Lent - a first observance

The church I am currently a member of is semi-liturgical, meaning it follows the Christian calendar and celebrates such things as Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, and Easter in a formal way. Candles are lit on the Sundays leading up to Christmas, readings related to Christ's crucifixion are read on the Sunday's leading up to Easter, a Good Friday service is held, etc.

Many of these Christian holy days derive much of their symbolism from the pagan tribes that inhabited Europe. The birth of the sun at winter's solstice, the celebration of fertility in spring, the name Easter coming from the old name for the month of April which had been named after the pagan goddess Ēostre, etc. The argument could be made that many of the Jewish holy days were adapted from local Canaanite and Egyptian rites too though.

My concern in celebrating liturgical days is whether or not they point us toward Christ or not. I am disappointed by the consumerism at Christmas rather than a meditation on the incarnation. I am frustrated by the emphases on chocolate and giant pink rabbits at Easter rather than on Christ's suffering and death and resurrection. I am confused by the fünken bonfires they have in Germany during Lent. The conclusion I've discovered is that we choose whether or not we will be directed to Christ, whether we will find spiritual renewal or not.

This is why I chose to purposefully practice Lent this year for a first time. I chose to give up coffee. I'm not a coffee addict, but I have a cup most days since having lived in coffee rich Guatemala. I didn't think too much about what was going to happen, but rather decided to give something up and see what happened. So, on March 8 I drank my last coffee and began my fast the next morning on Ash Wednesday (but I didn't get to have the ash cross put on my forehead). I teach, so almost all the coworkers around me have a mug of coffee not too far away at all times, it wouldn't be a cakewalk avoiding coffee.

What I've experienced is a constant reminder of the coming celebration of the cross and resurrection. I was surprised by the power of coffee in my life, how in its absence I was forced over and over and over to contemplate why I had given it up. I have been refreshed over and over through the reminder of Jesus' resurrection these past 45 days (No one told me that Sundays were exempt from the Lenten fast, so I've been extra self-depriving).

1 comment:

kevininspace said...

My wife and I also decided, for the first time, to observe Lent. We gave up our microwave oven. Now for those of you who don't have a microwave, you might scoff and say "Big deal", but the convenience of microwaving was something we were willing to give up, adding a daily reminder to be patient while waiting for the oven or stovetop to gently warm your leftovers. Seeing as we also strive to declutter and simplify our life and apartment, packing up the microwave on March 8th and storing it in the back of the closet gave us a sense of what it would be like to remove items from our life.

We haven't looked back and the microwave still sits in the closet. I think it will stay there.