SLOAN COLUMN: Ponderings on what to give up for Lent
Today marks the beginning of the season of Lent within the Christian church. With it comes the marking of a multitude of foreheads with ashes and vows to “fast” from something until Easter Sunday.
Lent, a time of reflection and repentance leading up to the celebratory remembrance of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, is not biblically mandated. It is, however, recognized and practiced by almost all mainstream Christian denominations.
The origins of Lent are actually a bit foggy. Members of the early Roman Catholic Church recognized a season called Quadragesima, which in Latin means 'Fortieth' leading up to Easter. Present Roman Catholic tenants signify the first Sunday of Lent as Quadragesima Sunday.
For centuries, the Greek Orthodox Church has celebrated Tessarakoste, its equivalent to Lent. In Greek, Tessarakoste, meaning “fortieth.”
It’s easy to make the biblical connection to the number 40 is easy to pick up. The Israelites’ 40 years of wandering in the desert; Noah and his 40-day long flash flood; and Jesus and his 40 days in the wilderness to name just three.
It’s also easy to understand the purpose of fasting, or giving up something, during the Lenten season. What isn’t always so easy is deciding what to give up.
There are the standard items to abstain from during Lent. This list would include meat, candy, soft drinks, alcohol, tobacco, and swearing. Some opt to go the technology route and distance themselves from television, or maybe just Netflix, or, heaven forbid, Facebook.
Then there are those creative souls who find unique ways to meet their Lenten fasting requirements. One web site I found listed the following as things people have sacrificially surrendered (my comments are included in parenthesis):
Shopping at Target (Seriously?); taking hot showers (Please don’t); coffee (Not gonna happen); car audio (Would not last long); comfy bedding or even your bed (Sounds a little extreme); your reflection (Would make shaving really hard); make-up (What do you think, ladies?); and limited clothing (This means wearing only three or four simple outfits for the entire 40 days. Now get your mind out of the gutter and go repent).
As I switch from editor to pastor mode I offer you this reminder. Choosing what to fast or surrender during Lent can be serious or fun. The important thing is that you replace the time that would be spent on what you are surrendering with time spent with God. If you do not do that then you are missing the entire point of Lent. It needs to make you think about sacrifice, particularly the sacrifice in regards to faith.
There is one thing I would encourage you NOT to fast from this Lenten season - spaghetti.
Why, you say? Well, I’m glad you asked. The Florence West Rotary Club will be holding its annual Spaghetti Supper Fundraiser on March 19 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. at Central United Methodist Church. Proceeds will support Alzheimer’s research, drug abuse prevention, and local community projects.
Tickets are $6 and I’ve got plenty. Please consider sacrificing $6 of your heard-earned money for a good and noble cause.