Love Your Neighbor Nickel

At a recent clergy gathering I revealed that our church’s Lenten practice this year is to hand out wooden nickels. They gave me a sympathetic look and two of them attempted to quickly change the subject. Then I showed them the coins. Instead of a credit for a free drink at the local bar our coins say “Love God” on one side and “Love Your Neighbor as Yourself” on the other. Thanks to designer Pat Bausch we even have the church name encircling the coin. I explained that the coin is a physical reminder of our Lenten theme, “Love God and Your Neighbor–the tough cases.”

As unorthodox as our coins may sound, they are actually firmly based in traditional Lenten practices. The usual thing to do on Lent is to give up something–perhaps a food group, or a habit, or a meal. We do not voluntarily fast just to deny ourselves some pleasure in our lives. As some point in Christian history the Lenten fast may have been about self-flagellation, but not now. To give up something is a powerful commitment to a new way, and a constant reminder of our highest priorities. For instance, if I chose to give up meat for Lent I make a decision to eat in a more conscious manner that is healthy for me and the planet, but, also, each time that i reach for a burger, out of habit, I am reminded of my highest values. I am reminded of and reaffirm my commitment to a new way in every routine craving and gesture.

Handing out our Love God coins are variation on this spiritual practice. Hopefully, each of our members will keep their Lenten coin with their change and keys. And each time they reach for their keys they may feel that odd disc. And it will hopefully serve as a reminder to focus our efforts on how we may love others.

I hope you have our coin. If not, stop by church and pick one up. This Sunday I will continue my sermon series by looking at how we may love our neighbors, regardless of their faith.

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