A Lenten Discipline Story

A Lenten Discipline Story

You may remember back on Transfiguration Sunday I invited all of you to the discipline of Lent. That was, of course, the fancy way of saying “What you are GIVING UP for Lent”. We talked about how you don’t necessarily have to give up something, you can also take a discipline on. You might give up coffee or chocolate or you might take on daily scripture reading or volunteering for the season. These are all good things. We also laughed when I told you about the person who said to me several years ago, “Pastor, I know what I am giving up for Lent. I am giving up – EXERCISE!”

This discipline though is a way to help us remember that the things which we find so IMPORTANT in our lives aren’t necessarily as necessary as we usually think they are. That is what I want to share with you today, an experience I had this weekend with my own Lenten discipline.

I gave up eating unhealthy food. Now you will notice that this is a broad description. What is unhealthy? For one junk food, so no chips, cookies, or pastries for Lent. Also no overly fatty foods during Lent, so no hamburgers and nothing deep fried. I am also trying to be a little in league with our Orthodox brothers and sisters and I am avoiding cheese and heavy oils. That sounds like a lot – but it really isn’t that bad. I have been able to eat fairly well and the benefit is that I feel better, less tired, and pretty good overall.

Now you will also remember that Sundays are not in Lent. If you have forgotten this please take a moment to count from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday. What you will find is that there are 46 days. But there are 40 days in Lent. What are the other 6 days? They are the Sundays the day of the resurrection. Sunday was the day when one could break the Lenten fast – a little. Because Lent we remember the sacrifice of Jesus – but Sunday is the day of the resurrection, even in Lent – so you get some lee way there.

But I had been good through these first couple of weeks. The first Sunday of Lent I didn’t want any bad food. But last Sunday came and it happened to be the day that my school, North Carolina, was playing in the NCAA tournament – at 12noon. So I took it as a sign from God that this meant I had to go out for lunch and support my team. (Okay, yes it was an excuse) When we go out we like to go to Fridays (this is not an endorsement). Since the game was on and since it was Sunday and since I had been so good I decided to break the Lenten fast and order something otherwise not on my Lenten diet. I got a ribs, I got a whole rack and I was exceedingly happy with them, and to top it off, a giant side of French fries.

This was not within my Lenten discipline, but it was Sunday. But oh did I pay for it. You see your body doesn’t need as much grease and fat as we usually give it. Try cutting grease and fat out of your diet for two weeks and then eating a rack of ribs and a mound of fries, your body will prove to you that you shouldn’t have done that – as mine did. Now the ribs were good, and I loved them – but afterwards I was reminded of John in Revelation when he eats the scroll that was sweet as honey in the mouth but sour in the belly. I didn’t get sick but it felt like I had eaten a bucket of concrete.

Now that is a little bit of a funny story about me but I think it is illustrative for us, as to what the Lenten discipline shows us. First it is here to help us see what we don’t need. In my case the break from the not so good food, and just eating healthier, made me not really want the bad and fatty foods that had previously been my fifth food group. There is something in that. As we dive into our discipline and as we let go of that which we don’t need, that changes us.

Now in my case it is probably that I am not going to tackle a rack of ribs for a while, and fries are out which is probably not a bad thing. But in other ways the discipline of Lent is helping us to see what isn’t important. For me specifically I can gain that God gave me a body that doesn’t need all the junk that I usually throw down my gullet. Once we get to Easter, I’ll probably stay pretty close to this eating plan I am on now.

What I am trying to get across is that I didn’t expect to ever be in a place where I would really be saying – maybe I don’t really need to eat that. But I have been changed by the experience. It may seem trivial on the outset but look what happened – it is a symbol or maybe a metaphor of how God works and is working with us always. God knows who we are, God knows what we need, God knows what we need to do and steers us in this direction. In this strange little experience I have been changed. I have seen that there are better things and this letting go of the junk food –that before had been pretty standard in my diet – has affected me in ways I never would have imagined, and done so for the better.

A strange example I know. But if nothing else take this away from the little story. God is at work. And God can and does work in mysterious ways – even through smoked rack of ribs at Fridays. Thanks be to God.

In Christ on a wet March day
+ Pastor Mike

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