Saturday, 13 February 2016

Renounce Indulgences or offer First Fruits?

Chocolate or wine or Potato Chips? Wine or chocolate or Potato Chips? Which should I renounce? Or should I really push the boat out and renounce all of them? I mean it is only for six weeks. Maybe, even I could manage that and you know I might sadly emerge smug and self-righteous as some do at the end of it. My “halo” might be extra shiny after being so self-denying. I mean that’s going to make all the difference, isn’t it?

That will really change the world if I indulge my lack of self-indulgence. Besides, I’d probably lose a few kilos’ too. Maybe then I would have a new figure and a shiny soul. Not to be sneered at. Yet really is that what it has come to? Is that what it’s all about. Giving up and then self-congratulating. Is that what God really wants of me or of any of us. Do we really believe that this is what God demands? That we all make ourselves miserable and short-tempered and renounce all our coping mechanisms for six weeks so that we too can emerge again from our self-imposed tombs all the better for our “suffering.” 

God help us when we trivialise sacrifice. When we dare to imagine that a little self-denial may help us identify with love in its extremity. God, the last word in party excuses. The person who came up with every reason ever invented to party must shrivel and die when confronted with our pathetic attempts at Lent. From my understanding repentance is something that occasions rejoicing. So, why do we fail so miserably to capture that life giving season. Why do we make a drudgery off something beautiful— getting ready to celebrate such love and being transformed by such life. Chocolate? Wine? Potato Chips? How about throwing our all into love?

And while we are about it, our lesson from Deuteronomy this week articulates God’s original desire for first fruits, thanksgiving, and a generous response. It’s no accident that this passage of Scripture also leads us into our Lenten contemplation. We, that is those professing the Christian faith, need frequent reminders that offering the best we have— our time, our talents, and our resources— is not optional. Generosity is integrated fully into the fabric of our relationship with the Creator. 

God gives us the best on a regular basis. Just look around you: Contemplate the stars in the sky, hear the sound of rushing waters, and touch the soft skin of a newborn baby. Everything, absolutely everything, in creation was called into being and proclaimed good, and God has been giving to us in relationship ever since. 

But relationship takes two. Just as God gives, so are we to give: We show up and offer our best praise, we understand that all of our decisions reflect the nature of our relationship with God, we gladly tell the story and celebrate our place in the grand salvation narrative, and yes, we return a generous portion of what God has given us with glad hearts in grateful response. We are called to love as God loves and as Christ demonstrated in his life.

The forty days of Lent also provide valuable time to think, repent, and return to the Lord our God. Why not also use these forty days as a time to gather our first fruits, the best we have, and prepare an Easter offering to bring to the empty tomb?

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