What are you giving up for Lent? That is the question I am asked annually. The one who asks the question is my ex-neighbor. I moved seventeen years ago, but we still get together regularly. He is my escape from this church and my portal into the real world. He was raised Roman Catholic, but he hasn’t practiced Catholicism in years. He married a Lutheran, but they are generally unchurched. However, they are good people. He has nothing positive to say about the Roman Catholic Church, but he looks at the world thru a Roman Catholic screen. His heritage is exposed when he asks me the question, what are you giving up for Lent? So let me ask you the question, what are you giving up for Lent? With that question in mind let us look at our scripture reading.
We begin our Lenten journey in the sixteenth chapter of Matthew. Do you remember the story? Jesus had grown to celebrity status. Everyone was talking about him. Everyone wanted something from him. Everyone was guessing about his identity. However, Jesus was not interested in what the masses thought about him. Jesus wanted to know what the disciples thought about him. So, he asked them the question that changed everything, who do you say I am? The normally chatty disciples grew strangely silent. It is not that they don’t have an opinion. It is that they don’t want to be wrong. It is Peter who answered first and correctly. Jesus is God’s Messiah. Instead of Jesus renting a billboard to announce his identity, Jesus asks the disciples not to tell anyone.
His messiahship was to be kept a secret. The reason is simple. That generation misunderstood the word Messiah. They longed for a military Messiah to liberate them from foreign rule. Instead, Jesus was a spiritual Messiah who came to liberate them from sin, itself. Jesus says it clearly, but the disciples don’t listen. As the spiritual Messiah, Jesus will suffer, be rejected and die. Jesus warns them to be prepared for the same. True discipleship is not about glory. It is about sacrifice. Traditionally people give up things for Lent to show the world they are completely committed to Jesus. By your presence here this evening, I am assuming you have decided to follow Jesus too.
So, let me ask you the question again: What are going to give up for Lent?
Maybe you are giving up one of these things? The list changes from generation to generation. This list can be found in a variety of places. It is a list of what most people give up. This is what people give up for Lent.
1. Chocolate or Sweets
4. Fast Food
6. Social Media
There is a website called Catholic Extension. I found an article on that site called What to Give up for Lent. This is their list of what to give up:
Give up bitterness; turn to forgiveness.
Give up hatred; return good for evil.
Give up negativism; be positive.
Give up complaining; be grateful.
Give up pessimism; be an optimist.
Give up harsh judgments; think kind thoughts.
Give up worry; trust Divine Providence.
Give up discouragement; be full of hope.
Give up anger; be more patient.
Give up pettiness; be more mature.
Give up gloom; enjoy the beauty around you.
Give up jealousy; pray for trust.
Give up gossiping; control your thoughts.
Give up sin; turn to virtue.
That list speaks to me.
Unlike Christmas and Easter, Lent has not crossed over into the secular world. The reason is obvious. Christmas and Easter emphasize receiving something. Lent emphasizes giving up something. My Lenten sermon series this year is called Give Up! In the next few blogs, we are going to look at things we need to give up because they are stunting our spiritual growth. This is my list:
Let me end not with a story but with a fact. Did you know, according to Life Way Research, 24% of all Americans observe the season of Lent? That means 76% of all Americans ignore Lent. That means, mathematically, we are in the minority. That does not bother me because Jesus as never interested in the crowd. Jesus was only interested in the committed.