Today is Fat Tuesday, which means two things. One, Lent begins tomorrow on Ash Wednesday, and two, I’m excited about our fish fry tonight, and I hope to see you there!
Lent is a wonderful season, and for the longest time in my life, I misunderstood its purpose. For as long as I can remember my sister has given up chocolate during Lent. This is probably a familiar concept to you, as many people give up something during Lent, and it’s usually some sort of vice; chocolate, cookies, beer, soda, smoking, fried foods, etc. Most of the time these things we give up have the added bonus of being bad for our health, and so we use Lent to help us make good on some of those New Year’s resolutions that might have started to fall by the wayside.
Growing up I used to think that this was the sole purpose of Lent. To see if you could go 40 days without something you love. I understood no value beyond the simple challenge of endurance and the hopes of getting in better physical shape.
While there is nothing wrong with giving something up for Lent, there is more to this season than vice control. This is a season of preparation, remembrance, repentance, of telling and participating in the story of Jesus Christ. Of the things on this list, the most commonly misunderstood one of them is repentance. I was always afraid of the word repentance. For much of my life, the only thing that came to mind when I heard the word “repent” was the image of a crazy person on the street yelling about the apocalypse with a sign that read, “repent, the end is near.”
This is not the most helpful image.
When the time came for Christ to begin his ministry he proclaimed, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.”
In view of the approaching kingdom of God, Jesus called people to repentance. Now, for many modern readers, the word repent is usually associated with sin and forgiveness, however the Biblical understanding of this word was very different. This is how theologian Marcus Borg explains it, “[In scripture] repentance’s resonances—its meanings—are twofold. One comes from the linguistic home of the word in biblical Hebrew. It is associated primarily with the Jewish experience of exile. To repent means ‘to return’—to journey on the way of return to God from a place of exile. Its Greek roots—the language of Mark and the New Testament—mean to go beyond the mind that you have…to repent is to embark on the way of return to God by going beyond the mind that we have.” (Marcus J. Borg, Conversations with Scripture: The Gospel of Mark)
My friends, we are about to embark on a journey. Not a physical journey, but a spiritual one. As we all prepare to turn and journey toward God I hope you take on something, rather (or in addition to) giving something up. Take on a spiritual discipline; prayer, fasting, reading scripture, journaling, meditation, or whatever fits best with your spiritual life.
The time is fulfilled my friends. Let us eat fish tonight, and then return to God. I pray that you find something to take on during these upcoming 40 days that will empower you to go beyond the mind you have, and grow closer to God during this Lenten season.
Have a wonderful week my friends,