It was the pancakes. That’s what caught my attention. Shrove Tuesday – a sacred day of pancake eating. How awesome is that?
There wasn’t much talk of liturgical calanders in my Evangelical upbringing. Just cautionary tales and the whispered suggestion that they might, POSSIBLY be Real Christians, but just barely. Poor, meaningless automotans with their empty rituals. And then there’s the Catholics. A superstitious bunch, I was taught, barely discernable from the heathens; who prayed to statues, and for some reason, like to eat fish on Friday.
We weren’t very comfortable with anyone who wasn’t Us. Like the Pentecostals. And the United Church. And the Mormons. And the Agnostics. And the very scariest creatures of all: the Atheists (word is, they have an “Agenda” and we should watch out for that).
My world didn’t stay that small. Most Evangelical circles have opened up somewhat in the past decade (or two… or okay fine… three) since I was a child. The popular Mitford book series opened up the strange world of Episcopalians to many. These days, it’s not unusual to hear a discussion on Lectio Divina in a Baptist bible study. Or a more casual Stations of the Cross set up in the local community church.
As I got to know (and love and be related to) actual people who followed liturgical tradition, I began to see the unique beauty of it (and not just the pancakes). It may not be the style of worship I’m used to, but it is deeply meaningful and steeped in history. Ancient traditions so much more powerful that the latest born-again fad at the local Blessings bookstore. Maybe WE are the ones who have been missing out.
Which brings me back to the pancakes. Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent. When you get your house in order both figuratively with confession and literally (by using up rich foods like sugar, dairy and eggs) before a period of fasting or plain eating. Enter: hallowed consumption of pancakes.
Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. These 40 days (not counting Sundays) are a time for the faithful to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter Sunday. It is a period of fasting or self denial, prayer, contemplation, examining oneself, and starting over.
For most of us from an Evangelical tradition, or no tradition at all, it is known as: Another-Wednesday-Just-Like-Any-Other. But who’s to say we can’t make it more? Lent is a good idea for EVERYONE and here’s why:
Be part of history.
Hundreds of years ago there was a tired, middle-aged (though still hip and young-at-heart) Mom just like me, who set apart these six weeks to live simply and refocus spiritually. That I might walk alongside her and the women who came before her and women who came after and the women who will come after me is something amazing. The Church (big C) is more than the congregation of my home church or other people in my country who may check the “Christian” box of a questionnaire; it is a family of faith that encircles the globe and stretches back throughout history. When we worship through Lent, we worship together.
We have so much.
More than any people who have ever lived. More than any who celebrated Lent before us. We are a culture and a generation of so much. So much to do. So much to see. So much to know. So much to eat. So much to distract and burden and overwhelm. We need Lent more than ever.
It’s a prelude to the feast.
Lent is not about asceticism (a harsh mentality where deprivation is the ultimate spiritual virtue). It’s preperation for the ultimate celebration. For those of us who worship Jesus, Easter is more than another stat holiday. It’s more than chocolate eggs and pretty dresses and church choirs. But if we don’t put the time and effort into preparing ourselves, even an inspiring sermon and touching music will not soak soul deep.
Lent is a good idea for everyone. The Evangelicals, and the Catholics, and the Pentecostals… and the Agnostics, and even the Athiests. We could ALL use a Spiritual Detox.
Make Lent your own this year.
So here’s me, fasting every night from 7 pm until 7 am (which doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but for me it really is).
This year I’ll be reading through Show Me the Way by Henri Nouwen
Lent and Dying to Yourself (video with Diana Butler Bass)
Why Evangelicals Need Lent by Tim Suttle
Get Lent by Andrew Santella