March 2019 Letter
This year the season of Lent begins on Wednesday 6 March and ends on Thursday 18 April. This means that Easter will be fairly late. I love a late Easter because it usually means that the earth itself echoes the joyful message of resurrection—the fresh smell of damp soil, and all the buds, and the birds, and the flowers lending a kind of emotional power to the mystery of new life that we proclaim. According to the ancient plan of the church, Lent begins in the cold and dark, then journeys slowly toward warmth and light.
How many times will you hear people asking others what they are giving up for Lent? Eat nothing sweet – no chocolate. Put no sugar or cream in your coffee or tea. Stop eating crisps and the list goes on and on. But what about technologies such as Facebook, Instagram, twitter, internet shopping, using your mobile phone? How many could give up or limit using technology during Lent?
I tend not to ask people to “give things up for Lent.” I’m much more likely to ask you to take up a good cause for Lent, or a good habit, or a productive activity. And yet…I’ve got to admit that there’s something powerful about occasionally saying no to our desires.
There’s something compelling, perhaps even something wise, about practicing resistance against the constant urge to indulge ourselves. When we deny ourselves the luxuries that we’re used to, we learn a liberating thing: we need very little in life. And though denying ourselves chocolate doesn’t teach us what it’s like to be poor, it does remind us that there are those in the world who struggle to survive, who cannot afford even the smallest indulgences.
When we deny ourselves the excesses of life, we learn a new appreciation for things we once took for granted. Most importantly, perhaps, when we say no to our desires, we become their master. And in a society that is largely ruled by its empty wishes and desires, how peace-giving and empowering it is to become their master. And all those abstract indulgences like gossip, self-pity, jealousy, … You’ll never regret giving those up for forty days, for after Lent is over, you’ll have learned that you have it in your power to give them up for life, just by consistently refusing them.
Lent is a holy time, a joyful time to discover anew what it means to be spiritual beings, following after the way of the Christ. I hope you’ll use this time intentionally and well.
In Christ’s Peace,