Friday, February 27, 2015

Could it be…? SATAN!!!

The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark, the 8th Chapter
Then Jesus began to teach the disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. 
And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”
He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”

Dana Carvey, from SNL, had a famous character called The Church Lady.  He grew up Lutheran, you know, and The Church Lady is based on the real women he knew from a real, Lutheran Church.  “Well, isn’t that special.”  “Church Chat” was the Church Lady’s show where she would judgmentally interview celebrity guests and wonder out loud what made them do what they did, “Could it be, I don’t know... SATAN!”
This year most of our Gospel stories are from Mark’s Gospel.  Mark is the shortest gospel, and one way Mark gets to be the shortest is that he used inside references, so he didn’t waste much ink on back-story.  He assumed his readers would know his shorthand, which I’m sure they did almost 2000 years ago.  Unfortunately many people have lost the back story and so sometimes without realizing it, we read into Mark’s story things that neither Mark nor Jesus ever intended.
In this lesson, the first bit of shorthand is that, “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering.”  About a thousand years after Jesus first said this, the idea got into Christianity that God demanded suffering as “satisfaction” for humanity’s sin.  People in the middle ages applied the idea of a nobleman’s honor being questioned... you can imagine a scene where a knight is insulted and he throws down his gauntlet to “demand satisfaction”... they applied THAT concept of honor from the Middle Ages to the way they thought God related to humans.  They figured that human sin was an offense to God’s honor and therefore God would “demand satisfaction” through human suffering.  It fit with how they understood their world.  The trouble is that their world didn’t work the way the world worked in Jesus’s day.  The concept of offending someone’s honor like that didn’t develop for hundreds and hundreds of years after Jesus, so Jesus having to undergo great suffering was never about God demanding satisfaction.
Jesus’ prediction that he would suffer, wasn’t a suffering God demanded... God doesn’t demand suffering in payment for our sin... instead Jesus’s prediction was that by choosing to follow God’s call for him to confront the exploitive, violent powers of Rome and their collaborators when he got to Jerusalem, that path would lead to him suffering.  He was planning to fight the law, and he was expecting the law to win... he also expected it would hurt a lot... and it turns out he was right on all counts. 
The next thing we might miss involves the "elders, chief priests and scribes".  Over the years, some in Christianity have become convinced that Jesus’s rebuke of this group of people is a rebuke of Judaism as a whole.  But to Mark, the “elders, chief priests and scribes” was shorthand for Roman collaborators.  This was Mark’s code for the Jewish people who used their collaboration with the Romans and the cover of religion to legitimize their growing wealth and power gained at the expense of the poor.  This was code for the corrupt, not the faithful.  Jesus never had an issue with Judaism.  He was Jewish after all!  He did, however, have a HUGE issue with the individuals who hid behind religion to carry out the injustice of the Roman system which used violence, unfair laws and political corruption to make a few people very, very rich and powerful at the expense of everyone else.   
So, now we’re back to where we started... we’re back to “I don’t know, could it be... Satan”!  In the 1500's Dante made Satan into the red guy with horns and a pitch fork, but for Mark, Satan was shorthand for a tester.  This was a point along The Way where a choice was made to continue to follow God’s call or go a different way.  This week, Peter was the Satan... the tester and the test was the same test as last week.  Neither story questions whether or not Jesus is the Son of God.  THAT was a given!  The test both times, was HOW Jesus would be the Son of God.  Would Jesus go and confront the powers of the Roman Empire and their collaborators in God’s way... in other words, would he confront them face to face, non-violently, pointing out their injustice and corruption and calling them, like the prophets Isaiah, Jeremiah, Micah, Amos and the others had before him, to return to the way God wanted them to live, where some people didn’t have too much while others didn’t have enough of life’s essentials, but to return to a system where everyone had enough?  Would Jesus go and show the people and leaders of Israel the need to DIE to the current abusive, corrupt and violent way of life and RISE to a new life?  OR would Jesus do it another way... Satan’s way... Peter’s way... our way... my way?  
Jesus called Peter “Satan” because Peter was asking Jesus to usher in the Kingdom of God the way PETER felt it should be done... the way Peter grew up understanding it should be done... “the way we’ve always done it”... the way that made PETER feel comfortable... the way that fit PETER’S plan.  Peter didn’t want Jesus to confront the Romans head on.  He KNEW what would happen... he knew that meant Jesus and all he cared about would DIE and he didn’t want to loose what he had grown to love.  Jesus’s plan meant things would not happen Peter’s way and that made Peter irritable, anxious, uncomfortable, twitchy, grumbly and down right mad.  
I’m not any different than Peter.  WE aren’t any different than Peter.  Just like Peter, we all agree on who Jesus is... Jesus is the Son of God AND just like Peter, we’d all rather the Body of Christ, the Church, this church, OUR CHURCH follow OUR plan... do things the way we KNOW will make US feel comfortable... the way that WE have grown to expect things to be.  But the truth of this Gospel lesson, the truth of Lent, the truth of the Christian life... is that OUR way, the comfortable way, the way that makes US feel warm and fuzzy is not The Way Jesus is headed.  It’s not The Way to Jerusalem... it’s not The Way of the cross.  If you want to really be a Jesus follower, DENY yourself every single day, turn from YOUR way and follow the Jesus Way, all the way to the cross.  Every day, go to the cross... where our comforts die, where MY way dies... where YOUR way dies... where the familiar, easy, comfortable and safe way DIES.  And the promise is well, the promise is that it will HURT LIKE HELL!  But not because God WANTS us to suffer, but because God knows us, and God knows we REALLY will suffer as we struggle to give those things up! 
But, there is more to the promise than just a cross, suffering and death.  There is also the promise of LIFE on the other side of death... not just a “get by” life either, but an ABUNDANT life... life where peace comes not from the THINGS in our life staying the same, or returning to the glory days, but from a clear understanding and experience of God With us NOW... a peace that passes all understanding... the peace that allows us to experience the Kingdom of God more fully in our lives, even as the Kingdom of God is still coming to fullness out in the world.
We are being tested.  Not by a red guy with horns and a pitchfork, but more subtlety than that.  The test is will we follow Jesus to Jerusalem?  Will we agree to go to the place where what we love and what feels comfortable and what is familiar will die?  The test is do we really believe that on the other side of the death of all of that security, familiarity and comfort there really is a LIFE, greater than what we have now?  The test is who will we follow, will we keep traveling The Way, will we trust enough to die and will we be brave enough to dare to live?  Amen.  

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Last Week - Notes on Chapters 1 & 2

For this Lent the people of Prince of Peace and St. Mark's will be looking at this book for a mid-week study.  These are simply my notes for the week.  I encourage you to get the book and read it yourself.  It is excellent!

We talk about Jesus's passion as his death on the cross but Jesus's first passion was the Kingdom of God which meant a deep desire to see everyone have a fair share of a world ruled and belonging to God.  Justice was his passion.  

Changing Palm Sunday into Passion Sunday has removed the context of Jesus last week and this book looks to restore and remind us of that context.  

Chapter One - Palm Sunday

  • Mark 11:1-11
  • There were two processions that Sunday.  One was a peasant procession the other an imperial procession.  Jesus's procession proclaimed the Kingdom of God; Pilate's proclaimed the power of the empire.  Jesus's procession was a planned political demonstration… a protest of the empire. 
  • Remember that the Caesar was referred to as the Son of God, so this was not just political conflict but a religious one as well.  
  • It uses the symbolism of Zechariah to make the connection clear for the people.  The king who rides on a donkey will banish war and break the bows.  
  • Jesus procession was the political and theological counter to the procession happening on the other side of town.  Both were commenting on the "Domination System" that existed in Jerusalem.  
    • Political oppression - ruled by the powerful and wealthy
    • Economic exploitation - the wealth was held by the top 10%
    • Religion was used to legitimize the system.  
    • Sound familiar?
  • In David's time it was better distributed but the disparity had grown worse up to Jesus's time.  
  • The prophets had often confronted this system.  Isaiah indicted the rulers of Jerusalem as the "rulers of Sodom" for example.  He said, "You call evil good and good evil" and the house has become "a den of robbers" because of the injustice of the leaders toward the people.  
  • Still Jerusalem also held onto a place of hope, that people would one day "sit under their own vines and fig trees" in other words have the ability to make their own living and not live in fear. 
  • Domination systems were put in place by various conquerers finishing up with the Romans.  Rome ruled with the help of local collaborators.  At first the high priests and later with a king.  Herod consolidated his power by eliminating competing families and grew his wealthy by taking their lands.  He built palaces, cities and rebuilt the Temple which cost huge amounts of money.  This in addition to the annual Roman tribute.  
  • So, the Temple was at the center of the local collaboration with Rome.  Mark uses the term, "Chief Priests, elders and scribes" to refer to these collaborators.  The Temple system helped confiscate peasant lands and kept records of debts.  THIS WAS THE JERUSALEM JESUS ENTERED.
  • Other voices opposed Rome and the collaborators.  Essenes, Zealots, John the Baptist. 
  • ** In Mark's Gospel, Jesus's message was not about Jesus, it was about the Kingdom of God and The Way to live into that kingdom.  
  • Kingdom of God is both a religious and political metaphor.  
  • "Repent and believe in the Good News" was a call to return to the ways of Justice that God has in mind.  The Good News is a different system where peace and justice dominate.  "To believe in the Good News" is to commit to this different system.  
  • The chapters leading to Palm Sunday show what it means to follow Jesus.  It means following him on The Way, The Way leads to Jerusalem, Jerusalem is were you confront the current system and Jerusalem is the place of death and resurrection.  
  • The call to the cross was NOT a call to suffering in Jesus time.  It was either a symbol of imperial power OR a symbol of The Way of death and resurrection.  Dying to an old way and rising to a new way.  
  • Jesus highlights the difference between the old and new ways with stories that talk about blindness.
  • *** Thus we have the twofold theme that leads to Palm Sunday.  Genuine discipleship, following Jesus means following him to jerusalem, the place of (1) confrontation with the domination system and (2) death and resurrection.  These are the two themes of Holy Week, Lent and the whole of Christian life. 
  • Jesus was NOT against Judaism.  Jesus was NOT against priests and sacrifice.  Jesus was against a domination system that had used religion to help legitimize their injustice.  
Chapter 2 - Monday

  • Mark 11:12-19
  • Jesus's triumphal entry was him making fun of the empire's entry on the other side of the city.  It was a symbolic challenge of that authority.  
  • In a similar way, Jesus "cleansing the Temple" was also a symbolic challenge to the collaboration by the Temple authorities with the dominations system.  
  • Mark uses "frames" to make his points.  A story will start, a second story will interrupt and then the first story will eventually conclude.  Mark intends these stories to inform one another.  
  • Fig Tree cursed is the first story, the Temple incident is the second, the Fig Tree story concludes with it being withered.  
  • These stories are meant to inform each other.  
  • By telling us this wasn't the season for figs, Mark is telling us this isn't meant to be literal, but figurative.  
  • The fig tree lets us know that the Temple is being "cleansed" but symbolically destroyed like the fig tree.  BECAUSE IN BOTH CASES THERE IS A LACK OF FRUIT!
  • It is NOT Jesus attacking the sacrificial system.  
  • Sacrifice was a given in Jesus day.  It was viewed by people as either a gift to a deity OR a meal made sacred and shared to build a relationship.  NEVER about suffering or substitution.  
  • Offerers NEVER thought the animal was taking their place, that they deserved to be killed in punishment for their sins, but that God would accept a substitutionary atonement or vicarious satisfaction.  NEVER!
  • Jesus was NOT about confronting Judaism.  MANY people confronted the abusive collaborators within the system who held themselves up as Jews, but the confrontation was with the domination system and the collaboration with Rome, not with Judaism.  
  • Similarly, Jesus was NOT against the Temple.  He was against the Temple as it had been co-opted into being the center of Roman domination, but not the idea of the Temple.  
  • That was not new.  Jeremiah also used prophetic symbolism to object to abuses in his time.  He was the first to call the Temple a den of robbers.  It was where robbers returned to "hide" after they had abused the poor and pretend to be pious and holy.  
  • "Since God is just and the world belongs to God, worship cannot be separated from justice because worship for union with a God of justice empowers the worshiper for a life of justice."
  • So, Jesus cleansing the Temple was prophetic symbolism.  He "shut down" the Temple symbolically then taught the lesson that if people don't live lives of justice outside the Temple, what happens inside the Temple is rejected by God.  
  • AGAIN, think of this as a planned political protest action.  
  • Jesus intended to "retake" Jerusalem and the Temple symbolically in a non-violent way to empower justice and reject the violent domination system.  This was Jesus objecting to the domination system AND the religious collaboration  with that system.  

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Bus, Bus, Spirit Bus!

The Holy Gospel According to St. Mark, the 1st Chapter
In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him. And a voice came from heaven, “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well
pleased.” And the Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness. He was in the wilderness forty days, tempted by Satan; and he was with the wild beasts; and the angels waited on him.
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”

In those days the people of St. Mark’s came from the West and the people of Prince of Peace opened their doors and they joined together in ministry.  Together they remembered their Baptisms and in that worship they were reminded, “You are God’s children!  You are beloved!”  And immediately the Spirit drove them into the wilderness where the chairs were moved, the music was changed, things were not as they had always been and to top it all off it snowed on them for forty days and and forty nights and that just seemed like gratuitous pilling on... even for Satan!
So... how are you doing out here in the wilderness?  Of course, being in the wilderness (and not liking it) isn’t exactly new.  Even Jesus’s wilderness time from the lesson today isn’t the first wilderness time in Scripture.  Abraham crossed a wilderness when God told him to just “go” with no destination.  Joseph was thrown into a well in the wilderness before his brothers sold him into slavery.  Moses saw a burning bush in the wilderness... the same wilderness the Israelites set off into out of Egypt for 40 years.  The same wilderness that had them moaning and complaining and longing to return to Egypt... where they had forgotten they had lived in SLAVERY!  God chose David to be king in the wilderness.  Elijah hid from God in a cave and heard that still, small voice in the wilderness.  There was the wilderness that the people were marched across into exile in Babylon and the wilderness which was made straight for their return.  Dry bones were brought back to life in the wilderness and the wilderness was where John the Baptist proclaimed the coming Messiah.  Jesus’s ministry took him across the wilderness and the disciples suffered the wilderness of despair after his crucifixion and the wilderness on the road to Emmaus was where Jesus was eventually revealed in the breaking of the bread.  Saul became Paul in the wilderness and the Ethiopian was Baptized in the wilderness.  
We are not the first of God’s people to be driven into the wilderness by the Spirit, but that doesn’t make our wilderness any more comfortable than it was for anyone else.  Wilderness is wilderness and wilderness feels like... well, let’s just say wilderness feels bad!  There are, however, a few things about being driven out into the wilderness by the Spirit that I want to help us all try to remember... things that might help us live in this wilderness time.  
The first thing to keep in mind is that, just as Jesus was driven there by the Spirit, IT‘S THE SPIRIT WHO DOES THE DRIVING for us as well.  If you are looking to blame someone for the uncertainty and discomfort that you’ve been feeling here in the wilderness, then look no further than the Holy Spirit.  I didn’t do it.  Neither Bishop Hazelwood nor Bishop Lane did it and neither the Council nor the Vestry did it either.  When a bus gets driven into the wilderness, it’s the Holy Spirit who’s always at the wheel and I hate to tell ya, the Spirit keeps driving the bus no matter how we rearrange the seats inside!  Now, I’ll admit, I REALLY like what’s happening here.  I believe God is doing this for our benefit and not our harm and both bishops too, were very clear that they also seem to like where the Holy Spirit is driving this bus, but no human has the power to drive God’s people into the wilderness... Driving THAT bus is solely the work of God’s Spirit!  
Another thing to keep in mind, is that the Spirit doesn’t drive just anyone into the wilderness and doesn’t drive people there just for kicks and giggles.  There’s a method to this madness... or maybe a madness to this method!  People and nations and congregations that are driven into the wilderness, are driven there because GOD HAS SOMETHING BETTER IN MIND FOR THEM on the other side.   Abraham’s time led to the founding of a nation.  Moses’s time led to him being equipped to lead a nation.  The people of Israel’s time led to the Promised Land, the prophet’s time led to a return to faithfulness for a city or a nation and Jesus’s time led to a life, death and resurrection which reconciled all of creation to God.  AGAIN, that didn’t make their wilderness time a walk in the park for ANY of them, but being driven into the wilderness means BOTH, that God thinks enough of us to call us to something more than what we’ve been AND that God knows, that in order to do the greater and bigger things God has in mind for us we will need to be equipped for that work.  
You see, the wilderness isn’t just an unfortunate prickly patch in between what was and the something greater God has in mind.  The wilderness is also a training ground.  It’s a tool, like a sharpening stone is to a knife.  It’s something which God uses to hone us into the exact shape and sharpness we need to be in order to complete the task which God has in mind for us.  Again, that doesn’t mean it’s an easy or pain-free process.  A knife being sharpened often sets sparks flying... it means steel being scrapped against a stone and it means the shape of of the blade is physically, and forcefully changed forever.
Another wilderness reality is that it ALWAYS takes longer than anyone wants it to take.  Forty days for Jesus or forty years for the people of Israel... forty is Biblical shorthand for just too darn long!  And yet, the Holy Spirit seems to act like “forty” is exactly the amount of time that is needed to shape people into the instruments God is calling them to be.  Keep in mind, though, when it’s needed... like it was for the people of Israel... if one forty doesn’t do the job, the Spirit seems perfectly fine driving around for another 40!  
So here we are.  Out in the wilderness.  In one way, it’s quite an honor.  It means God has chosen us for something bigger, better, different and much more than what we could have imagined for ourselves before.  At the same time, though, it’s still the wilderness... so it hurts, it’s confusing, it’s insisting that we change and that it isn’t comfortable AND to top things off... it’s taking way longer than any of us would like... certainly longer than just forty days since today is day 53... I’ve been counting. 
The last thing about being driven into the wilderness we need to remember is that we are not alone here.  God always sends manna, water, a voice, a sign or angels to care for us in wilderness time.  It's a difficult time we live in right now, but that's because God has great things in mind for us.  Together, let us care for one another, let’s watch out for the wild beasts together and let's open our hearts and minds to see both what God is doing among us and the angels God has sent us... for the time is fulfilled and the Kingdom of God has indeed come near!  Amen.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

That's Quite a Gap!

The Holy Gospel According to St. Matthew, the 6th Chapter
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. “So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Outside of Taos, New Mexico is the Rio Grande Gorge.  It’s a 1200 foot wide, 600 foot deep gorge cut into a very flat part of New Mexico by the Rio Grande river.  The first time I saw it, I thought that if I was someone traveling on horseback out here long before roads, bridges and cars and I came to this uncrossable divide that goes on as far as the eye can see, I would be crushed.  It is quite a gap!  
That gap cut by the Rio Grande is nothing, however, compared to the gap that exists between where we often live our lives and the place God knows we would experience the abundant life God created us to live.  We are on one side, living and doing what we do, while WAY over there, is where God knows our lives would be so much better.  We are separated from the life God knows is best for us by quite a gap, but just like good, old St. Paul, we keep on doing the things we know we shouldn’t and can’t seem to do the things we know that we should.  We continually live our lives confronted by that gap between where we are and where God knows we would experience a more abundant life.  In spite of that, we all too often seem to just ride up to the edge, look into the gap, find ourselves stuck and the wallow in our stuck-ness.
Lent, though, is a season of the year for us to work on getting un-stuck... a time to first get ourselves and our egos out of the way and then to build our relationship with God and become more the creation God created us to be.  Unfortunately, Lent seems to have become mostly a time to marinade more deeply in how horribly far we are from God’s desire for us, and rarely a time to build up that relationship with God.  So, people fast because someone that far from God doesn’t deserve good food.  They find ways to suffer to remind themselves how awful they are.  They beat themselves with the things they should have done better or different or more faithfully.  If you really want to... I suppose you could do that again this Lent.  But, the trouble is, I don’t think a deeper, more guilt ridden study of the gap is what God has in mind for Lent.  Lent is not only a time to acknowledge our humanity.  It is equally a time for intentionally narrowing that gap to more fully experience the abundant life God has in mind for us.  Spending the next six weeks of Lent beating yourself with the details of the depth and width of the canyon just won't get any of us any closer.
So, instead of being a season where all we do is study the depths of our depravity, let’s make Lent a season to work on becoming more the creation God made us to be.  Building up though, is harder.  It’s much easier to tear down.  Beating yourself up for six weeks is easy compared to working on actively building a relationship with God.  But building is an essential part of Lent.  
So, if you decide to work on narrowing that gap this Lent, the first thing you need to know is that you can begin building from wherever you might be.  There is no place that is too far gone.  Nowhere that is unredeemable.  The trick to narrowing the gap is to start where you are and begin to do a few things to help you more fully embrace the love that God has first given you and not become paralyzed, obsessing on the things that separate us from God and almost everything that we can do in Lent which builds up our faith can be connected with Baptism.
In the early Christian church, Lent was a time to prepare candidates for Baptism at the Great Easter Vigil and it was a time for those already in the church to remember their baptisms.  The ashen cross on your forehead can be the beginning of a Lent-long practice of building up your faith.  It is certainly a reminder of our mortality but it’s mostly a reminder of the same cross that was placed on your head when you were baptized.  Yes we will all die, but our deaths are now in Christ and in Christ we have been given new life... we are a new creation!  Lent is a time to begin to live into that reality!
From the foundation of your Baptism, you can continue to build.  Light a candle each day as a reminder of the candle you received in Baptism when you were called to let the light of Christ shine through you in everything you do.  Come to the font and mark the sign of the cross on your forehead, right where the ashes are tonight!  But don’t just wait to use ONLY the water in the font!  When you wash your face every day, make that cross with your thumb using the water in your sink as well!  The Holy Spirit is not restricted to just the font, after all!  A cross just like that one was signed on your forehead when you were sealed with the sign of the cross at your baptism, so let that cross remind you every day that you have been claimed by God and there is nothing in this world that can separate you from God’s love.  
Send one thank-you card every day during Lent (you can take Sundays off because they aren’t counted in Lent and the mail isn’t picked up that day anyway).  Read one passage of scripture every day… just one verse.  Pray for those you love at every red light and for the unknown person in the car behind you.  Buy the meal for the car behind you at the drive through.  COME, EVERY WEEK to Sunday worship, our midweek worship and the book study.  Remember the words of that august theologian Woody Allen... “80% of success is just showing up” or do my personal favorite Lenten discipline... instead of giving up dessert, pray through it, remembering one person in prayer with every bite.  
Whatever it is you choose to do during this season, do what builds you up... builds your relationship with God in Christ and builds up the people around you.  Choose the things that build, rather than what tears down.  Do what encourages rather than criticizes.  Look for opportunities to be thankful, rather than opportunities to lament and in everything you do remember your Baptism!  Remember, the promise, that in your Baptism God has already bridged the gap and come to you in unconditional love.  In Baptism, God has invited you to walk along The Way, and each day more fully live into the abundant life God created you to live.  The disciplines of Lent are meant to help you experience more and more that abundant life, dying to the things that tear down and hold you back and rising to new life with every step of your Lenten journey and in every moment of your life as beloved and cherished Children of God.  Amen.