Well, not really. But that was the historical referent. And it’s where the tradition of pancakes on Shrove Tuesday comes from — people would rid their households of rich foods from which they were to abstain during Lent, including butter and eggs. And what better way to do that than to make pancakes?! 🙂 Truthfully, while we had pancakes this morning at the CBM office, it had little to do with ridding ourselves of certain foods. But it does lead to an interesting question: what will we “give up” for Lent this year? Or, more deeply, should we?
“Lent” was not a part of my faith-vocabulary as a child. Christmas was, Easter and Good Friday were, and Advent was (kind of). So, why bother with Lent? Here’s why: let’s face it — God’s people in Western culture are not awash in awe and wonder, and our ability to deeply contemplate the mysteries of God is anaemic. I sometimes wonder whether God looks at His people and, as Aslan says to the children in Chronicles of Narnia, says “You do not yet look so happy as I mean you to be.” Despite our level of material wealth (or, perhaps, because of it?), the rates of depression in North America keep climbing as does our consumption of entertainment and Prozac. It sometimes looks like we’re all desperately trying to avoid staring into the abyss of meaningless. And despite the fact that followers of Jesus are participating in God’s stunningly creative activity of redeeming all things, and despite the fact that we get to participate in the life of the Trinity now that we have faith in Christ, yet too often our lives still seem strangely similar to the lives of those around us. (I say this of myself as well.)
Perhaps this season of the Church Year can help us. Like any religious pattern in general, or like any aspect of the Church Year in specific, it is not intended to be a straitjacket but rather scaffolding upon which we can build space for God into our lives and spirits. It’s a chance to re-remember and re-locate our selves into the life of God and into the story of God’s mission. Lent is a time to dust off our souls and hose off the cobwebs and breathe in deeply of the Spirit while expelling the stale air of our culture’s God-substitutes. There is no one right way to do this — the kind of practices one establishes during Lent really depend on the individual. Here are two lists of potential practices, to spark your own thinking:
1. “40 Ideas for Lent”
And here’s a great online devotional resource that I’ll be using myself: “The Lent Project at Biola University“.
Just as Jesus turns towards Jerusalem and walks intentionally into His suffering and death so that new life could be resurrected, Lent is our chance to turn towards the core of our souls and walk intentionally into God’s refining and cleansing so that the right things might die and so that New Creation can be born. In us.