Summary: This is a service for a "Lenten Lunch" gathering at the beginning of Lent, asking "Why should Protestants give something up for Lent?"

Acts 14:8-17

8 In Lystra there sat a man crippled in his feet, who was lame from birth and had never walked. 9 He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed 10 and called out, "Stand up on your feet!" At that, the man jumped up and began to walk. 11 When the crowd saw what Paul had done, they shouted in the Lycaonian language, "The gods have come down to us in human form!" 12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul they called Hermes because he was the chief speaker. 13 The priest of Zeus, whose temple was just outside the city, brought bulls and wreaths to the city gates because he and the crowd wanted to offer sacrifices to them. 14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of this, they tore their clothes and rushed out into the crowd, shouting: 15 "Men, why are you doing this? We too are only men, human like you. We are bringing you good news, telling you to turn from these worthless things to the living God, who made heaven and earth and sea and everything in them. 16 In the past, he let all nations go their own way. 17 Yet he has not left himself without testimony: He has shown kindness by giving you rain from heaven and crops in their seasons; he provides you with plenty of food and fills your hearts with joy."

“False gods”

An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone. An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more. This happens yet again.

The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the “Man Who Orders Three Beers.”

Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. "I don't mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers?"

'Tis odd, isn't it?" the man replies, "You see, I have two brothers, one in America, the other in Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping the family together."

The bartender and the whole town was pleased with this answer, and soon the “Man Who Orders Three Beers” became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. He takes the two beers to the man and says, “I’m so sorry to learn about the passing of your brother. Please have my condolences.”

“What are you talking about? Me brothers are fine!” The bartender looked shocked, then replied, “But you only ordered two beers.” “Ah, no… me brothers are fine. It’s just that I’ve given up beer for Lent!”

Giving something up for Lent… I did this little experiment last year, and I wonder how we are doing this year: raise your hand high if you have given something up for lent this year. If not… maybe you just need a little help deciding. There is a story of two boys who were talking about Lent… one boy says, “My dad gave up eating all sweets for Lent… and my mom gave up watching all TV. So I figured I had to do my part too… so I decided to give up broccoli!” Perhaps you can give up broccoli! It is not too late. We are only 7 days into lent… just avoid broccoli twice as much this next week and you’d be caught up!

Not a lot of people actually give something up. They don’t see the point in it I suppose. I mean… Why give something up at all? And on another note… why have Lent at all? Easter… we get! Why not just focus on Easter! People LOVE to hear the good news of Easter. People who don’t come to church all year long will come to church on Easter. We should make Easter longer! We could take a page from our Hebrew history and turn Easter into a party with eight crazy nights… like Hanukah! I think we’d see more participation with something like that! We can get behind a celebration. It’s harder getting behind self-sacrifice.

I mean… really… what if we all took Lent seriously? What would we do if we gave up our favorite things? What would we do if we had no TV to watch? Had no books to read? Had no Facebook or e-mail to check? Had no “Dave’s” to go to for coffee? What if we had no distractions in our life? What on earth would we do?

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