Mardi Gras is here! What an exciting time. There will be beads, colorful costumes, eating, drinking, and some vomiting….
Some of us will even take part in Mardi Gras activities. We’ll go out and get an overpriced, neon colored, slushy drinks and dance with our friends.
Eat, Drink, and be Merry for tomorrow we’ll deny! Tomorrow begins the season of Lent.
Mardi Gras literally translates into Fat Tuesday. Traditionally is came about as a day one could eat fatty meats before an extended period of fasting required during the Lenten season.
I like the English tradition a little better. They call it “Shrove Tuesday, which comes from the old english word, “Shrive.” The word, “shrive” means confession. So to simplify, Shrove Tuesday is the day where you take part in the most epic forms of debauchery, for during Lent you will confess and be absolved.
The idea of Lent is not Scriptural. In fact, no one can definitively agree as to how the season of Lent began. My favorite origin story comes from the great theologian Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas called for an extended period of fasting from meat. Why? Meat increased semen in men, which led to lust, which led to children born out of wedlock.
So is it possible that we observe this Lenten season because of antiquated pseudoscience? Do we observe Lent because we think that if we give up something then God will give blessing? Is it a convenient time to fix a bad habit? Is it something we do out of habit? Why do we observe Lent?
I can tell you why our church observes Lent.
I’ve had too many experiences of pain, hurt, and exhaustion.
I’ve comforted those who have mourned for their children and am unable to even conceive of that grief.
There are too many of us who have cried out “Why!” and never receive an answer.
Many in our city feel pain, abandonment, the effects of abuse, hurt, and doubt.
And so our church observes Lent as a simple recognition that we’ve come to the end of our logical powers and acknowledge there’s too much that we can never grasp or understand. We observe Lent because if provides space for us to wrestle with the mysteries of death, life, God, and the power of the resurrection.
As my friend and pastor Ryan Gear says,
“We wish we had answers to all of the questions that intrigue us, but we do not. What we have is a choice. Either we’re open to mystery and grow into more whole people, or we close our minds to what we don’t understand and remain the same.
Lent reminds us that perhaps faith and spirituality are not about answering all of our questions but about the choice to remain open to the mysteries of life.”
I want to challenge our church not to give something up during Lent. I want to challenge us to add something. Add something that allows us to embrace and wrestle through the mystery of Jesus Christ’s death and impending resurrection. I want us to add something that pushes us to grow wholly in the beauty that rises from ashes.
This Lenten season perhaps it’s time for us to start journaling again. It changes us when we’re able to bring forth feelings, pain, and hope.
Perhaps we’ll decided to read the Gospels of Jesus Christ. Who is this man who suffers greatly with us?
I challenge each of us to attend an Ash Wednesday service. Worship with others in this city who recognize that our ability to understand pales in comparison with the unimaginable ways of our God.
I’ll be reading the book of Job. There are 38 beautiful chapters composed of story, poetry, pain, and redemption. I invite you to read along with me.
As you hold your neon colored, overpriced, slushy drink this Fat Tuesday I challenge each of us not to enter into Lent for the sake of transactions or culture. Don’t use this time for mindless confession or to lose weight from your refusal of fatty meats. Do not observe Lent because of the timeless words of Thomas Aquinas.
I challenge you to enter into the season of Lent because it just might be the very place that you connect with God who suffers with us, works in our pain, and ultimately brings about the wonderful, mysterious, unimaginable, beauty of the resurrection.