Thursday, March 10, 2011

Not giving anything up for Lent

Links: my other postings on Lent ; our church's reading plan
Our pastor is encouraging us to focus on some Scriptures during Lent, and I think this is a terrific idea. A few years ago I heard an essay on NPR (yes, on National Public Radio) about Lent: the speaker was talking about giving up this or that when he was in college (I think beer was one of the things he gave up). But decades later, he wondered if the focus of Lent ought to be "more _________" rather than "giving up __________". For example, rather than drinking less, or going to the movies less, he thought he would pray or meditate or serve the poor more.

So I like this "more Scripture" idea. Yesterday's reading was Luke 1 and naturally I'm already behind. I read Luke 1 this morning, and Mary's song impressed me, again -- particularly Luke 1:52-53:

He has brought down rulers from their thrones
    but has lifted up the humble.
He has filled the hungry with good things
    but has sent the rich away empty.
I can't imagine how this must have sounded to its first-century hearers, She switches the order in the two couplets:
  • brought down rulers... lifted up the humble
  • filled the hungry... sent the rich away empty
and I think the folks in the middle -- the humble and the hungry, rather than the rich and powerful -- are the focus of this song.

And I suppose it felt like bad news to the rich and powerful; in a way it's unsurprising that the Guatemalan government banned its recitation in public for a while in the 1980s. Considering recent events in northern Africa and western Asia, the Magnificat is as timely today as it was in the first century. "He has brought down rulers from their thrones" -- I'm sure many people are longing for that today. "Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven."

Today's reading is is Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 2:1-20; Matthew 1:1-17; Luke 3:23-38; Luke 2:21-40. I'm not sure about the order, but more on this later.


Anonymous said...

I've been hearing a lot of "don't give up, instead add" in terms of Lent. I understand and agree that a positive can be very meaningful; however, when else in our lives are we ever told to ELIMINATE rather than add? We are always told to do more rather than do less, so I think subtracting is an important message of Lent we shouldn't ignore.

collin said...

A good point.