LENT -LETTING GO
Matthew 19:: 19-22, Genesis 12: 1-4
I remember back in my teenage years in Verdun when groups of us kids would go to St. John the Devine Anglican Church to celebrate ASH WEDNESDAY and as I recall it was pretty gloomy!
Imagine we gave up half a day of school to put sack cloth, I think they were burlap bags, over our street clothes—ashes and oil was spread on our foreheads—and we were told we must GIVE UP something for forty days until EASTER. I wonder if any of you had that same experience?
Celebrating ASH Wednesday seems to have fallen by the wayside in most churches, but a few years ago I attended an ASH WEDNESDAY at the United Church in Howick it had a totally different atmosphere and was quite uplifting.—we renewed our Baptism-were anointed with oil—participated in an AGAPE love feast—after the service there was a luncheon and we exchanged ideas on what we planned to GIVE UP for LENT.
Giving something up for Lent was always troublesome-like New Years Resolutions—you know chocolate-coffee at Tim Horton’s- lose weight, It’s pretty hard to find something to give up, especially when everything is going great, I have everything I need—life is good.
In the scripture the rich man asked Jesus, "What must I give up to have a better life? Jesus said, “Keep the Commandments” and the young man said “which one? Jesus replies, “All of them!” but teacher I've kept all them—but my life is still not satisfying, what do I lack?”
Then Jesus said “your lack one thing; go, sell what you own and give the money to the poor then you will have treasures in heaven. The man is shocked. He cannot do it and he went away grieving, for he had many possessions. Is this is what following Jesus means?
Is this the way we often feel?
The man’s wealth and possessions held him in bondage preventing him from having faith in Jesus and discovering a more abundant life.
I know we aren’t wealthy like Bill Gates with 160 billion or Warren Buffet with just 68 billion but, all in all, most of us are wealthy in many ways compared to others—food, clothing and shelter—a bit of savings—gov’t. pension-healthcare-cars-vacations. Let’s face it, we are all pretty wealthy!
Obviously, it is good to have some wealth, for wealth provides both comfort and security. To some wealth seen as a blessing from God a sign that one has lived right
Would it be just and honourable to give away all possessions if it should mean being a ward of the state or homeless? I don’t think Jesus had that in mind.
I wonder if Luke meant these words to be taken literally —OR IS IT A METAPHOR ABOUT HOW WE SHOULD USE OUR POSSESSIONS.
As I was thinking about Lent and the idea to GIVE UP something I enjoy, for forty days, I came across a article titled “GIVING UP SOMETHING VERSUS LETTING GO!
“Letting go” maybe that is something we could explore. As a Lenten practice.
I remembered a Mark Twain type recipe that describes the difficulty of LETTING GO. “How To catch A Monkey.” It’s easy! You need a jar with an opening wide enough so the monkey can reach inside with his open hand. Put a banana or some other fruit in the jar. When the monkey reaches inside to get the fruit he will grasp it in a closed fist.
He doesn’t want to let go of the fruit but unless he does he won’t be able to get it out-- he is caught. The monkey will have to let go of the banana or hang on and drag the jar around with him -- it would make a real mess up his life. Just like us by keeping a tight fist not giving up our excess possessions can weight us down.
I wonder what’s the difference between “letting- go” from the common practice of “giving-up.”
Giving up has the connotation of “denying ourselves a pleasure” we normally indulge in like giving up deserts- not buying Loto tickets, less TV-maybe giving up the snacks a night.
LETTING GO seems means getting rid of some of the clutter” in our lives—we all have clutter, things we would like to drop, at least for a little while—a personality trait we need to let go of—a bad habit—a dependency on other people—maybe too much shopping.
It’s only when we “let go” we have room to receive
Think back of the monkey and our grasp. If we’ve wrapped up tightly around something-mentally or physically—we can’t reach out for something new unless we get rid of the old. It’s like breathing- unless we exhale and empty our lungs we can’t inhale new fresh air. We all know fresh air gives us life. So we need to think of things we can let go of to make room for a new experience of God in our lives.
We all know God is constantly trying to do new things for us-with us and through us; keeping our options open and unattached makes us available to receive what is new.
How about the “busyness in our lives,” –never time to be still. Maybe it’s letting go of anger--- envy--- impatience--- our petty jealousies—prejudices or being judgmental of others. Are these some of the clutter we need to let go.
Maybe it’s just LETTING GO of the “the notion” or we could say the thought---that new furniture, a new hairstyle, a new car, or maybe a holiday will give our lives more meaning.
If we unwrap ourselves from our grasp on things, let go of things that we are convinced offer us security and certainty maybe we can be open to something new God has to offer us.
In Genesis we found Abram, 75 years old, he and his elderly wife Sarai and their nephew Lot leaving of the country which has been his father’s homeland for 250 years. Abram LET GO of the comfort and security of his family and friends. Following God wishes he set out on a journey to an unknown destination.
Think of the story how Jesus had to LET GO of many temptations to be in tune with God.
Remember Jesus alone in the wilderness thinking about his future and how to play his cards. Weakened by starvation, having not eating for many days, he was tempted with the many avenues open to him:
1--He could change stones into bread and eliminate hunger it would attract followers. 2- he could join in with the corrupt ruling parties and become a popular politician this would give him power to change things. 3—then again he could do sensational tricks like jumping off the highest building and land safely amongst the crowd.
Can we imagine what Christianity would be like today, if Jesus had given in to these temptations.
We can say that Jesus was “letting go!” of some wild notions:
-He let go of the lure of power and control.
-He let go of compromising with evil to win people.
-He let go the idea of doing sensational things to attract people.
In LETTING GO, Jesus left all these temptations behind in the desert in order to bring the message of God’s love, a love freely given to all people.
During our Lenten Journey, we are being challenged to imitate Jesus, to “let go” of the things that blur our vision of a more abundant life to be found in following Jesus’ teachings.
Each of us has a choice, we can stay as we are and enjoy the journey through Lent, we might decide to give up some little thing, like sweets or we might try out a new spiritual practice of “LETTING GO some of the clutter in our lives!”
Whichever we choose we can be certain at the end of our LENTEN PILGRIMAGE all of us will be transformed into NEW EASTER PEOPLE!