Depending on whether you receive The Congregationalist electronically or by regular mail, we will either be on the threshold of or just past Easter Sunday. Which means that another Lent has come and gone without me choosing to give anything up.
That’s what many Christians do during Lent - choose something they like (chocolate, pizza, TV, etc.) and try to give it up for the 40 days of Lent as an act of spiritual discipline. That’s what I did for many years. Or tried to do, often without success. So a few years ago I stopped.
Instead, and also like many other Christians, I’ve tried to do more instead of give up - do more acts of kindness and service rather than give up a favorite food or pastime. And while I think there is a lot to be said for that approach, this year I started to think more seriously again about the idea of giving something up.
But not for Lent. For Easter.
I have wondered this year if perhaps Easter, rather than Lent, isn’t the more appropriate time to commit to giving something up. Easter is about God’s power to raise Jesus up, and therefore, raise us up too. It’s about God’s power to bring new life from Jesus’ death, and therefore, from the things in us that are currently dead or the things we do which lead to death - spiritual, emotional and community death.
In recognition of that gift, in gratitude for it, maybe the most appropriate response then, is to give up something that contributes to spiritual, emotional or community death. Things like chronic materialism, hyper competitiveness, and myopic individualism. Maybe political, social or religious tribalism. Those are the kinds of things that bring death to our spirits and to our sense of community. Those are the kinds of things which Jesus called us to give up throughout our lives.
I was never very good at giving things up for Lent. I will try to be better at giving things up for Easter. And beyond.