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February 21, 2015 by William H. Scarle, Jr. 813-835-0129

The season of Lent is upon us and the days of Madi Gras are over.  These are terms that have come down to us through Christian tradition.  “Lent” simply means “spring.”  However it is a period of time prior to the celebration of Resurrection Day that lasts for forty days minus Sundays.  It was marked by the Medieval Church as a time for reflection and repentance in spiritual preparation for Resurrection Sunday.

This brings up the period of Madi Gras. “Madi Gras” started out as a one day designation.  Translated from the French it simply means “Fat Tuesday.”  It designated the day before Ash Wednesday which was the last day for eating rich and fatty foods prior to Lent, which was a period of fasting.  It was expanded to cover the entire period between Epiphany, or Three Kings Day, and Ash Wednesday.  Epiphany is usually celebrated on January 6.  It was a period for what the Apostle Paul calls “drunkenness, orgies and things like these.”  Madi Gras became a kind of license to sin, since the following period of Lent would require repentance and abstaining from all the things that made life interesting.

This absurdity is another example of how a practice designed for spiritual growth and discipleship became secularized and perverse.

Fasting is a practice which occurs in the Bible.  It is not practiced, however, as a state of denial.  It is always connected to a time of intensive prayer, where taking time to eat is set aside so that the time of prayer would not be interrupted.  Fasting and prayer were usually occasioned by some crisis, either national or personal, where God’s help was desperately needed.

There is no asceticism in the Bible.  There is no spiritual value in punishing the body.  This direction of thinking comes from Greek philosophy which taught that the body was evil and had to be subjugated to the mind, later understood as spirit by Christians under Greek influence.  Genesis clearly teaches that everything God created was good, and that the creation of humanity was “very good,” including our physicality.

Giving up something for Lent is frankly a weird concept.  If something in one’s life is contrary to the will of God, that is sinful, it needs to be given up, and not just for Lent.  The Lenten season for Christians is lived in anticipation of the celebration of our redemption.  It is a time to remember that we do not earn merit, nor are we punished for our sin.  Messiah is our merit and Messiah is our redeemer through the price paid at Calvary.  It is a time to say, “thank you” to God.

Instead of “giving up something” we might think of something more we could do in the service of our King and Savior.  Is there a place in the ministry of the Church we could fill, but have avoided?  Is there someone we could serve which we have neglected?  Is there a portion of our tithe we have held back, and need to let go of?  The Apostle tells us he is pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Messiah Jesus.  Lent is a time for pressing on.  There is always higher ground.

(Bill Scarle can be contacted at END-whs