Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Why We Don't Celebrate Lent
Someone asked me today about lenten celebrations and Ash Wednesay.
We certainly see the benefit of fasting whether that be meat of Fridays or total fasts as efforts to draw close to Jesus. Often when people set apart certain days and seasons as “special or holy”- other days are profaned. For instance, yesterday was Fat Tuesday- the last day of Mardi Gras. The reason for the extreme partying and over indulging and debauchery is because Ash Wednesday begins Lent. The idea that is promoted is Lent is holy but we can sin with impunity on the other days. That of course is unbiblical, there are no days that it is 'okay to sin'. So we see little benefit in setting apart the 40 days before the crucifixion as special as a church. I do, however, spend time drawing close to the Lord with prayer and fasting during these days preceeding good Friday as an individual. And I think there is benefit in thinking on the cross all year round.
Certainly there is nothing wrong with a pepper and egg sandwich on Fridays (smile!). But the decision should be individual's. As the calendar moves toward Good Friday it is good to speak with your children about the last week of Jesus’ life. I think that the Roman Catholic Church devised the tradition of giving up something for Lent as a way of identifying with the sufferings of Christ. While at first blush that sounds noble, the scriptural understanding of identifying with Christ has more to do with living a life of righteousness than giving up Bubble Gum, or ice Cream. For instance, Paul writes in Philippians 3.10 "I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead." Clearly, Paul's concern is not dietary in that he emphasizes our becomeing totally submissive to God the father (the way Jesus was at the cross). That kind of spiritual growth is year round and not limited to lent.
Dietary surrenders and the like can lead to a dangerous pseudo-spirituality (see Col 2.20-3.11)We might even think that we have "done something good" when in reality we have found a 'religious' way around being obedient to God and becoming more like Jesus. (Eph 5.1-2)
So we don’t have a special service for Ash Wednesday.