And so, there was much merry-making and pancake-eating in many a house of worship in Christendom tonight. For today is Mardi Gras… or Shrove Tuesday… that opportunity to have a grand old time and party heartily…. for tomorrow we hit a time of inward reflection called Ash Wednesday.
Ash Wednesday always has seemed like such a downer day in the Christian calendar. Everybody gets so somber, and glum, and makes a pledge of what they will “give up” for Lent. No wine, no beer, no chocolate, no coffee, no bread. Basically, no fun. There will be no fun allowed during Lent! (This last line is best said with a stereotypical German accent).
As I’ve noted in a previous entry, if you are still looking around for what you plan to “give up” for Lent, I have an idea: try giving up “tolerating” other people and instead embrace the idea of really seeing the humanity, the Christ-like humanity, of that person or group you merely “tolerate”. Naturally, I’m talking about the LGBT community as the ones who must endure being simply “tolerated” by our straight brothers and sisters. But I’m hoping most people who find their way to this blog are not the folks who “tolerate” gay people.
For me, I have found it impossible to take a simple “no coffee for Lent” approach to this season of reflection and contemplation on Christ. To not drink coffee, or eat meat or whatever, does very little to make me think on God; instead, it just makes me crabby and I want to complain that I’m not getting to have my coffee until we’ve sung, “Jesus Christ has ris’n today… Alleluia!”, and I’m bitter, dammit!
And I don’t think that’s the point.
Besides, high introvert that I am with hymns streaming through my brain every day, Lent seems to take me to a place of much deeper reflection that I then must take out from its deeper place, and make part of how I will approach the world each day. And, with any luck, whatever I gain through this Lenten experience will not be merely a 40-day exercise, but will become part of who I am from here on out. Last year, it was an attempt to follow the words Mother Lee F. Shafer included in her homily: “Fast on fear and feast on faith.” This year, it seems to be centered on my heart… and particularly to look at how hard it has become. Why has my heart hardened? In the case of Pharaoh, the text in Exodus says that it was God who hardened Pharaoh’s heart to all that Moses was telling him. I do not believe God has hardened my heart. I think this is largely my own doing, and now I’m being called to task to consider ways to soften the edges.
Create in me a clean heart, O God,
And renew a right spirit within me.
These are the words from Psalm 51 that were with me coming into Lent last year, and have become part of my prayers every Sunday. And seems quite appropriate for me during Lent this year, too. With God, I can hopefully take some steps to change in me those things that need changing and the reaper can work on the weeds that might be choking the good seeds that need attention and causing the ground of my heart to grow hard.
Deliver me from death, O God,
and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness
O God of my salvation.
Out of death, and into eternal life. A constant movement out of Good Friday and into Easter. May I grow and learn during this time. Amen!