At the time of writing we are in the penitential season of Lent as we follow Jesus on his difficult journey to the cross. It is a time of reflection on what it meant for Jesus to give up his life for his friends and to save humanity from the trappings of sin. It is a time when we also think more generally about what it means to give things up.
As Christians we affirm Jesus' act of self - sacrifice on the cross as the ultimate statement of God's love for each and every one of us. Then Jesus' resurrection, which happens three days later on Easter Sunday, further reveals Christ's victory over death in which we can all hope and share. For it is through God's act of self - giving love that we are reconciled to God and to each other.
Sadly, the world frequently does not follow the way of love. Recently I have been shocked and horrified to hear of the attacks that have occurred against Muslims in New Zealand and in Europe, These killings demonstrate the outworking of hatred and evil that stands in opposition to the Gospel of Christ. In the Lent liturgy for Holy Communion, found in our Methodist Worship Books, we are reminded of Jesus'command to "love your neighbour as yourself and "just as I loved you, you should also love one another." This love of neighbour is entirely unconditional and is at the very heart of our Christian faith. In a world where there is much division, conflict and hatred Jesus' act of self - giving love shows us the true way that God desires us to live in love. We love because God loves us first.
In the season of Lent we often give things up as part of our fasting. Examples might include chocolate, sweets, alcohol or smoking. Yet there are even more important things that we could used Lent to give up; our unforgiving nature, our prejudices and our hatred towards others. Instead we can be stripped of these things as we allow the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts and minds in order to provide us with divine love and the peace of God.
So, what will you be giving up this Lent & Easter, and will you allow the life giving and life transforming love of God enter into your heart and mind? I hope and pray that you will.