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On offering sustenance during Lent

We are now into spring, or so they tell us. The temperatures may often make us wonder but we are finally into the season of budding flowers and trees, and warmer days and nights.

In church, talk we are in the season of Lent. This title comes from the old English word that means “spring,” and it is the 40 days (excluding Sundays) from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Traditionally this is a time to engage in deep spiritual practices, especially for some folks the act of giving up something. 

Some folks give up chocolate or wine or something else that they enjoy eating or doing as a way of letting go; a kind of fasting, if you will, so that we can more closely pay attention to God and God’s word among us.

It’s a good practice, one that is worth the effort, especially living as we do in such a consumeristic culture. But there are other ways to observe a holy Lent. 

One is to take something on rather than to give something up. Some folks take on random acts of kindness; some work at the local food pantry (for us, that’s FACES) or lend a helping hand working on a house for Habitat; some take on the practice of reading the Bible, especially passages they haven’t read before.

Some take it on by delving into some of the spiritual practices advocated by saints of the church (“The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius” is a great place to start).

One part of the Bible that is often read during Lent is “The Suffering Servant Songs” of the prophecy of Isaiah. In the 50th chapter, in the text that is read during Holy Week, we are given words that graphically speak of the cost of being God’s people in the world. The fourth verse reads: “The Lord God has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.”

Regarding “to sustain the weary with a word,” in our times of using words to attack someone who disagrees with us, that might be a very good way to practice Lent. To sustain the weary by listening to someone who is having a hard time finding help, and who puts up with dirty looks every time they ask someone for assistance, to sustain the weary by visiting with some of the folks helped by Piedmont Senior Resources — senior citizens who don’t get many visitors and some of whom just want someone to talk to; to sustain the weary with a word by stopping in on someone at The Woodland and affirming that they have not been forgotten by others.

To sustain the weary with a word can be a Lenten practice. It can be a connecting link between ourselves, each other and the God who took on flesh and everything that comes with it. Even weariness.

Tom Robinson is pastor of Farmville Presbyterian Church. His email address is robin216@embarqmail.com.