Fish sandwiches and Catholics
Lent starts tomorrow.
I didn’t grow up observing Lent, really. I was always reminded of it when fish sandwiches went on sale at McDonald’s, and I knew it had something to do with Catholics. I wasn’t sure what it had to do with fish.
But eventually I came to appreciate Lent (and the church calendar in general), because it’s one of the ways we stay connected to the wisdom of those who’ve walked out their faith in Jesus before us.
Evangelicals in general haven’t tended to pay much attention to tradition. I used to see it as cold and dead, just “going through the motions” mindlessly because that’s what we’ve always done.
And certainly that’s the way some people engage in church traditions, but I realized I was throwing the baby of tradition out with the bathwater of traditionalism. Eventually I began to appreciate the wisdom embedded into many of the ancient traditions handed down to us by our ancestors in the faith.
Evangelicals need to observe Lent, in part, because our troubling lack of tradition leaves us untethered from the past. A church without the great traditions of the faith is like a church with amnesia. Rejecting tradition means submitting ourselves and our churches to the tyranny of the relevant, the oligarchy of the innovative, and the arrogance of the avant-garde. More than ever before, the church needs to rediscover our tradition.”
So what is Lent?
Lent is the forty days between Ash Wednesday (tomorrow) and Good Friday (except Sundays). During Lent, we embrace a kind of “wilderness experience,” like Israel in the desert for forty years, or Jesus in the wilderness for forty days.
We embrace practices that help us pay closer attention to our lives, and all the ways we tend to numb our pain and distance ourselves from what’s really going on. It’s a season of repentance and reflection, a time for fasting and prayer. We walk with Jesus toward the cross.
This is why we want to observe Lent together at The Table. This Sunday we’ll have a conversation on these themes at our gathering, but to prompt a few ideas to think about this week, here are some of the ways people have traditionally observed Lent:
- Ash Wednesday prayer service
- Fasting: giving something up for Lent (sugar, alcohol, TV, or Facebook, for example)
- Friday Fast: no food after supper on Thursday, until sundown Friday.
- A rhythm of daily prayer and Scripture reading
- Giving to the poor
- Holy Week worship services (Maundy Thursday and Good Friday)
The journey of Lent moves us toward the cross with Jesus, and ends with a celebration of resurrection on Easter Sunday. Let’s talk about what the journey looks like for our community!