Tuesday, February 20, 2007

What Will You Give Up?

Regardless of your faith it is pretty hard to miss Ash Wednesday - the official start of Lent. As a child and young adult I struggled to understand the point of not eating meat on Fridays and giving up chocolate. My "thing" with chocolate goes way back. Until recently I would say I still did not get Lent. To me, being told when to fast, what to sacrifice, and even what to "give up" suggests that my mind and body can participate but my heart does not have to engage. If that's the case, it would seem the point is missed.

Ash Wednesday got its name from an ancient tradition of throwing ashes on one's head to demonstrate sorrow for sins. Lent has been on the chuch calendar since the first or second century and by the 7th century, Ash Wednesday became the "start date" for Lent.

Jesus spent time in contemplation and time on the mountain in prayer. Ecclesiastes 3 tells us "there is a time for everything"; the Apostle Paul was in a hurry to reach Jerusalem before Pentecost (Acts 20:16); these and other passages seem to indicate the early Christians observed certain sacred periods. Maybe there's something to that.

Here's what I think - just because the ritual from my youth held no lasting meaning for me does not mean Lent is not worthy of observance. While the Bible does not offer Lenten menus, it does say, "Prepare your minds for action; be self-controlled; set your hope fully on the grace to be given you when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:13)

I can get on board with that -- no matter what I'm eating.

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