Thursday, 15 March 2012

Thursday - Lent 3

Our weather here in Brandon MB has been so unseasonal.  With high winds for the last two days and warm temperatures,  our snow has melted leaving a spring-like feeling in the air.   People are commenting on the wonderful warm temperatures.  Then it is almost as if they divide themselves into two groups... those who say that Spring is here and isn't that wonderful and those who say that this is just a small break before the blizzards come dumping many feet of snow onto our fair town.  Two very different outlooks on the future.  We can't say one is right and one is wrong because we have not lived out this future weather yet.   
Differing perspectives and understandings.   During Lent,  some Churches state that the congregation needs to fast as this provides cleansing not only for the body but also for the mind.  Presbyterians  traditionally have not fasted.   Rev Dr Herb Gale wrote in his blog last year his understanding of fasting. 

O Christ, Son of God,  may we always share in Your love; and since You gave Your life for us, may Your Passion help us in all the trials of our existence, making of us true and living members of Your Body, for You live and reign now and forever more.  Amen.

(Taize “Praise in All Our Days”,  Mowbray 1981).

Read:  St. Matthew 9: 14 – 17

Fasting.  In the Torah,  Fasting was only required on the day of Atonement and publically proclaimed fast days.   The fasting that John’s disciples are asking about are the private days of fasting.  Fasting is a way to cleanse one’s body  and to renew one’s body.  Fasting is also a time of repentance and turning again to God.

Yet Jesus gently reminds John’s disciples that Jesus is the bridegroom and the guests of the bridegroom only have joy.  When the bridegroom is taken from them,  then they will fast.  

During Lent,  quite a few denominations state that people should fast.  

Presbyterians do not usually fast during Lent.    Dr Herb Gale,  Moderator of the 137th General Assembly and Director of Planned Giving stated in his March 2011 Blog: “ In keeping with the spirit of the season, many Christians often adopt spiritual disciplines such as fasting during their Lenten journey. When we normally think of a Lenten discipline, we usually think of giving up something, for example giving up meat for Lent or giving up desserts.   The idea is to give up something we value or enjoy to help us appreciate them more deeply and to grow closer to One who graciously gives them.   This is what lies behind the ancient tradition of fasting during Lent. 

While there is certainly a great deal of merit in such acts of self denial, I have found in my own life that when I have practiced such disciplines I often become more preoccupied with myself rather than less so, which seems a bit counterproductive.  That is why I have decided to do an alternative sort of spiritual discipline this Lent.  Rather than give up something during Lent, I have decided to give something each day during Lent.  That is, I have decided to be more intentional about practicing generosity during this Lenten season.  Each day during Lent, I will do some sort of intentional act of self giving. I’m not sure what those acts will be – I’m planning on figuring it out as I go along – but each day I resolve to do some act of grace (i.e. an unexpected, undeserved, and unconditional gift of love) that I wouldn’t normally do and see what happens as a result.  An example of such an act that I still remember with fondness was a road trip I took with some classmates during my university days.  While we were driving along a toll road, we decided to pay twice as much at each toll booth as was required, telling the toll booth attendant that the extra money was to pay for the toll of the car behind us.  That one simple act transformed the paying of tolls from something we all resented into a kind of happy game that I have never forgotten. 

The acts I choose may be large or small, open or hidden, for someone I know or for a complete stranger.  Who knows, I may end up doing more than one act on any given day – after all, God offers us any number of possibilities to practice generosity in any given day, and I’ve discovered from my own experience that giving is often fun.  So why limit myself to just one act of generosity a day?  But I am going to commit myself to one act a day, and I am going to keep a journal of my Lenten journey into generosity so that I can have a record of what I learn along the way.   I can’t think of a better way to follow in the path of him whose entire life was one continuous act of self-giving love and who didn’t say, “It is finished,” until he had finally given himself completely away as he was offering his life on the cross.  

By the way, my first act of generosity is to make this pledge and share it with you.  I invite anyone who would like to join me in my Lenten discipline to do so. I would like to call our group the Kenosis Fellowship.  Kenosis is the Greek word for “emptying” – a key theological term used to describe Christ’s way of self-giving love.  In Paul’s letter to the church in Philippi, Paul gives this advice:

Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as something to be exploited (or grasped), but emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.  And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:4-8)

So I invite you during Lent to become part of the Kenosis Fellowship and pledge yourself to doing at least one act of generosity that you would normally not do each day during Lent.  Be creative and have fun.   I would also invite you to keep a daily journal of your experiences.  And maybe as an act of generosity you can invite someone else to join the fellowship.  Oh, by the way, don’t feel it’s too late to become part of the Kenosis Fellowship if you decide to join half way through Lent, or even during Holy Week.  It just means you will be on a shorter journey, but still as awesome!”

This Day O Lord,  help us to do one act of generosity in Your name. This we ask in Jesus' name.  Amen. 

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