Many of us are familiar with the idea of giving up something during the season of Lent. Forty days to go without chocolate, desert, coffee, television, or something else that has become an important part of our lives. The idea is not simply that we give something up, but that we use the loss to focus our attention to the things of God. The time we used to spend with television is spent reading the Bible or in prayer. When the urges for that special dessert come, we use those as a reminder to pray, and offer a quick prayer to Abba in the moment.
Traditionally when Lent is over we rush back to pick up those things we “gave up” for a season.
What if? What if we used this Lenten season as a time to truly lay down some things which rob us from experiencing “Life to the Full?” Over the next seven weeks we will focus on “Giving Up” some of the things which rob us from experiencing the fullness of life with God.
March 10: Giving Up Control
As Jesus went into the wilderness he was tempted to take control over the situation before him. He had the authority, power, and ability to do just that. What he lacked was God’s invitation to move in such a way. Jesus denied his own impulses and followed God’s will. We are used to having control over many things in our world. As chaos erupts we assert our strength and try to bend people, events, situations in a way in which we can control what happens. God’s invitation is for us to humble ourselves, be still and seek His leading in our lives.
March 17: Giving Up Expectations
Jesus’ teaching surprised Nicodemus. Jesus was not what Nicodemus had expected. The longer Jesus talked the harder Nicodemus struggled to understand. We often move in similar ways. When our expectations are challenged it becomes hard for us to relate, comprehend, or embrace what is going on around us. As God does the unexpected we are caught off-guard, wondering what is going on. While life is chaotic, and God’s ways are mysterious, we can trust that the Spirit will be with us whatever circumstances we face.
March 24: Giving Up Superiority
Jesus ministry is filled with examples of moments where he cared deeply for the lives of those around him. The social conventions of Jesus day came crashing down as he reached out to the least and the lost with message of grace and freedom. God does not see, nor cares little for, the artificial distinctions we draw to make ourselves feel superior to others. If we let go of our status symbols and judgmental attitudes, we can learn to hear Jesus more clearly and respond more faithfully.
March 31: Giving Up Enemies
Many feel that the world we live in feels very divided and hostile. We have mastered the skill of identifying the “other” and confrontation is no stranger to our lives. Jesus’ call to “love our enemies” can sometimes feel like an idealistic notion not relevant to our day and age. Jesus showed us that caring for those who persecute you is a very real way to live and move in this world. Jesus wept over Jerusalem because his followers did not understand his message of peace as it truly was, peace here on earth. We speak of Jesus as the Prince of Peace. Do we really believe and live like peace is possible in our lives and in our communities?
April 7: Giving Up Our Lives
Throughout the gospels we hear stories of Jesus creating life from death, healing from sickness, plenty from want. As we move through life it is understandable why we may live seeking to “grab all we can get.” We are used to thinking of living in terms of this world. Jesus invites us to lay aside our old categories and embrace God’s larger vision of what it means to truly live.
April 14 (Palm Sunday): Giving Up Popularity
The crowds came out to line the streets and cheer Jesus as arrived at Jerusalem. People cheered, palm branches waived, the crowd sang his praises. Days later some of those same people stood before Pilate shouting just as loud for Jesus to be crucified. Popularity and praise from others is fleeting. If we put our faith and hope in the praise of others we will be disappointed. Instead of listening to the voices of the crowd we should be straining to hear the voice of Abba Father who promises never to leave nor forsake us and will sustain us when others turn away.
April 21 (Easter Sunday): Giving Up Death
Jesus’ rising on Easter morning was more than some fancy parlor trick to gain the attention of his followers and attackers. As the tomb stood empty the entire order of the universe was turned upside down. Death does NOT have the last word. God has the final word, and that word is life! Suffering and death will come to an end, but life continues on through the grace of Jesus.