I'm writing this as I hear about the declaration of war by Russia on Ukraine. And my heart hurts. And I realize that we are less than a week out from the Christian season of Lent. And Lent is a time of surrender. It is 40 days, and we especially think of Jesus' 40 days in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11), in which he neither ate nor drank, and was tempted by the Devil.
Life is hard, and we have had a couple of difficult years. Sometimes we feel like we have already given up too much. A lot has been taken from us. But surrender isn't about giving up what we have to. To surrender something, we have to choose to give it up, even though we don't want to. In a war, surrender is made to the conquering country. In our Christian life, surrender is made to Jesus, who has conquered our hearts.
Lent is a time to prepare for Jesus' death and resurrection. During Advent, we prepared for his coming as we watched the light of Jesus approach, even as the physical daylight was getting shorter. During Lent, we enter into Jesus' trials. We hunger with him. We wrestle as he did with deciding exactly how much we will do in order to follow God. Jesus knew that his ministry was going to lead him to death on a cross. Many times, he told his disciples to "take up their cross" and follow him. We need to find out what that means. I am positive that it doesn't mean dressing up and going to church on Sunday to hear the sermon. There has to be more to it than that. When we think about what Jesus went through, we have to know that there is more to it. We have to know that taking up our crosses doesn't mean wearing a fancy piece of jewelry. Jesus carried the cross that he was nailed to. it was a cross of death. Why should we expect a cross of ease?
Rev. Grosvenor has been preaching about hard things that we have to do as Christians. We are not promised an easy life. Christianity is not a way to get everything you want. Following Jesus brings a joy that doesn't come from having a great life according to the ways of the world. It comes from a change in your heart that makes you want the things of God instead. And your heart won't change unless you make a conscious effort to turn away from the comforts of the world and be comforted by God alone.
This year, our church is joining together to do a "Daniel Fast" during Lent. If you would like to join us, Rev. Grosvenor has put together a short version of the fast, including food ideas and spiritual insights. You can access that on the "Daniel Fast" page on the website. The concept comes from the book of Daniel, chapter 1. Daniel was among a group of young men who were taken captive by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon. These men were chosen by the king to receive special training, and they were supposed to eat the same food as the King. Daniel realized that the king's food was not within the Jewish food laws, and he and some others asked to be fed only vegetables and water.
So, a Daniel Fast is not a fast from all food, but it is a limited diet. It is a surrendering of our appetite. If you are already on a very restrictive diet, or cannot eat the way the Daniel Fast recommends, what can you do? Can you give up one type of food? Or maybe there's something other than food that you could take a break from? People have done a media fast, for example. The main thing is to find the time and make the effort to focus on God during this time. What ideas do you have? Would you like to join us, wherever you are? Let us know in the comments!