Do you recognize any of these wrappers?
[Hold up empty chocolate wrappers.]
Too bad these are empty! Is one of these a favorite of yours?
[Allow suggestions of favorites.]
Have you ever heard anyone say that he or she plans to give up something for Lent? Maybe something like chocolate? Giving up something we find tempting—especially chocolate—serves as a tool to help focus our minds and hearts during the season of Lent. Every time we crave whatever we have given up we are reminded that its Lent. Whether we give in to the craving or not, the practice is intended to be a trigger to focus on the real point of Lent, growing our relationship with God, with ourselves, and with others; growing deeper in our faith and growing as Christians.
During this Lenten season, I want to suggest a different way to prepare for Easter. Instead of NO – N-O—chocolate for Lent, how about KNOW – K–N–O–W—chocolate for Lent? This is the curriculum our youngest children in the Prayer Room are using for the season of Lent.
[Display both sides of the chart as the words NO Chocolate and KNOW Chocolate are spoken and spelled.]
No Chocolate - Know Chocolate for Lent uses the growing and manufacturing process of chocolate as a metaphor for Christian formation. Using these lessons the kids will form connections between the growing process of chocolate and the growing process of being a Christian. The kids have a rainforest mural in the Prayer Room and each week they will hear a portion of the story about chocolate and a brief message that aligns chocolate production with the faith journey. There is also a Fair Trade coloring book for families to take home with them.
So, giving up something for Lent is a practice some of you may have taken on, with the intent of growing your faith through this discipline. Others of you may have decided to do something new, different, or extra for Lent. Taking on an activity, particularly a service project or a discipline of prayer, is also an effective tool for guiding one’s Lenten journey. It’s also helpful to think about our busy lives and consider if your Lenten practice might be reducing your busyness so you can slow down and be more mindful this season, less distracted and harried. The primary invitation is to observe a Holy Lent by being intentional about it.
One this first Sunday of Lent you can tell, just by looking at our worship space, that the season of Lent has some distinctive features to it: the baptismal font in the entrance way is filled with rocks reminding us that a life of faith is often rocky. The water fountain in the midst of the rocks, symbolizes that God is with us on the journey – sustaining us, nurturing us, and nourishing us. The dried plants remind us that our spiritual lives can be dry, dusty, and barren, wintery. The glass chalices and other glassware symbolize ordinary glass, simplicity. The color purple is a color of royalty, of Jesus leading us into God’s kingdom. God’s kingdom is here, now, reflected in how we live our lives, how closely we have aligned ourselves to Jesus.
And our worship service itself is more solemn and prayerful. We will sing a number of Taize pieces through out the service. Taize is a simple chant, which when sung over and over, becomes a form of prayer. The announcements have been moved to the end of the service and the exchange of the peace is intended to be shorter and more solemn. The entire service is intended to be more prayerful.
(8am and 10am)
Our reading from Deuteronomy opens this season with a clear call to remembrance – the Hebrew people have finally come to the end of their forty years of wandering in the wilderness of a dry and barren desert – their promised land is in sight. They spend time remembering and celebrating who they are – God’s people. In the Gospel of Luke we hear of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness, and think of our wilderness times, lost in temptation, and confused about the purpose of our lives. We are God’s people and in Lent we are called to think about what it means to be a people of God. Lent is a season of simplicity and a time to focus, with some intentionality, on who we are and whose we are.
Traditionally Lent is a season of preparation for Easter. We prepare ourselves by looking at who we are and what we are doing. We prepare ourselves by reading scripture and following Jesus in the final days of his life and learning from him what it means to be a person of faith. It means to have trust in an ever present God, even when God seems absent. It means to have trust in a God who loves us just as we are. And it means to love others with that same kind of generous, accepting love.
One does not need to give up something for Lent nor take on something new. Eat chocolate or give up chocolate for Lent. The point of having a Lenten practice is to help one increase one’s awareness of one’s relationship with Jesus. Observing a Holy Lent is an invitation to relationship, to deepen one’s relationship with God, with Jesus, with other people and with one’s self.
I invite you to observe a holy Lent.