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Lent begins this year on Valentine’s Day. Since 2018, I cannot notice that coincidence without remembering the children of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, whose Valentine’s Day ended in dust and ashes. Yet the heart of the living God creates new life even out of the dust.
Recently the Mennonite pastor who convenes the Guns to Gardens blacksmiths’ group mentioned that he had on occasion invited someone to fast from their firearms for Lent. I was intrigued: Lent is a time for fasting and conversion. It is a time to reorient our appetites toward God. I wondered how it might feel for someone who rests a significant part of their security in a weapon meant for personal defense instead to lay it down, taking that leap of faith that God is waiting to hold them, whatever may come.
I can imagine fasting for peace in other ways, too. A chronic speeder could pay more attention to their driving habits, considering the safety of others over their own convenience and skills. A smoker might consider seeking support to quit, not for themselves alone but for the health of the air around them, those who might be affected second-hand. One might consciously refrain from cursing, or unsought criticism, or learn to convert prejudgments into curiosity. February is also Black History Month. Recognizing the violence that racism has done and continues to do to the fabric of our society, a congregation may wish to engage with the Becoming Beloved Community curriculum, ready-made for Year B in Lent by The Episcopal Church’s Racial Reconciliation Team.
Each act requires that one orient themselves toward the God of peace, trusting God’s judgment over our own, and God’s mercy over our defensiveness.
The lectionary in February lends itself to introducing and encouraging such a fast, to whet the appetite for peace.
However you choose to observe this Lent, I hope that it brings you closer to Christ, closer to the heart of Love, and the peace of God that passes all understanding.
Lord Jesus, who fasted forty days,
teach me by this fast to be hungry for your love: the love that you had for all children; to love as you have loved me.
Help me by this fast to be hungry for your healing that you gave freely to the living, and even to the dead; to extend the hand of friendship to others.
Make me by this fast hungry for the forgiveness that you offer to sinners,
even to your enemies, even from the Cross; to forgive as I have been forgiven.
Humble me by this fast to follow you in the way of the Cross,
seeking the welfare of others before my own.
Lord Christ, bind my desire to that peace that passes all understanding, and feed me with your mercy. Amen.
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