Matt Bussell, Associate Pastor for Outreach

Last Wednesday we started the liturgical season of Lent with Ash Wednesday. The season of Lent in the church is a time when we focus on this call to return to the Lord. It is a time of prayer, fasting and self-examination in preparation for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus at Easter. It is a period of 40 days — like Moses’ sojourn at Mount Sinai, Elijah’s journey to Mount Horeb, and Jesus’ time of testing in the wilderness. Like those journeys before, we enter Lent as a journey of drawing closer to God and more closely aligning our life and actions with work of God in the world.

For many Christians, Lent is a season of giving up something as a sort of fasting. We give up chocolate (though maybe not on Valentine’s Day) or soda or video games. The way this often plays out for people is that Lent becomes a time of changing personal habits. It is a sort of diet, when we change how we do things for some measurable benefit (weight loss, more sleep, etc.).

All of this is fine, but not really what the season of Lent is about. When we look closely at the Lenten tradition of giving something up, what we find is that followers of Jesus gave up something which distracted them from faith in Jesus and replaced it with something which drew them closer to Jesus. Lent is a period of intentionally subtracting something negative in order to add something positive. An example would be giving up time on social media doom scrolling and replacing it with prayer or Scripture reading.

The question then becomes, what shall we give up, and what shall we add for Lent? For me, I am still struggling to figure out what to give up. But what I am adding this Lent is intentional time in nature appreciating the wonder and beauty of God’s creation. I was reminded on a recent Zoom call by a colleague to be in nature and marvel at God’s creativity. At the end of a six hour Zoom meeting, she encouraged us to get out of our homes and offices to be in nature; notice the vastness of the sky and the budding trees pointing to the coming of spring. So this Lent I am going to spend more time outside: in my yard working to start a garden and in the various parks around Greensboro seeing the beauty which God is constantly bringing forth.

As we start this season of Lent, I invite you to consider what you might give up and what you might add. The intention is not to be legalistic about adding or subtracting practices, but to use this season of Lent to draw closer to God.