This morning’s post in the series Easter is Coming: What Do We Hunger and Thirst For? is by Theresa Froehlich. She is a life coach, writer, speaker, and ordained minister. Theresa is a native of Hong Kong. She and her husband, Hervey, have been married since 1983. They have two grown children.
Christians think of Lent as a time of giving up something for Jesus. But God intends this to be a time for us to receive from his Son.
On that fateful Friday two thousand years ago, Jesus had been arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane and tried before the Sanhedrin, the high court of the Jews. They spit in his face, struck him, mocked and taunted him (Mt. 26:67-68). While the high priest and the officials were subjecting the Savior of the world to humiliation and physical abuse, Simon Peter was warming himself by the fire in the courtyard along with other servants of the high priest. This Simon Peter was the same disciple who not long ago had pledged unwavering loyalty to the point of death (Lk 22:33).
We approach Lent with the same kind of self-confidence: we give up sweets, ice cream, football, TV. video gaming, or pornography. This kind of self-denial arrests our appetites for excesses for a short time, only for them to re-surface after Easter with roaring vigor. And so each Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday come and go without any fundamental transformation. We “spend money on what is not bread, and [our] labor on what does not satisfy” (Isaiah 55:2). When the weather is right, we gather around the fire to warm ourselves, with more sweets, ice cream, football, TV, video gaming, or pornography.
On each Ash Wednesday, the priest in the liturgical churches uses the ashes, made by burning the palm branches of the previous year, to make the sign of the cross on the foreheads of the believers. This sign is a call to fasting, repentance, and mourning; it is also a symbol that reminds us we are dust and to dust we shall return (Gen 3:19).
Giving up something is an expression of fasting, but to divorce fasting from mourning is to miss the first Beatitude in Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt. 5:3) Perhaps the place to begin isn’t what creature comforts, addictive appetites, or innocuous idolatries we choose to abstain from for a limited period of time. Perhaps the place to begin is to take to heart our spiritual bankruptcy, our propensity to love the little idols more than we love God, and our unbelief about the transformative power of God’s Spirit. When we begin with this, our hands will be pried open to receive what God has to give us. We will no longer approach God as the resourceful givers who bring the gift of abstinence. Instead we will approach him as beggars. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” (Mt. 5:4)
This above article was first posted on Theresa Froelich’s blog