On FaithFeb. 22 is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. The observance of Lent goes back almost 2,000 years when it was kept for two or three days as a time of soul-searching, repentance, and reflection. In the Middle Ages, Lent was expanded to the 40 days (excluding Sundays) from Ash Wednesday through Maundy Thursday.
By: Pastor Jim Joseph, Lake County News Chronicle
Feb. 22 is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. The observance of Lent goes back almost 2,000 years when it was kept for two or three days as a time of soul-searching, repentance, and reflection. In the Middle Ages, Lent was expanded to the 40 days (excluding Sundays) from Ash Wednesday through Maundy Thursday.
Through the centuries its central focus has remained the same—preparing our hearts to fully experience the great sorrows of Christ’s death on Good Friday and the ultimate glory of His resurrection on that first Resurrection Sunday.
When I was a little boy we were encouraged to “give up” something for Lent. Some gave up candy, while others abstained from television or movies. The choices were endless yet they all were designed to help us learn to deny ourselves. If in the process we felt a little discomfort we were told to remember how much pain Jesus suffered for our sins.
Since being in Two Harbors, I have often joked that you can tell that a Scandinavian is serious about Lent when they decide to give up coffee. As I have grown older, I have come to realize that there are many more important things to give up, not only for Lent but for life. Things like bitterness and unforgiveness. However, in this Lenten season, I want to encourage us prepare our hearts not so much by “giving up” but rather by “taking on.”
The Apostle Paul writes in Galatians 6:2, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Sharing what we have with others is one way to do just that. This past year Elijah’s Pantry, the food shelf at Living Waters Fellowship, has distributed more than 24,500 pounds of food. The Two Harbors Food Shelf has distributed just as much if not more. Yet hunger is still prevalent in our community.
Nationally, 16.2 million children and 32.6 million adults do not have enough food to eat. In our area the statistics are proportionally about the same. One in five children go to bed hungry on a regular basis. Often the elderly, who were raised not to ask for help, must choose between eating and paying their bills or buying their medicines. Unemployment and under-employment have also left many in-between without proper nutrition.
Such things ought not to be happening here in America. As Christians, it is our duty to feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, and visit those in prison. In his epistle James teaches that “Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.” (James 1:27)
March is FoodShare Month in Minnesota. Every year food shelves like ours send out appeals for donations of cash and food stuffs to help meet the ever increasing needs around us. This Lenten season let’s all pitch in and help eliminate hunger in our community.
Donate generously to Elijah’s Pantry, the Two Harbors Food Shelf, or the Silver Bay Food Shelf. Volunteer your time and talents. Bring your elderly neighbor, or that young family a good home-cooked meal. Ask the Lord to open your eyes to the needs around you and do your part to make a difference.
Remember, when you do it to the “least of these,” you do it to the Lord Jesus, Himself. And in my mind, that is an excellent way to keep Lent.
Elijah’s Pantry at Living Waters Fellowship is open every Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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