Of Pancakes and Fasting

It is Shrove Tuesday. Which means it's time for an installment of "Weird Words Used in Christianese." Shriving means making, going to or hearing confessions or to obtain absolution by confessing and doing penance. The week before Lent is sometimes called "Shrovetide" which was a time to go to confession in preparation for the penitential season of turning to God.

I've never done anything for Shrove Tuesday before, but a friend of ours at church is sharing the English tradition of pancakes on Tuesday (stemming from when people cleaned all the fattening foods out of their kitchen--eggs, butter, etc.--in preparation for the fasting of Lent during which they avoided those luxuries). I'm discovering a lot of people do pancakes today--I just never experienced that growing up. Some of the world today is partying hard--binging on "sins" before Ash Wednesday, as if Jesus' suffering was an invitation to indulge in order to enjoy the full extent of His grace. The celebratory nature of the day stems from releasing high spirits before entering the somber season of Lent. Others are preparing for Lent by deciding what they're going to give up (here's a somewhat humorous cynical list of things to give up for Lent).

Lent is intended to help us identify with Christ's sufferings. We journey to the cross with Him. Following the season of Epiphany in which we are reminded to be light, shining God's love to the world, Lent is a season of inward reflection, examining the things in our lives that don't bring us closer to God (for sin is anything that distracts us from God). We may give up something that we really enjoy (chocolate, caffeine, etc.), but the intent is to identify with Christ and draw closer to Him.

So for Lent I intend to give up Facebook. Not because Facebook is evil. Nor because I feel that I have to give something up in order to be a good Christian. And not that giving up Facebook will cause me to suffer. I'm giving it up because it becomes easy during my day to get distracted on Facebook and neglect other more important things (and while keeping in touch with friends is important, there are more effective ways I can do that if I desire). I may also have to give up watching BBC comedies on PBS late at night because they keep me from getting the rest I need to start the day well the next morning (and maybe early enough to spend some time with God).

But first we'll gather with friends, eat pancakes, have some pancake races and enjoy the day. For tomorrow the fast begins as we prepare for remembering the day of Jesus' death...and then the glory of His resurrection!

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