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‘Take Up’ Something for Lent

“Giving something up for Lent” has a sacred origin, of course; and likely an ancient origin. At least sacrifice and self-denial do, as believers wanted to discipline themselves to identify with Christ’s suffering.

As we noted last week, one reason that God ordained the manner of Jesus’s death – surrender, betrayal, suffering – was show mankind that the Deity understands our condition. Holy irony, beautiful synergy. Old observances of the church have changed through the years; for instance, baptisms once were performed only on Easter Sunday.

During the Reformation, when there was a desire to push back on all the sacred rites that had become empty rituals, hard and long fasts during Lent were changed to the private determination to sacrifice something precious, to thank, honor, and “imitate” Christ, for the sake of our souls.

Eventually that became a ritual, or a joke, or a scheme to diet or save lunch money. Not with everyone, of course, but with many.

This idea is not new with me, but since “giving something up for Lent” is not something from the lips of Jesus, but man-made, no matter how well-intentioned… would it not also thank God, honor Christ, and, yes, “imitate” Him, if we took up something for Lent, instead of laying something aside?

Jesus took up the cross! He allowed Himself to be lifted up in painful crucifixion! He willingly added burdens to Himself in the period before Easter.

Surely we can do the same, and for motives as pure and God-honoring. Not to gain gold stars, or make a list of good works, or… turn this concept into an empty ritual. But we can all think of adding to our moral-list, not temporarily erasing from it, at least for this Lenten season (and beyond!)

The world is hurting… look everywhere. Charities are starving… of staff, not just money. Your neighbor needs a ride… and maybe a word from God. That broken relationship you have somewhere… needs reconciliation. Someone who wronged you… needs forgiveness. We all need forgiveness… so there is a model for us. We received it from the Cross.

“The Old Rugged Cross, so despised by the world, its shame and disgrace we gladly bear…”

To hear and see “The Old Rugged Cross” go to:

The site of this performance is the neighborhood of Golgotha and the Tomb in Jerusalem. The Gaither Homecoming Friends gathered to modestly sing this dear old hymn. Great scenes, and great meaning, in this short music video…

Rick Marschall is the author of more than 60 books and hundreds of magazine articles in many fields, from popular culture (Bostonia Magazine called him “perhaps America’s foremost authority on popular culture”) to history and criticism; country music, television history, biography and children’s books. He is a former political cartoonist, editor of Marvel Comics, and writer for Disney comics. For 10 years he has been active in the Christian field, writing devotionals; co-authoring The Secret Revealed with Dr Jim Garlow; and writing a biography of Johann Sebastian Bach for the “Christian Encounters” series to be published by Thomas Nelson (2011). Rick is a former Director of Product Development for Youth Specialties. He is recipient of the 2008 “Christian Writer of the Year” award from the Greater Philadelphia Writer’s Conference, and produces a weekly e-mail devotional, “Monday Morning Music Ministry.” His e-mail address is:

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