Happy Lent! Is that an oxymoron, a contradiction in terms?
Lent began on Ash Wednesday, March 6. Many Christians spend 40 days, plus 6 Sundays observing Lent — can’t really say celebrating — by preparing for Jesus’ death and resurrection while remembering Jesus’ 40 days in the wilderness.
How does one “observe” Lent? Some give up favorite chocolates or other candy treats. To be clear, Lent is more than a diet opportunity. Some fast from meals, recalling Jesus’ fasting in the wilderness. Consult with your doctor prior to fasting.
I am sometimes asked what to give up for Lent. I suggest giving up sin. That sounds nice, or at least Catholic, but how is it done?
Sin is an offense against God and one another. Imagine for a moment intentionally taking time to not offend God or one another. It’s a fairly impossible task, especially online, but it is worth the effort.
If you were, somehow, able to give up sin, would that be enough?
The short answer is no.
Avoiding sin is good, but how does that help your neighbor and community?
What if, while giving up sin, you decided to make a difference?
What if you offered to help? You can make a difference at the Food Bank, Rescue Mission, The Door, Stevie’s Place, Fairbanks Native Association, Love INC, Bread Line, Interior Alaska Center for Non-violent Living, Literacy Council, American Red Cross, Fairbanks Youth Advocates, your neighborhood school and/or church.
There are many, many places where you can serve and make a difference. It says in Matthew chapter 25 that when we help people in need, we are helping Jesus. Where do you start? Start with prayer asking God to guide you. How do you want to make a difference? Who can you help? How can you help? Then make some phone calls, and/or visits and get started.
We are in the midst of Lent. Jesus is headed for Jerusalem. Honor his sacrifice by giving up sin. Start with something attainable like making a list and trying. Lent ends with the resurrection. Celebrate by making a difference throughout Lent. None of this is going to be easy. Yes, you are going to stumble, fall and fail. But you’ll get back up like “Captain Marvel” — great movie! — and you’ll try again. Others will judge you – it’s always easier to judge than to do. God isn’t looking for perfection, just for your heart and soul to be right.
You can do this. You will do this. You are doing this.
This Sunday is St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish need our help. Everyone does. Pray for our first responders, police, fire, dispatch and paramedics. Pray for our service members, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and Coast Guard. Pray for all families as they await their safe return.
The Rev. Stephen Reed is a chaplain at the Fairbanks Police Department and a pastor at St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop. Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference.
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Faith section on March 15, 2019
Married 26 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting