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Luke 9:22-25 (Good News)
[Jesus] also told them, “The Son of Man must suffer much and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the teachers of the Law. He will be put to death, but three days later he will be raised to life.”
And he said to them all, “If you want to come with me, you must forget yourself, take up your cross every day, and follow me. For if you want to save your own life, you will lose it, but if you lose your life for my sake, you will save it. Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but are yourself lost or defeated? Of course not!
So here we are, on the second day of Lent. I wonder what you have given up for Lent? And after the first day, are you sticking to your promise?
I have given up nothing – it seems to me that if I promise not to eat chocolate or drink gin for forty days, it is not going to get me any closer to God. And if I decided to put all the money I might save to some good charitable cause, then that is very laudable – but wouldn’t it be better to do that all year round? If I was to give up anything at the moment, it would probably be international travel!
Lent is a penitential season; it is a time for self-examination, self-denial, study and preparation as we move towards Easter. It reminds us of the forty days our Lord spent in the wilderness being tested by Satan.
In the reading Jesus says, ‘forget yourself, take up your cross every day and follow me’. It is easy to give something up for forty days, looking forward to a binge return in due course. What is the point of that? ‘Will you gain anything if you win the whole world but are yourself lost or defeated?’
No, Lent is for more than that. Lent is for putting aside the things that distract us, so that we may move closer to God and hear his voice. Hear his voice and act upon it. In James (2.17) we find these words ‘So it is with faith: if it is alone and includes no actions, then it is dead.’ So it is also with Lent, giving up is not good enough unless we fill the space with action.
So, I rephrase my first question; I wonder what you are doing for Lent?
So we pray:
our lives are laid open before you:
rescue us from the chaos of sin
and through the death of your Son
bring us healing
and make us whole
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.