Giving to, not up
By Chris Keating

Lent is a season of invitation. It is an opportunity to deepen our faith through prayer and spiritual disciplines. It is a time when worship is focused on themes of pilgrimage and discipleship, centering ourselves in the power of Christ’s self-giving love.

But not all of us grew up observing Lent. Those raised as Protestants often misunderstood the various Lenten observances of our Catholic family and friends. Giving up chocolate? Foreheads smeared with ashes? Not eating meat on Fridays? These traditional Lenten activities and observances were foreign to Protestants, even though in recent years we have observed Ash Wednesday and paid more attention to other aspects of the season.
As a season of invitation, Lent is a time of pondering God’s claim on our lives. We reflect on Jesus’ words, “Come to me, all you who are laboring and carrying heavy burdens.” We listen for his instruction to love one another just as we have been loved by God. We follow Christ’s bidding to pick up our crosses and follow him.
Our Session has adjusted our Covid 19 policies to make facemasks optional while at church. They are highly recommended for those who are highest risk for contracting or transmitting Covid-19, but are no longer required.

The invitation I’m considering this Lent is not only to “give up” but to “give to.” How can we give ourselves up to the purposes of God? Where can I give of myself, my resources, my devotion, my gifts of time, talent, and treasure?

Here are some thoughts:
• Sharing with refugees: this week, a million or more Ukrainians have fled their country, becoming the latest faces of refugees in our world. Presbyterian Disaster Assistance, already involved in assisting Afghan refugees as well as guiding domestic disaster relief, has pledged to provide funding to sister churches in Europe. You can give to this effort by clicking here. (https://pma.pcusa.org/donate/make-a-gift/gift-info/DR000156/?appeal=PDA&package=UK22-ABA)
• Giving to Newborns in Need: Our mission team is collecting layette sets, diapers, baby care items and more for Newborns in Need. Your gift will help make our baby shower delightful!
• Giving blood: Blood supplies are at an all-time low. Consider making an appointment with the Red Cross and share the gift of life.
• Giving your time: Woodlawn has many members who are staying at home these days. You can write a card, make a phone call, or drop by to play a game of cards or just visit. We are also needing volunteers for our children’s ministry, music ministry, and mission team.
• Give your prayers: Offer your prayers for those listed in our weekly prayer concerns. Pray for God’s gift of peace in the world. Pray for our church’s witness in our community.

By “giving to” we are joining ourselves to the work God is doing in the world. We become witnesses to the love Christ gave us. Join us for worship during Lent as we celebrate communion weekly and deepen our commitments to being a church guided by our core values of spirituality, hospitality, and service.

 Chris Keating is pastor of Woodlawn Chapel Presbyterian Church, and a volunteer chaplain for the St. Louis County Police Department.