Based on Luke 9:18-23
Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten season, when we reflect on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and consider what and how we should sacrifice to give thanks for God’s grace.
One of my former co-workers always piously announced to the office that he was giving up smoking for Lent. New employees were impressed, but veteran employees weren’t surprised – we knew that he didn’t smoke, so he wasn’t really giving anything up. Another co-worker gave up sweets annually, reminded us daily of her sacrifice, and counted the days until she could have an entire German Chocolate Cake for Easter Sunday dessert!
Those humorous examples of misplaced Lenten sacrifice are instructive as we enter another Lenten season. Giving up destructive habits is commendable, but resuming those habits after Lent ends does us little good. The Lenten season is most meaningful when we opt not for symbolic, short term sacrifice, but prayerfully make meaningful sacrificial choices that lead to enduring change, sacrifices that aren’t necessarily what many consider to be “sins of the flesh.”
The Lenten season offers a good opportunity to give up a little time each day to pray with new regularity or to read and study God’s Word or to go beyond Sunday worship to explore and get involved in the weekday ministries of the church. The Lenten season is a good time to reflect daily on our blessings and consider ways and means that we can more actively live our faith and a good time for busy people to carve out daily “family time” to talk with and listen to each other.
Consider those alternatives and make Lenten sacrifices that lead to changes that last beyond Easter Sunday. You can then find new direction, new spiritual strength and a new appreciation for why Jesus said in Luke’s Gospel that those who follow him must carry their crosses not annually, but daily.