Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Seriously, why get caught up in this whole Lent thing? If God calls me to sacrifice something then I'll do it in my own time in my own way not just because the calendar tells me to.

Last week I talked about Lent a little and how through our sacrifice we join in a small way with what Jesus did. Everything about Jesus' life on Earth was sacrifice. The moment Mary conceived Christ there was sacrifice. Mary sacrificed her place in society not knowing if she would be killed or put away quietly never daring to hope that Joseph would be moved to keep her. Jesus, of course, sacrificed all of heaven to become a man. He is baptized then immediately goes on a time of fasting and prayer in the desert for 40 days and spends the next 3 years on the road to the cross. Every word He speaks and every step He takes it towards the cross. From a literary perspective the Baptism of Christ is the climax, the point where Jesus says that he is moving to the end game that is the cross and resurrection. The garden and the cross is the emotional climax of the story driving home the actual cost of our salvation. Sacrifice is the key to it all.

Why, though, should we join together in sacrifice instead of doing it on our own? Well we should sacrifice on our own through the year so the question is flawed. Really the question is, "why should we join together in sacrifice in addition to doing it on our own?" To put it simply; because we are a community and must share in community. The Bible says we are the body of Christ and this means that we need to do some things together. Communion is for the body not just a few pieces of the body. By joining together we join in Christ. That is powerful.

There is more to it than this though. By joining in our sacrifice we find encouragement to see it through. If we make a commitment only to ourselves and God it is easy to break. That is why I have such a big problem with New Year's resolutions, they are so easy to break.

But Jesus says to keep your fasting a secret. Actually he doesn't. He says when you fast don't go around looking ill and stuff so people will know just how holy you are. He is speaking about a very specific problem that he was encountering. Quite frankly I've seen plenty of this from the other side of the fasting/sacrifice as well. "I don't let anyone know when I fast or what I'm fasting because I'm much too holy …" Ok people don't say the much too holy part but we know it is there.

Listen, if you are not into the whole Lent thing that is fine. Jesus never commanded this kind of thing, but he did explicitly say you shouldn't compare yourself to others and judge yourself to be more holy. He spend lots of time coming down against the self-righteous because no one really fits that mold except Him. I think it is better to try and understand than to condemn out of our own ignorance.

7 comments:

katdish said...

If you participate in Lent by sacrificing something, and then spend the time judging yourself holier than someone else who did not, then what's the point?

I read your conversation with Helen on an earlier post. I didn't comment because I had nothing of value to add, but I want you to know that I thought it was just great. I'll most likely go and re-read it a couple of times.

Nick the Geek said...

katdish,

That is an excellent point and exactly what Jesus was talking about when referring to the Pharisees' practice of putting on a big show when they were fasting. They felt holier than all the other people and wanted everyone to know it.

This is a very important distinction in the approach. We don't abstain from Lent because we should fast in private but we remember that our sacrifice does not make us righteous or holy. Only Christ gives us the grace to be righteous and holy.

Helen said...

Nick,
You made some great points. I really don't have anything to add, but am just want to encourage you. :-)

Nick the Geek said...

Helen,

Thanks

jake - aka the comment novelist said...

Nick,

I usually don't point out grammatical errors, as it can be kinda rude.

But...

In the last paragraph, you may want to change "should" to "shouldn't".

Great post though!

wv=grizernn
Is this a combination of griz and the naive intern?

Monica said...

Good stuff! I thought it was very well balanced. I really liked the point that we share in some small way in Christ's suffering. In fact, you might even go so far as to say that that we make up for what is lacking in Christ's sacrifice. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? But it's not my fault, I'm blaming Paul (Col 1:24). Yeah, I'll throw an apostle under the bus when necessary.

I've been thinking a lot about that verse, trying to make some sense of it, and this helps. I think that what is lacking is our participation. Of course, the only way that we are able to participate is through God's grace, so it is still by grace alone that we are saved.

Nick the Geek said...

jake,
Kind of an important error, thanks I've fixed it.

Monica,
I think a lot of people wrestle with verses like that because we have the wrong mindset about what is going on. The sacrifice itself lacks in nothing but its effects are only perfected in our lives. There is a balance to what we are called to do and what we are freely given but fortunately grace covers where we imperfectly respond to Christ's sacrifice.

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