The Lengthening Days of Lent
Isn’t it wonderful how our late afternoons are getting brighter and lighter these days? It may be too soon to dare say out loud that a hint of spring is in the air, but I trust it soon will be. Spiritually, one of the telltale signs of that hint of spring is that Lent is just about to begin. Next Tuesday is a day called Mardi Gras, meaning “Fat Tuesday,” which in some places is also called Shrove Tuesday; shrove being an Olde English word meaning ‘to receive absolution of sins.’ Being that this was the day before Lent began, people would customarily have a feast to use up the fat in the pantry, often with a big plate of pancakes, thus making yourself and your home ready for the more austere days of Lent, which were days of fasting and self-denial. You gave things up, you see, to more identify with Christ’s suffering in the wilderness, a Biblical text we always visit on the first Sunday of Lent.
It comes as no surprise that in some places, the feasting and merriment of Mardi Gras grew from a single day’s observance to weeks and weeks of festivals and parades (yeah, we’re looking at you, New Orleans and Brazil). Yet, traditionally, those events were a reaction to the sober arrival of Ash Wednesday, and the whole somber forty-day season of Lent. (Fun fact — when you count the forty days, you never include Sundays since they’re considered little Easters!)
Now, Family of Christ is the type of Christian church that definitely still observes Lent, which is a word that means ‘springtime’ and we also get our word ‘lengthen’ from Lent. On Sundays, we’ll be developing this theme: GOD WANTS MORE FOR YOU. Please note the little word ‘for’ in that theme title. So often, Christians are convinced God wants more from them, and they are burdened under the stress of not ever being good enough, holy enough, or righteous enough. We want to help you visit the Bible texts this year by thinking about how God truly wants more for you in this life.
On Wednesdays, we have some devotional preachers who will derive their inspiration from the book, What We Talk About When We Talk About God, by Rob Bell. Our church staff will be reading this book together, and we invite you to do so as well (the book can be found online or at your local bookstore. We’ve made up bookmarks which are available in the church office, along with a few extra copies of that book at $10 each. Rob Bell is an excellent writer and I know you will find the book accessible and interesting.
Wednesdays beginning March 4 through April 1 we’ll gather at 11:45am at the Davanni’s in Chanhassen. There we’ll enjoy a meal and devotion with anyone who is able to come. The noontime devotion leader will also speak at midweek worship services on Wednesday nights at 6 pm, utilizing Holden Evening Prayer. *Note: Because of the musical and spring break, we will only meet the evenings of March 4, 18 and April 1.
I do encourage Christians to either give something up for Lent in a spirit of discipleship, self-denial, and sacrifice. Maybe you give up chocolate, or a favorite drink, or desserts, or single use plastic. Or, if you prefer, you could instead take something on for Lent. Maybe you are more prayerful, read a new devotional book, or give to a special charity. But in some way that holds meaning for you – find a way to stretch and grow your faith as a follower of Jesus. Lent is a beautiful time to re-apply that kind of discipline, even as the days lengthen, and the light stretches out, and the warmth of the sun returns ever so slowly, yet ever so surely.
See you in church! –Pastor Josh