Lenten Observances

Sacrifice. Self-denial.  Increased prayer.  What are you doing for Lent?  Whatever it is, whether you give up caffeine, chocolate, or View Full Size Imagemarital pleasures, if you have not love you are noisy gong  and a clanging symbol.  If you increase your Bible readings and pray an extra hour a day and have not love, you are nothing.  If you have a faith that keeps your body in check and gets you to every extra Lenten service and Triduum event, but have no love, you gain nothing.

Those preachers who insist on the historic/one-year lectionary often (jokingly) claim that it was inspired.  Maybe it’s no joke.  Before the season most associated with self-denial, increased faith, even persecution (most often self-inflicted), our Lord preaches to us of love (1 Cor. 13), even as  He proclaims (the Gospel reading) His death and resurrection as He journeys toward the city of peace, healing the blind on the way so they would follow Him to the cross and then to glory.  For greater love has no man than that he would lay down his life for a friend.

Lent begins on Ash Wednesday when our Lord preaches to us true righteousness, fasting, prayer, and alms giving (one-year lectionary).  But the readings of Quinquagesima are still ringing in our ears.  The Son of Man has gone the way it was written of Him that the Scriptures would be fulfilled and the Father’s will accomplished.  He has gone the way of sinners that sinners may go the way of God.  And He has done so in love, by love, through love.  But before we get wrapped up in allegory and literary fine wine, consider the Apostle.

St. Paul is writing to the Corinthians who have not loved one another at all (chapters 1-12).  One might say that chapter 13 is an anti-Corinthian writing, demonstrating the opposite of what was happening.   It is the pivot upon which the whole epistle turns.  There is no love for one another.  So the Apostle says, “And I will show you a more excellent way.”  The way of love.  Then, after his discourse on love, he pens these words, “now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, then I shall know fully even as I am fully known.”  Most often this is thought to be our status before God.  But I disagree.  This is our status before one another.

Why all the talk about love, all the correction of abuses for many, many pages, only to say, “Then we’ll see God face to face, and know Him fully”?  Of course we will, but that’s not St. Paul’s point here.  Here the Apostle is saying to the Church, “You see one another and judge the outside according to status, riches, looks, prominence, etc., but you should not!  You should see one another and treat one another as you truly are, beloved of God.”  Now matters.  What we do, how we treat one another, even our enemies, matters.  No more aesthetic Christianity.  No more ideological Christianity.  No, now we must walk in the incarnation.  Now we must do unto others.

How will you observe Lent?  Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God and everyone who loves is born of God.  But he who loves not, knows not God for God is love.  Lent is not about self-denial for self-denial’s sake, or even for only my self’s sake.  Lent is about love.  After all, doesn’t it end with the Passion of our Lord?

So here’s the point: whatever Lenten observance you observe, if it is not for one another, for the world, for your enemies, then it is a noisy gong and a clanging symbol and you have gained nothing.

Let us ever walk with Jesus, Follow His example pure, Through a world that would deceive us And to sin our spirits lure. Onward in His footsteps treading, Pilgrims here, our home above, Full of faith and hope and love, Let us do the Father’s bidding. Faithful Lord with me abide; I shall follow where you guide. (LSB 685)


One Response

  1. Thanks, Pr. Lovett. What a great reading for early Ash Wednesday morning!

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