Giving up & Taking up..
The chances are that if you grew up in a household that went to one of the mainline churches or the Roman Catholic church you probably have a bit of a familiarity with some of the more traditional “disciplines” of Lent. (For instance some of those things that we have been chatting about at our weekly Wednesday Soup & Prayer nights - silence, penance, prayer, etc.)
Among the most common traditions, of course, is that of “giving something up” for the season - (as often as not either something you really really like - ie chocolate; or.. something you may have already been thinking of dropping - ie smoking etc.). The idea behind this being (primarily) that - during this season of focusing on how much Jesus does for us - one way to show reverence & gratitude might be to join Jesus in enduring something hard/sacrificial. The not quite so helpful part being though, that as much as that is a good-ish practice, it can also open the door to a bit too much of an emphasis on “works righteousness” or self-inflation.
One of the things I often point out to folks is that a slightly more helpful part of this ancient tradition comes when we take that moment of self-denial to use as an opportunity to focus ourselves - to think about & focus on what Jesus’ sacrifice tells us about God & reveals to us about how deep God’s love for us is. The hope being that in that moment when you would “normally” being having that mid-morning latte (that you have now given up) you could use that time to maybe read a part of the Holy Week story.. or say a prayer for someone you know is going through something.. or even think about the things in our lives that might be getting in the way of us living into our faith in all the ways we could. In which case, it is not really the “giving up” that is as important but how you use that moment that becomes a growing place.
It is with that in mind that I have begun to put a slightly different spin on all this lately. My suggestion being that not only do we just “give something up” during Lent but in addition maybe we also “TAKE something up”.. that not only do we give something up (that might be an extra we don’t need in our lives).. but also TAKE SOMETHING UP that stretches us or engages us. Simple suggestions include adding a daily prayer time to regime… add reading a daily devotion to your schedule.. or taking up a more regular chance for meditation.. etc.. Bigger ideas include really getting out there or in there into the midst of life a bit more.. as in taking your family down to the food bank to volunteer.. or researching & giving to a new charity during this season.. or signing up for an extra kind of involvement in your community (to more intentionally serve others instead of just yourself or your family).
In these ways, we are taking up a new chance to live in to that call we heard a couple of weeks ago as this season began .. the call to “take up our own cross and follow” Christ. Now I realize that we are already deep into the season of Lent, and I probably should have mentioned this back at the beginning of the month but… better late than never.. better something than nothing. So take a chance .. (sure).. give something up .. but why not also try to “TAKE something up”! See what that feels like and… where it takes you.
- Pr. Stewart