Lenten Thoughts: Have faith in a year of giving things up

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The Perry Ministerial Association will not hold weekly Tuesday Lenten services and luncheons this year, but rather association members will be sharing a weekly reflection with the community here in this space. This week’s reflection is by the Rev. Jeremy Winter, pastor of the Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church.

We invite you, if you feel inclined, to send an offering or donation to the Good Samaritan Fund that supports our community outreach and assistance program. Those donations can be sent to Perry Ministerial Association, P.O. Box 156, Perry, IA 50220.

I have decided I am not giving anything up for Lent this year.

As some of you might know, the act of giving something up often accompanies Lent. The idea is that by giving something up, we can better focus our attention on God. We limit ourselves as a form of spiritual discipline in order to further connect ourselves to that which is holy. I have often taken part in this discipline during Lent by giving up things like sweets or soda. One of the hardest for me was giving up video games for a whole 40 days!

This year I didn’t feel like giving anything up, though. I have had my fill of giving things up. Like all of us, this past year I have had to give up a lot in life. I gave up worshipping with people in my church building for many months. I gave up going out to eat and a lot of summer fun. I gave up big family gatherings over the holidays. I gave up going to basketball games, which for me is a big deal. I gave up normal. It was a hard year, and I think we all gave up more than enough.

You know what we didn’t give up, though? Love. Generosity. Faith. Hope. These were all things that not only stuck around but grew for many of us through this crazy pandemic. Our local food pantry saw record donations. People were checking in on their neighbors to see if they were all right. Over and over again, I saw people in our community offer help to those they saw struggling. Even at the church, as we moved our services online, hundreds joined us to hear good news and find comfort in God’s word.

We may have had to give up a lot of the things we enjoy in life. Yet we hung on to so many good things. Including God. We never had to give up God because God never gives us up. In a world filled with so much unknown, filled with so much change, filled with so many things beyond our control, one constant that we can always cling to is knowing God is with us.

No matter what is happening around us, God is there. No matter where we go or what we do, God sticks with us. God never gives us up. God is there from the moment we are born till that day we die. Even then God doesn’t give us up but takes us to be home with him for all eternity.

So in this crazy time when we have lost so much, know that you are not lost and never have been. God doesn’t give you up. God has you. God always has you. You are his and always will be.

I hope we can be done giving things up pretty soon. But even if we are not, we can cling to the good things in our lives that will always be there. We can cling to hope, love and joy. We can cling to God, a God we never have to give up, a God who has never given us up and never will.

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