The Feast of Carnival (literally translated: Farewell to Meat) also known as Mardi Gras (or Fat Tuesday) is preparation for the Lenten Fast. Lent is the forty days (not counting Sundays) between Ash Wednesday and Holy Saturday during which we prepare our hearts and our lives for the experience of the Last Supper, the Cross, and eventually the Resurrection on Easter Sunday. This was traditionally done through fasting and penitence, contemplation and prayer. But for most folk these days, the Carnival never ends; there is no Fast to follow the Feast. People may give something up or take something on; some will participate in a “Carbon Fast” seeking to reduce their own impact on the planet by not driving and saving energy in other ways; but overall, the feast never ends.
It isn’t that we don’t recognize Lent, just that in our culture of consumption the value of self-denial has been lost. I’m going to challenge you not only to fast (if that is your spiritual discipline), but to make an observance each day of Lent and to make attending our soup supper 5pm-6:45pm and evening worship at 7pm your Wednesday observance. Follow this downloadable list, or make your own – with one observance for each of the Forty days. Remember that we don’t count Sundays because the early church recognized that each Sunday should be a “Little Easter” a celebration of Resurrection each week. Still, during Lent, we refrain from Alleluias in worship and we follow Jesus’ journey from the mountaintop of the Transfiguration to Jerusalem and the Cross.
No council or creed ever defined a single meaning of the Cross or of Jesus’ Crucifixion and no one has ever been declared a heretic for their theory of what the Cross means. Instead, most modern theologians hold to two or more of the different theories. Our Wednesday night Lenten worship this year will focus on exploring some of the layers of meaning the Church has placed on the Cross and the Crucifixion as we walk with Jesus on the road to Jerusalem.
I wish you a Holy Lent,