By Jessie Dye, Program & Outreach Director
Remember, Man, that thou art dust and into dust thou shalt return.
We at Earth Ministry take Lent very seriously. Though from a wide variety of Christian denominations (Roman Catholic, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Lutheran, UCC, Episcopal) the journey and the discipline of Lent is something that means a great deal to each of us. We fling ourselves into fasting and prayer as enthusiastically as partiers in the French Quarter let the good times roll.
It’s not that we are ascetics in general. No one can get into the spirit of a costume party like the staff of Earth Ministry, and we have been known to let loose (most recently at the fabulous cocktail party at the Governor’s Mansion after Environmental Lobby Day). So it‘s not that we are a morose and sober bunch. In fact, we are fun loving and up-beat, and each of us has our share of guilty pleasures.
It’s just that during this long and recently crashed gilded age we’ve just been though when consumption was virtually a household deity, Earth Ministry preached simplicity and sustainability. It’s one thing to enjoy a good party, another to become addicted to endless stuff, be it food, plastic toys, cars or designer jeans. The real addiction we rail against is the mistaking of stuff for the presence of God.
Lent is a natural fit for Christians who wish to live in balance rather than excess. It’s the season when we let go of our own bad habits and feel the pain of saying no to ourselves. In the void left by our fasting comes awareness of our true feelings and needs. Into that empty space comes the possibility of intimacy with ourselves, with each other, and with God.
In making this a fast from our own excess and from environmentally destructive practices, we honor the Creator of this good Earth and the Redeemer whose journey we witness in the six weeks ahead. It’s a small price to pay, given that He whose story we follow in this season gave everything for us.
This year, I’m returning to the Irish Catholic traditions of my childhood. The adults in those years were forbidden to eat between meals, a mandatory fast for all grown-up Catholics; we kids only had to give up candy. And even now, no meat on Friday is still required in Lent. So I’m eating only three meals a day (eating a meal means I’m sitting down!) and a planned snack (again, sitting down at a table). We’ll be vegetarians on Ash Wednesday, for six Fridays, and during Holy Week. No more grazing through the kitchen after dinner, looking for love in all the wrong places. No more Dick’s milkshakes just because I crave one. We are moving down the food chain for six weeks.
I will let you know what I learn as I make the real choice to organize my life around something besides food. It’s a way to practice simplicity each day, like monks observing the hours. The other staff of Earth Ministry will write in this blog on their Lenten experiences as well so remember to check back each day for a new post. It’s a joyful thing to practice the Lenten discipline with a team. And it’s very satisfying to walk our talk!