Giving Up and Taking Up

I didn’t grow up observing Lent, nor did I even really know what it was for most of my life. The first time I heard of it was when my friend, Kristina, was dating a Catholic guy. I don’t think they were very serious, and when I asked her why they broke up, she responded, “he gave me up for Lent.” I’m not sure if this is true or not, but we all know someone who gave up something — be it coffee, chocolate, social media, or dating my friend — for Lent.

While I did not grow up familiar with this practice, I have come to find it meaningful to be part of Christian communities, like U Gathering, that observe the Lenten season in a more profound way. Many of us fast from something (give something up) or take on a practice or do both during Lent.

We don’t give things up because we think they are necessarily bad or immoral. Rather, we are given the opportunity to self-examine our relationships to things, and to discern which ones we have perhaps become too attached to or have given too much power over our lives. Thus, giving something up for a season allows us the spiritual space to discover it again in a healthier and more grounded way.

For us at U Gathering it may feel like we had to give up church as we know it for Lent. After abruptly finding ourselves no longer able to host Sunday gatherings in the Masonic Lodge, we had to give up a practice that was normal and grounding to many of our weekly rhythms—gathering and worshiping as one on Sunday mornings. And while we are in hopeful conversations for securing a new and better site by Easter, many of us feel the loss of what we gave up during this Lent. Yet the wisdom of Lent suggests that giving something up, even just for a season, leaves more room to find something new, that we may be made more fully alive in God than before.

For the next three Sundays 2/25, 3/3, 3/10 we will gather in new and creative ways in smaller groups across the city for Brunch Church! I am deeply thankful for the hospitality of those who have opened up their homes, as well as many others who are contributing and leading in new ways during this season. My prayer for you and our entire community is that in giving up church as we know it for Lent, we will also take on getting to know one another more intimately during this season. As we rely greater on one another’s gifts and hospitality, as we enter each other’s homes as well as deeper into each other’s company, may we learn fuller what it means to be the church. And when we do gather again as one big congregation in our new site, may it be from a more fully alive posture, after having gone through the journey of Lent together.

Alongside you,

Rev. Paul Ortiz