"What will you add?" - Todd Pheifer, Ed.D
The Season of Lent is a time of preparation for the church. While the miracle of Jesus rising from the tomb should resonate with us throughout the entire year, we set aside this time in the church calendar to engage in focused reflection. The sacrifice of Jesus is sobering beyond measure, but it comes with the anticipation of salvation and the joy of His victory over death.
For the broader society, Lent is traditionally a time of sacrifice. Even those who do not grasp the deeper meaning of Lent may choose to give up a part of their daily lifestyle from Ash Wednesday through Easter Sunday. Chocolate, coffee, social media, and other valued substances or habits are popular choices. The purpose of these sacrifices is typically intended to provide focus, so that we may dwell on the meaning of the season and spend time in careful reflection.
While Lent can often be a deeply personal season for the individual, it is also a time for the church universal to examine how the love of Christ will be manifested in our daily lives. In other words, is Lent just a mental exercise that is forgotten once the calendar is flipped? Or is Lent an opportunity to be inspired to action? Instead of just giving up a small part of our lifestyle, what are we willing to add?
It is easy to be overwhelmed by the societal issues that surround us on a daily basis and feel like our efforts won’t make a difference. Suffering and heartache are all around us, and we can quickly lose faith in the ability of the church to make a difference. Despite those feelings of despair, we must remember what comes at the end of this season. We must anticipate the amazement of God’s love, the incredible gift of grace, and the opportunity that we have to live a life of gratitude.
If you feel called to give up chocolate for Lent, that is a worthy lifestyle choice. While you are giving something up, are you willing to add as well? Will you be dedicated to fervent prayer for the community to change? Are you willing to take a leap of faith and befriend that quiet neighbor down the street? Are you willing to give up some of your time and invest in a local ministry? Are you willing to accept that all of us are better than any of us, but that requires all of us to be involved?
God wants us to serve with joy, but we are also reminded in the scriptures (James 1:27) that it is our responsibility to care for the poor, the widow, and the orphan. None of us is exempt from being the hands and feet of Christ. While the Bible does talk about different types of gifts, we are ALL called to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:28-34). That means doing more than writing checks or offering generic prayers. Just like giving up something during Lent is a symbolic gesture, so also the willingness to love other signals that our words and actions are in sync.
HOW TO PRAY:
As you journey through Lent, ask God for guidance and be willing to take a leap of faith. Ask for God to point you towards the place that HE wants you to go. When you make a commitment to follow God’s calling and add amazing ministry opportunities to your lifestyle, Easter takes on a whole new meaning.
James 1:27 “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.”
Mark 12:28-34 “One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength. The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.”
About the Author: Todd Pheifer is the Development Director at Kingdom Causes Bellflower and has worshiped at Bethany Church since 1994.