I don't remember much about the sermon this past Sunday. Reflected some about the meanings of wilderness and desert. Then took the three temptations of Jesus and attempted to show how they are at root common human temptations. Through those two things I hoped to present Lent as a boundary time, in which we can encounter ourselves and God, and not a time of self-denial for the sake of the feat of restraint and fasting. A colleague of mine and fellow Covenant pastor blogged about this to some degree. And a number of people have wondered about this taking on. Lent is so connected in peoples consciousness with giving something up for Lent, that we seem to not think of why it is that Lent is associated with giving up something.
Lent as I have said recently in more than one place and occasion is associated with giving small things up, because Lent is a fast. The giving up coffee or chocolate or meat for lent is a form of fast. Fasting and Lent are associated because fasting is also a sign of repentance, as well as a means to turn ones focus on prayer, away from satisfying bodily needs. What I take from all this is that Lent is to be a time when we stop and look at what has been dominating our lives and turn aside from those things that perhaps in only small ways have been distracting us or leading us away from God. Lent is a time of repentance, that a time set aside to recognize and in recognizing turn from ways of being that have gotten in the way of our call before God. Fasting tells us that even good and necessary things can so distract us, and that at times we need to turn aside from those things to focus and pray and repent.
We aren't to give things up for the sake of giving things up as if taking things out of our diet or life automatically make us more spiritual or prepare us for being formed into the image of Christ. Though, God can certainly use even things poorly motivated. In the end Lent is a time to turn and return, to let go of ourselves into the embrace of God.