Read or listen to Isaiah 58
What is Ash Wednesday?
What is Lent?
Why didn’t I ever read about Lent in the Bible?
What is so special about these 40 days before Easter?
Some people fast during the day or don’t eat any meat, except maybe fish on Friday.
Some people give up something for Lent?
Some people don’t do anything for Lent?
So is it giving up something that makes Lent Lent?
Is there more to this?
If you are not sure what this whole Ash Wednesday business and these 40 days of Lent are about, then good. You should have some questions.
We should not do something just because it has gone on for hundreds of years.
We should not get trapped in ritual going through the motions wondering, “What in the world is this stuff about?”
But we should wonder. We should marvel. We should seek, We should quest for answers about Lent and know that that mystery itself is part of Lent.
Trying better to understand the Paschal Mystery is at the heart of Lent.
Oh great, another term. What is it with these terms—Paschal.
Let’s say sacrificial lamb, like the one at the first Passover.
Let’s consider that Jesus was the sacrificial lamb for us.
Let’s consider that Jesus was sacrificed for us—an atoning sacrifice for our sins.
We were bought at a price.
We were rescued from sin and death.
We were justified by Jesus dying for our sin, when we were the ones who were guilty.
Let’s consider the mystery of God’s love for us as we experience in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
So should I give up something?
Should I take what I saved from what I gave up and give it to the poor?
Should I ponder upon the darkness of my sin?
Should I contemplate upon my mortality? From dust I came and to dust I will return.
Should I focus on my 40 day journey to Easter where at last I can experience celebration?
Should I role play and pretend that I am still a slave to sin?
Should I walk around with gloom and doom on my face waiting for Easter so I can celebrate?
Should I reenact my time in rebellion and relive being rescued by God?
That’s a lot of questions. We could do any and all of those for Lent and maybe get something beneficial out of it. Truly giving up something and taking what we would have spent on it to help the poor does seem to go along with what Isaiah was talking about. Would that not loosen some chains of oppression?
This is what we are asking our children to do.
We ask them to take some money out of their allowance if they get one and give it in an offering to buy a goat and two chickens. If they don’t have any money of their own, we ask them to do a job for someone and make a dollar that they can give. The experience of giving to God out of what we have is often learned so late in life that we miss out on so many blessings.
The thing with the goat and two chickens is that it will help a family somewhere that we don’t even know.
For the past several years, my wife and I have sponsored a child through World Vision. A few years ago, we sponsored another. Now we had a boy and a girl.
My wife didn’t even bat an eye when last summer I said, “I think I want to have another kid.” She knew it was a World Vision child. So now we have three.
In the course of our World Vision experience, we have received a few catalogues. One time we were looking through one. There were chickens and ducks and goats and cows and you could buy so many feet of drilling for a well or some sort of edible root that grew like crazy in Africa.
While we were looking through it, we came across a page that said, “A goat and two chickens, it’s the best deal.”
It’s the best deal!
It was like a value meal. How could we pass it up?
We have bought a few goats and chickens since then. One time I bought a goat and five ducks. That was OK, but it didn’t feel the same as a goat and two chickens—it was the best deal.
Occasionally, if I see signs of a pity party coming on or think the budget is a little tight this month, I think, “Hold your horses. I’ve got enough for a goat and two chickens.” That usually puts some perspective on the world.
It is the best deal!
Occasionally, I have been greeted in my own household with the words, “Did we buy any animals today?”
So how does a goat and two chickens tie into Ash Wednesday and Lent?
It is a good way for the kids to participate in this time when we consider the depth and breadth of God’s love, and mercy, grace, and favor that we know through Jesus Christ.
But what about the rest of us?
We need to do what is genuine for us.
That doesn’t mean that we suspend reality and live as if we are still under the curse of condemnation that comes from our sin. For even though we consider that God and Jesus worked together to remove our sin, we are under no curse and don’t need to pretend that we are for 40 days or 40 seconds.
We need to contemplate the mystery of God’s sacrificial love that we know in Jesus while living fully as God’s child.
Reverence for God is a wonderful thing, but it is something that we learned.
Genuine love for our father or mother is in our innate being. We cried out momma, daddy long before we know what respect or honor or reverence was.
God looks at us as newborns and longs for us to cry out to him, “Abba, Father.”
Let’s take these 40 days and seek to understand God’s everlasting love and the sacrificial mystery that was revealed to us in Christ Jesus.
If you need to give up a meal or two, then do it.
If you need to fast 6 days a week during the day, then do it.
If you need to unclutter you life, then do it.
If you need to find something that will loose the chains of injustice or set the oppressed free, then do that.
If you need to buy a goat and two chickens, well, it is the best deal.
Decide what is best for you that will allow God to reveal even more of the mystery of his everlasting love.
Read Isaiah 58 in The Message