Lenten sacrifices

David AyresBaustelle BerlinLeave a Comment

This Wednesday, we begin the 40 days of Lent (Fastenzeit) leading up to Easter. (The 40 days are counted not including Sundays.) Lent is a season in which we especially remember to exercise the spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving to the needy–which is to give up things we already feel are in short supply; that is, our time, our energy, and our money.

Prayer is a sacrifice of time. When we find that we are too busy and that we have no time in the day to pray, we have made ourselves too important. We have forgotten that we are not our own, but belong to God and that time is a gift He gives us to honor Him. When we devote “prime time” (and not leftovers) each day to prayer, we acknowledge that God is the Lord of our lives and of our schedules. May we learn to keep the first and great commandment by putting God first in our stewardship of time by returning daily to Him in prayer. And may we also learn to keep the second commandment as we regularly lift up prayers of intercession for our neighbors.

Fasting (from food) is a sacrifice of energy. Though there is no direct biblical mandate for it, the church generally fasts on Wednesdays and/or Fridays during Lent. (The pattern for those days are Ash Wednesday at the beginning of the season and Good Friday at the end.) There are also other types of fasts, such as from TV or social media. But we do not fast from sin; we must repent and turn away from sin and those things that cause us to sin. We fast, rather, from those gifts the Lord has given, looking instead to the Giver Himself. As we fast from food and drink, our bodies may feel weak. But may the hunger and thirst that fasting inflicts on the body find its spiritual corollary. May we learn to hunger and thirst for God, and be satisfied and filled by His revelation of Himself in His Word and Sacrament.

Giving to the needy is a sacrifice of money. Personal finance is often a touchy subject, because we have come to see our income as something we earn and which, therefore, belongs to us. But all that we have is of the blessing of the Lord, who has given us the strength and the means to earn or generate an income. Indeed, we are only stewards of the financial gifts God has put into our hands. God is an extravagantly generous Giver, and He calls us to also be generous with what He has given; it is His money, after all! When we give generously, especially to those in need, we are acknowledging that WE are needy and that God is our Provider. Giving is an exercise of faith that God will provide what we need, that He is the source of every good gift, including the money in our bank accounts. May we come to experience for ourselves the profound truth that we can never “out give” God.

The three spiritual disciplines of prayer, fasting and giving are not only for the season of Lent. They are meant to be trained during these 40 days to strengthen us as we pray, work and give for the spread of God’s kingdom in the remainder of the year. May we learn and remember the kingdom of God is built by sacrificing not hoarding our time, our strength or our wealth.

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