Rev. Emily Heath writes, “When it comes down to it, Jesus only needed two sentences to sum the law up for his followers. First, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” And second, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Those of us who try to be disciples of Christ are really good at trying to add our own words or interpretations to his, but in the end Jesus really made it pretty clear. If you want to follow him, and if you want to be a Christian, then your only job is to love.”
In the big scheme of things, who we are as individuals is finite and fleeting. But who we are together, and who we are to God, is what matters, and what truly defines us, even when we are gone. In Lent, we remember the great truth: It’s not all about us; it’s about Christ’s two commands: to love God, and to love others as we love ourselves.
For centuries Christians have undertaken a form of Lenten discipline, which is to say a practice that will in some way turn their hearts to Christ and prepare them for the new life that comes with Easter. For many, Lent is a time to give something up: meat or candy or Facebook. But Lent doesn’t have to just be about giving up. In fact, at its best it isn’t. Because if our Lenten discipline is only about us, and what we will allow ourselves, we miss the point.
Instead, what if we embraced Lent as an opportunity to show our love for God and others? We spend so much time focused on ourselves and on our own needs, but what if we used these forty days focus on something else? What if we try each day to remind ourselves that it’s not about us as individuals, but it’s about God, and it’s about all of us together?
This Lent, let us challenge ourselves to do at least one thing that either strengthens our connection with God or shows our love for a neighbor - every day. At first glance, this might sound like a lot to do, like it’s just creating one more piece of work in our already crammed schedules. But what I’m advocating isn’t about creating additional burdens. It’s about being more conscious of what we are already doing, and using our time in a way that connects us with others and with God.
When we start being more aware, our daily walk turns into an opportunity for prayer. The trip to the grocery store yields a few more cans of soup for the food pantry. And a few extra dollars turn into a donation that makes a difference. We don’t have to turn the world on its axis. We simply have to turn our attention outward, and make the small things matter in big ways.*
Lent is a time to figure out what really matters. What matters in your life? And how can you pay more attention and devote more time and more of your heart to what really matters? Let’s use this month, individually or together, to answer these questions with action.