Lent Calls Us to ‘Forsake Worldly Pleasures’
Rori Francis Blakeney I have a confession. No, I won’t be going to a confessional booth. There is no need to call the pastor. It’s a good confession. I love music – all kinds of music, but especially hymns. It does not matter if it is a Wesley standard or one of Charles Tindley’s awe-inspiring classics. Somehow, as ancient as they may seem, hymns convey the perfect message for me in the midst of the complicated life I sometimes live. Don’t we all live complicated lives? School, work, family, and church compete for our attention daily. Family, friends, social clubs, and civic organizations bite at our heels with their requests. We are truly standing at the crossroads of life where many things intersect. So as I braced myself for another Lenten Season, (the forty weekdays from Ash Wednesday until Easter) where Christians intensify their practice of spiritual disciplines – particularly fasting and penitence in preparation for Easter, it came to me – a hymn, I Surrender All. In the midst of my humming, the second stanza took new meaning, All to Jesus I surrender;/Humbly at His feet I bow,/Worldly pleasures all forsaken;/Take me, Jesus, take me now. Worldly pleasures all forsaken! Those four words grabbed me. I came to a screeching halt. What worldly pleasures haven’t I forsaken? So, I ask you what worldly pleasure haven’t you forsaken. During this Lenten Season, the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) has called us to forsake the worldly pleasure of alcohol. That’s right; we have been challenged to give up the bottle as we take on the cross. It’s a bold, breath-taking call that will challenge many of us in ways that we never knew were possible. But, it is a worthy challenge. As a son of alcoholic, I know first-hand of its deadly effects. I witnessed the destruction and havoc it wreaked on my father’s life and ultimately his premature death. I am glad that GBCS has launched this initiative to reaffirm the church’s historic commitment (¶162 L, United Methodist Book of Discipline). No, this is not about leading a Prohibition Campaign. But, it is about the need to have frank, honest discussions about alcohol and the impact it has on society. So, there you have it. Will you join fellow United Methodists in forsaking the worldly pleasure of alcohol? Yet, don’t just give up the booze; take on the commitment to talk about alcohol in your local community. This Lent, you have the opportunity to surrender all and take up the cross. Lift it high that the love of Christ might be seen and bring wholeness to those broken by alcoholism. Alcohol Free Lent Conversation Starters: What is my church doing about alcohol? What treatment ministries in my community can I support? How have I been an agent of God’s love to an alcoholic and his/her family? How does the legalization of harmful products impact our thoughts and perceptions of usage of those items?