up again when Lent is over? This sounded to me like a good idea and as I thought about it more I realized I have been trying to do this for a long time. For most of my spiritual journey I have been trying to give up worrying. Each year I get a little bit better at worrying less, but I have a feeling this will be a life-long spiritual practice for me. Along this journey I have held the passage from Matthew 6:25-34 close. 

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore do not worry, saying, “What will we eat?” or “What will we drink?” or “What will we wear?” For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. ‘So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
— Matthew 6:25-34 (NRSV)

As you enter into your Lenten journey I don’t know if you are giving something up or taking something on, but I pray that in all things your eyes might be set on the cross and your focus might be on Christ and his love and sacrifice for us.