Lenten Mercy

Although I’ve made the turn toward observing Ash Wednesday as a formative tradition in my life, I’m still processing what to do with Lent.  The objective of these traditions, as I understand them, is repentance, prayer, and reflection on the life/death/resurrection of Jesus.  The suggested avenue for arriving at this destination is sacrifice; giving something up to align yourself more fully with the rest.

I’ll be observing Lent this year, but I’ll be taking a different route.  Jesus said in Matthew 9:13, “Go and learn what this means: ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’” Jesus quotes Hosea 6 here as he is getting the evil eye over dining with Matthew and others stereotyped with sin. 

Mercy is the stuff that’s important.  Although I enjoy being contemplative, even mystic at times, what I’ve gathered from the Bible is that true religion is much more about what gets given to others than what gets fostered between Jesus and I. 

I’d like to not exclude one over the other, but for this Lenten season, it’s my goal to take on mercy more than give up chocolate.  My wife and I have been sitting down to talk about the people in our lives.  Who needs a touch of love right now?  Who have other people gotten tired of loving?  Who hasn’t caught a break in life lately?  Admittedly, these are questions we should be asking and responding to as part of our everyday routine, but I think Lent could be a little booster for us in the right direction.

It’s interesting to see how a little mercy goes a long way.  Already, I’ve been able to reopen dialog with two acquaintances in the art world with whom I’ve had a strained relationship.  My wife has shared lunches and playtimes with a couple of her friends who really need a listening ear on recent life occurrences.  I met with a  young man at the Schenectady City Mission for the first time to set-up a mentoring relationship.  Not sure where all of this will go, but I’m looking forward to my Lenten journey.


2 responses to “Lenten Mercy

  1. Thanks for your thoughts on Lent, Brian. I too am injecting myself into Lent in a more thoughtful way. Long ago I mentally wrote off the liturgical practices of Lent (ashes on forehead, giving up meat, abstaining from other things) as just a futile practice which only seemed to draw more attention to oneself rather than draw us closer to God. Elmbrook hosted our annual All Church Meeting on Ash Wednesday and ironically held the world’s largest potluck dinner on a night usually reserved for fasting. It made me sit up and take note of what Lent was supposed to be about and I found myself contemplating the idea that the purpose of personal sacrifice is not necessarily to feel deprived, but to take those new “spaces” in our lives and fill them with Christ. I then switched my thinking from “What can I give up?” to “What can I take on?”
    This Lent I have committed myself to more consistent practices of corporate worship, and at least 2 community service projects. In so doing I hope to not let this be about making myself feel better, but to instill new habits in my life of meeting God in the everyday. I pray that God will bless you and Melissa as you both meet God in the people relationships you develop this Lenten season.

  2. Thanks so much for sharing your direction Roberta. I look forward to hearing how it goes!

    I especially like your mention of not doing this so you feel better about yourself. It’s really easy get into religious practices for the sake of making us feel better about who we are. This should be a natural outcome, but things get skewed if we make this our first goal.

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