5 Things Your Church Shouldn't Give Up for Lent

by | Feb 27, 2018 | 2 comments

During this season of Lent, people of faith are considering what to give up. In years past, I have given up despair, hopelessness, and the occasional chocolate donut. I have even tried taking things on, when giving something up felt self-defeating. But this year, I want to make the case for 5 things your church definitely should not give up for Lent.
Give up diet sodas, but don’t give up these things: your voice, your neighborhood, being the church, people and love.   This week, I’ll lay out the case for not giving up your voice. As Lent unfolds, I’ll address the additional 4 things.
This Lent, don’t give up your voice. As United Methodists we take a vow to resist evil and injustice in whatever forms they present themselves. If you are uncertain about how to resist evil while not alienating folks, please read about how to take an ethical stance on tough issues by working with the Wesleyan quadrilateral. Don’t shy away from talking about volatile issues such as gun violence simply because everyone might not agree. Agreement is not required. In fact, competing ideas and conflicting messages underscore the need for your clear and courageous voice to be heard.
I know it takes courage to raise your voice. I know it takes time to figure out a faithful response.   Please garner the courage and take the time to make your voice heard. It matters.
Here’s what’s at stake: If you silence your voice in the world, then you abdicate your place at the community table.   No one is asking you to do that. Your community needs you—more than they know and probably more than you know. Please don’t complain that no one listens to you anymore if you aren’t in fact speaking up.
The challenge is how to articulate your vision and stake your claim without making others wrong. Note: making others wrong gets people riled up. They’ll simply want to make you wrong, in turn. That won’t get you anywhere. I don’t believe you have to make enemies of people with whom you disagree in order to take a principled stance on matters of justice.
Here are three suggestions for how to claim your voice without stomping on other people:

  1. Proclaim your vision of the Kingdom. Let it transcend the current reality and paint a new picture of what is possible. In Dr. King’s day, civil rights activists were met with water hoses, attack dogs, tear gas, and swinging police batons. Dr. King’s “I have a dream” speech posited a future reality in which sons of former slaves and former slave owners would be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. What’s your dream?
  1. Frame your message with Gospel values. At the same time, don’t assume that people who see things differently than you do don’t also abide by Gospel values. They probably do. They simply may not think about things in the same way that you do.   Respecting people with whom you disagree will elevate the dialogue. I lived in Colorado when the Family Values movement was in full swing. This was long before twitter and hashtags. It was interesting how competing bumper stickers proclaimed both “Homosexuality is not a family value” and “Hate is not a family value.” Because of the way they were worded, I’m not sure either one left room for faithful disagreement.
  1. Leave room for disagreement. Create a space in which people can join you even if they don’t fully agree with you. It’s not necessary to have total consensus in order to work together.   Some of my dearest friends and I disagree on important topics including appropriate human sexuality, to biblical interpretation, to the nature of God, to the existence of heaven and hell, to the veracity of climate change, to the power of prayer.   But we don’t allow our differences of opinion to kill the relationship. The truth is, we see eye to eye on most other things. We have left room for disagreement. It works for us.

As you practice using your voice, you’ll develop your own list of what works and what doesn’t. The point is to start speaking up and speaking out. Keep your seat at the table. Your community is listening.

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  1. Anthony Fleckenstein

    I just read through your article, and you have some good points. I am really thinking about giving up my “voice” for Lent this year (2019), and the only reason is to remind myself of the sacrifice that was made for all of us.
    Keep in mind that I’m not giving up communicating with people. My mother who I only see once a month was the first person I “spoke” about this with. She said she thought it was a bad idea because the phone calls we share with each other mean so much to her. I thought on this for a while, and I began to think about man-made things that have influenced people or that have conveyed messages without using the sound of someone’s voice…… why do we write books? why do we make art? or better yet how can you “verbalize” the meaning of the Bible? If I were asked this I would simply “say” WORD OF GOD or I really try to make a difference by getting a megaphone and read the Bible out loud in a public place, BUT what would that do? maybe people who are very faithful might stop for a second and listen to find out which verse I’m on. some people might be offended by this….. others might simply walk by and think to themselves (why is that person making so much “noise”?) I wonder what that same person would think if they visited the Sistine Chapel and looked at that little painting on the ceiling…… One last question how does one “verbalize” the view of a sunset from the top of a mountain after a summer rain?….. It may be easier to take a picture or actually experience it on top of a mountain. At the end of Lent this year I could very well be faced with two decisions. The first is picking what word to say, and the second what context/setting to say it in. as of right now I’m thinking it would be the words thank-you and it will take place on top of a mountain with no one else around. After all, I typed this whole comment sitting at my computer not “saying” a word.

    • Rebekah Simon-Peter

      Very clever! We are called to use our voices in different ways. Sometimes silence speaks volumes. Sometimes it’s a negative way to squelch something that cries to be said. Only you and God can know for sure.



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