Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Fasting from Lent (relax..just kidding...sort of)

Before I came to Redeemer in 1997 there was a modified observation of the church calendar with particular recognition given to Advent/Christmas and Holy Week/Easter. We acknowledge various church calendar dates on the bulletin, but we don't practice Lent officially. I have never been compelled to suggest altering our practice to the Session, nor have any of the elders seen the need to do more than we currently do in so far as special observations are concerned.

I am very comfortable with our practice but do not suggest differing decisions and practices by other churches are somehow wrong. I'm only blogging on this because of how many questions I get about church calendar issues in general and Lent in particular. Since we're so "liturgical" in our worship approach, I understand and appreciate the question.

I grew up Roman Catholic so I understand their take on Lent. I also know plenty of protestants who observe ("celebrate" hardly seems the right word) Lent. I think most Lenten observations are within the pale of Christian liberty, but I don't prefer making a big deal of it.

Don't get me wrong, fasting is biblical. I practice it from time to time myself and find it very edifying. I just don't think fasting ought to be a "look what I'm doing thing". I know some, probably many, would argue that Lenten fasts are not about bragging or telling everyone how holy you are- I get that. For me, however, slapping ashes on my head and talking of what I'm giving ups seems off base. I just wish I could give up sinning. The rest of it is a freedom I have in Christ, so why give it up...unless it has become sinful? There's no merit in publicly stating you are giving something up that God doesn't say you have to give up. Jesus doesn't love you more for giving up something that's not a sin. In fact, Jesus doesn't love you more or less for anything you do. Now, fasting is helpful to draw you closer to dependence upon God, that's great, I just think it should be done privately as the need arises (I know...when don't we need to be more dependent upon God?). It's a matter of Christian liberty in my opinion. Many would say Lenten fasts are for the purpose of identifying with the suffering of Christ as preparation for Holy Week and Easter. OK? If you say so. I just don't see how giving up Diet Coke or Facebook necessarily accomplishes such a goal- but again- Christian liberty. People in my church come from a wide range of Christian traditions. I actually provide a bible reading/family worship schedule for those who want to do something special during Lent as a build up to Holy Week and Easter. Did I mention Christian liberty?

There are plenty of traditions we Christians observe- some are helpful, others not so much. I love the specific focus on Christ's passion, death, and resurrection that Holy week promotes, I'm just not very in to the gloom and ashes of the usual Lent observations (those that actually last past Ash Wednesday). Our denomination allows for a pretty wide latitude of practices (despite some who will cry Regulative Principle of Worship foul), so our Session leads the way it does. I will say that a time of quiet introspection about my sin as a way to prepare me to think about the Lord's sacrifice for me is extremely helpful and....well...a big part of the Lord's Supper. I'm glad we celebrate that every week.

Well, that's really all I have to say about Lent so don't expect me to get in to responding to comments. Don't forget Christian liberty on this subject.

But...if I did observe Lent, I would give up petting dogs, eating beans, going to Home Depot, and hunting during March. How's that?


Woody Woodward said...

Some sacrifices you are willing to suffer! How about giving up on eating asparagus? Might as well suffer away on that one too.
Have to admit, you brought forth some mighty powerful points. I will print this one off and take it home to Cheri, who gave up sweets for Lent. Me, I was going to give up some might fine Single Malts, but you just talked me out of it.

Roger Mann said...

I will say that a time of quiet introspection about my sin as a way to prepare me to think about the Lord's sacrifice for me is extremely helpful and....well...a big part of the Lord's Supper. I'm glad we celebrate that every week.

Extremely helpful and extremely Biblical (1 Corinthians 11:23-34) -- Lent? Not so much...

"Do this in remembrance of Me... For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death till He comes."

My take on Lent is this: If Jesus wanted us to observe a week of fasting and self-denial in preparation for the celebration of His death and resurrection (aka, "Holy week"), then why didn't He say so? Why did He simply command us, "Do this in remembrance of Me," referring solely to the Lord's Supper?

Brother Titus said...

I was recently thinking that if I were Catholic, for Lent, I'd give up eating fish on those Fridays and eat red meat, or chicken, turkey, or pork. Maybe a couple of nice BLTs on one of those Fridays. Or, BLTs on hoagie-, or sub-, buns. Pastor, has your wife canned any of your garden tomatoes? If so, send some over.