Mark’s Musings on Lent
What is Lent?
Lent is a moveable fast that occurs on the 40 days leading up to Easter, the Christian holiday that marks the resurrection of Christ. It can come as early as February 4th and as late as March 10th.
What is Lent good for?
God does not forget stuff, but we do. Oddly, humans can’t forget things (anything) on purpose, we only accidentally stop remembering. If that’s the case, we can also intentionally choose to remember by setting up a system that, in effect, forces us to remember. That’s what Lent is about. The calendar comes around and presents us with a period of time where we are reminded of God’s goodness and offered a ritual to help facilitate that remembrance. There is another presupposition with Lent that has become particularly resonant with people living in modern times of plenty: It is that in the midst of abundance we are still often empty people who long to be filled. We are wealthy, but too often like little kids, we “fill” ourselves by eating junk food, by buying lots of toys, or watching too much TV. We fill up with all sorts fo things, always hoping that they will make us happy. Often they make us happy in the moment, but that kind of happiness doesn’t last very long. We just end up wanting more. We are never satisfied by these things. During Lent, many Christians try to stop filling up with all of these other things. Instead, we try to make room for God again. When we make room for God, we feel closer to God.
Some ways to remember what God did
Lent allows us the freedom to make some personal choices and choose what can do (need to do) to make room for God. Giving up some of our comforts, things we like that “fill us” is a small, but effective way to remind ourselves of God’s goodness and faithfulness to us. Many people decide to give up something each week. People have dessert-free days or dessert-free weeks. Others go TV-free. Others give up stuff that costs money and use the money to help the less fortunate.
Last year for Lent, some churches broke their lenten fasts by coming together to eat MANA, a therapeutic, fortified peanut butter that is designed for severely malnourished children in developing nations. This MANA-fast took on different forms in different congregations. One congregation in Portland, Oregon decided to come together as a group and specifically focus their lenten fast on hungry children. To help facilitate this, MANA sent them packets of RUTF so that they could break their fast together as a community by eating the same food that starving children in Africa and elsewhere are given to break the involuntary fasts that threaten to take their lives.