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As I write this letter I am encouraged that after a cold, snowy winter, spring is almost here. And as we approach spring, the season of Lent will we be upon us quickly. Since the Middle Ages, Lent has been a penitential season. That is, a season in which the faithful have focused upon their sinful nature.

Over the centuries various forms of service or self-denial have been adopted by Christians as a way of recognizing their sinful lives and showing some kind of external remorse. One of the more popular and more recent disciplines of Lent is that of giving up some kind of indulgence or vice. For example a person might give up alcohol or gambling during Lent. Someone who loves ice cream might forego ice cream during the season of Lent. Roman Catholic Christians are more likely to observe this practice. However, Protestants over the years have been known to observe the Lenten season with some form of self-denial as well. Seeing that Lent falls on the heels of so many broken New Year’s Eve promises to live a better life, one can see why changing our behavior for a limited period of time might be a more successful venture for more people. We may find great joy in restoring our former behaviors at the conclusion of Lent. If we love and enjoy ice cream just think of how good that first dish of that cold, smooth, sweet treat will taste at the end of six weeks.

Many people meet this challenge and succeed easily while others struggle. I wonder how many things we could do without for forty days? We might be able to make two lists: 1. Those things that are easy to do without for forty days. 2. Those things that are difficult to do without for forty days. On which list would you place broccoli? On which list would you place coffee?

Many years ago my Doctor put me on a medication upon which I could no longer eat grapefruit. Grapefruit was one of those foods that I disliked as a child but began to like as an adult. Although I was not devastated by this circumstance, I knew that I would miss not having grapefruit in my diet. I have one of those special grapefruit knives, the curved one with the serrated edge that is perfect for cutting around the circumference of the grapefruit. I also have two grapefruit spoons, narrower than a regular spoon and with a serrated edge. For fifteen years I clung to these relics of my grapefruit eating past just in case the day would come that I could enjoy grapefruit again! Then, one day my Doctor decided to change one of my medications. As he was writing the new script he said, “Do you like grapefruit?” “Yes,” I replied. “You can eat grapefruit with this medication,” He said as he smiled. The eternal Lent of my grapefruit had come to an end! No longer a forbidden fruit! I could not wait to start the new medication and delight in eating that wonderful fruit again! When the day came I took a large, beautiful, pink grapefruit from the refrigerator. I dug deep through the utensil drawer in search of my special knife. I looked for the spoons. Then I carefully cut my grapefruit in half and using my special knife I cut my way around the circumference of each half, then I sliced between each segment of the half. Now I was ready eat. I savored every morsel of its flesh and every drop of its juice….and I ate both halves. Yes, all 72 calories in one sitting.

No matter what we give up for Lent, the joy of returning to those old vices or indulgences pales in comparison to the true joy of Easter. No matter what we give up for Lent, we will reunite with that past again on Easter morning. But the truth of Easter is that on the day of resurrection, when our Lord calls forth all the faithful from their graves, we will not be rejoicing by reuniting with our past, we will be rejoicing that our sinful pasts will stay dead as we are resurrected into the eternal joy of living in the light of God’s glory.

Grace and Peace,