Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Simon and his companions went to look for him, and when they found him, they exclaimed: "Everyone is looking for you!" – Mark 1:35-37
The annual J-Term Chapel coincided with Ash Wednesday this year, making last week's Chapel message especially appropriate.
On Ash Wednesday, many Christians are marked with a smudge of ashes on their foreheads. This "Day of Ashes" is a day of repentance and confession, and the ashes symbolize death as well, reminding the worshipper that man was made from dust and will return to dust. Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Lenten Season, a 40 day period commonly observed with some form of fasting.
Boston Trinity Academy alumnus Dan Mawhinney ('19) was this year's J-Term Chapel speaker. Beginning by reminiscing about his time in middle school, Dan said he was consumed with foosball. He played every chance he got, preferring to play foosball rather than eating his lunch. At the time, he said, playing foosball was the more enjoyable choice – even though he would go home hungry, tired, and groggy because he had not eaten.
Dan then segued into a discussion on famine. In the Old Testament, God often used famine to reprimand the nation of Israel for their disobedience and sin. His purposeful use of famine was to bring the nation to repentance and back to Himself. Famines were life-altering. Life could not continue in the same way in times of famine: food prices skyrocketed, robbery and acts of violence increased, there was more oppression of the poor, and sometimes people would migrate to another country.
At the end of the Old Testament there is another type of famine, Dan said: the famine of God's Word and of His Holy Spirit. Amos 8:11 says, "The days are coming," declares the Sovereign Lord, "when I will send a famine through the land— not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord." For 400 years after the last recorded prophetic writing, God was silent. This was impactful to a culture that was built around hearing from, loving, and serving God.
"So what does this have to do with J-Term [which explored social media this year]?" Dan asked. "We experience famine more than any of us think," he explained. "We experience a famine of the Word." Unlike Israel's famines, we have the ability to choose – to choose God, to pursue Him above anything else. "Often, though," he said, "we choose to pursue something else that seems more pleasurable at the time, things that can be good. Social media is just so easy. We have access to things that give instant pleasure like never before. Ours is a chosen famine."
Just as his skipping lunch to play foosball had an impact on Dan when he was in middle school, not regularly spending time with God has a profound impact on us. "This is the most refreshing and life-giving activity we can do," Dan admonished, "but we think pursuing social media can give us more pleasure than communing with God." The solution, Dan continued, is found in the scripture passage from Mark. Jesus was intensely busy and constantly being sought out. "Everyone is looking for you!" Yet He consistently "got away" to spend time with His father. "We believe the lie that other things will give us pleasure, or that we are too busy to spend time praying. Spending time with God will not solve all of your problems, but it will make them easier to bear," he encouraged.
Dan closed by issuing a challenge. "I challenge you to stop looking at the internet or to social media for times of refreshment, strength, courage, identity, or guidance. You are not too busy. Spending time daily in communion with God will help more than anything that anyone else has to say. I guarantee that it will change your life and you will find more refreshment there than anywhere else."