Lent is very nearly upon us.

Did you groan at that? Even a little? Lent has something of a bad reputation as being a dark and punishing time – a time of deprivation and endurance. We slog through forty days without whatever little pleasure we’ve denied ourselves: Easter is our finish line, when deprivation can finally give way without guilt, and we can pat ourselves on the back for getting through such a miserable time.

It’s a cynical view, and one I hope none of your share in its entirety… but I very much doubt that there are many among us who didn’t recognize ourselves, at least a little, in the above description.

So perhaps this is the year to re-frame Lent.

On Ash Wednesday, we are reminded of our mortality. More than that, we are reminded that we are all made of the same stuff – the same ash, the same stardust.

Given this perspective, what is it that we might give up, during these 40 days? What would change, for you, if you were to walk through this time, saying the Ash Wednesday blessing in your heart during every interaction: “Remember that you and I are dust, and to dust we shall return”?

In Lent, we remember Jesus’ forty days in the wilderness, and the temptations that were presented to him: to use his abilities to feed himself, and calm his own hungers; to rule over all the world; to manipulate God.

During this time, perhaps we would do well to ask what temptations we face: To serve ourselves before others? To exercise power over others – our co-workers, our friends, our children? To try to bargain with God, or make God serve us? What is it that we are tempted to put before our love of God and God’s Creation?

What if our Lenten discipline this year were to give up convenience for the sake of community? If we were to stop using Dunkin Donuts styrofoam or plastic cups, and remember to bring our own instead? If we were to commit to buying local, or second-hand? To walking more and driving less?

What if our Lenten discipline this year were to broaden our perspectives: to commit to reading only books written by women, or people of color, Muslims, or LGBT folk? What might we learn about ourselves, our God, and our temptations, if we were to journal such an adventure? What might we learn, if what we gave up for Lent were an insular perspective?

It strikes me that Jesus did not fast so that he could really enjoy his first meal back after the wilderness experience. His fast was one of purification, of focusing priorities, of gaining perspective on the tempting distractions of this world. He fasted so that he could see the offers made him for what they were: idols that would turn him from God. He fasted so that he would be better prepared to serve God – to serve God’s creation and the Body of Christ – with his whole self.

Perhaps that should be the goal of our disciplines as well. May we remove from our lives that which distracts us from one another and from God. May our fasts leave us changed for the better, able to fully appreciate and live into the new life of Easter.

For Further Reading:
Why reading books by black* authors is important:
http://scienceblogs.com/casaubonsbook/2016/01/26/want-black-lives-to-matter-want-to-help-end-racism-read/
*the principle applies to any non-white-straight-male authors, in my opinion

LGBT:
https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/lgbthttps://www.mombian.com/2016/01/11/2016-ala-awards-for-lgbtq-inclusive-kids-books/

Latin@:
https://www.goodreads.com/shelf/show/latino

African American:
http://www.theroot.com/photos/2014/12/the_15_best_fiction_novels_by_black_authors_in_2014.htmlhttp://www.theroot.com/articles/lists/2015/12/_14_of_the_best_nonfiction_books_by_black_authors_in_2015.html

 

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