Fear Of Whales

Tales of a reluctant minister


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So Ash Wednesday was this last Wednesday… that can only mean one thing! It’s Lent.
Happy Lent Everyone!!!

…Can I say that?
…Sad lent?….Contemplative lent?
I really don’t know. Either way it’s lent, and that’s what I’m going to talk about.
For those of you who don’t know lent is the period of 40 days (excluding Sundays) that lead up to Easter. It is a typically somber period of preparation for the celebration of Christ’s resurrection.
Lent is most famous as the time in the church calendar when people give something up for 40 days.
The Lenten Fast.

It’s always a little strange for me when this time of the year comes around. Because as I see it, it’s simultaneously one of the coolest practices of liturgical Christianity, and one of the gimpiest trends in the Christian subculture.
The idea that there is a day that is set aside from the other days of the year as a day to celebrate the risen Christ, and that there should be a time of preparation of our hearts for it. It’s just an incredible idea. The realist mysticism of it, it’s the kind of thing that really gets me going.

So much in the Christian life is “spiritual” that we tend to get lost in the theories of theory.
Christianity becomes something theoretical, something happening out in the white spaces somewhere.
But it’s not supposed to be.
NOTW (NotOfThisWorld) gets plastered on the backs of born again trucks. And I shake my head as I go past on my bicycle (which as far as I know is still an agnostic) thinking.. what about the part where the bible says we are “still in this world though not of it”
Of course the other extreme is to ignore the mystery all together. Make Christianity a religion entirely about the here and now. The stuff we can touch and feel.
That’s not satisfying either.

But lent… lent is so earthly and visceral. You can feel it and live it. and yet it’s so transcendent.
It exists in the wood between the worlds

As if that weren’t enough it’s just a solid idea, to begin with. Fasting from something makes you appreciate it more. Fasting on a regular basis helps to make sure you do it, having a definite ending time helps make sure you don’t go overboard.
And if you are going to fast, 40 days is a good amount of time to do it. 40s are used in the bible a lot for time periods during which changes take place. In that time it’s more than likely that if what you gave up for lent was something compulsive or addictive, you’ll have beaten the habit by Easter
So it’s really an all around great idea. I wish I had thought of it.

Still…Leave it to us to find a way to make self denial into something egoistic.
Jesus said when we fast we should clean our face and oil our hair so nobody knows what we’re doing. Instead we like to start out, literally, by rubbing ashes on our faces.
Then we spend the next week talking to all our friends asking “what did you give up for lent”
Then everybody at the table throws theirs down and we see which fast wins.
Whoever is giving up the nicest thing is the holiest.
I’m trying to think of a tradition that could make people less prepared for Easter.

It’s okay though. After 4 years at a liturgical school I have the answer. When someone asks you “So what are you giving up for lent” you tell them “Fasting”
“Whaddya mean Gaffney? I don’t get it”
“Well I just feel like fasting has really become kind of thoughtless in my life and I need to give it up for 40 days, then after Easter I’ll consider fasting again”
I guarantee you it will shut up even the most pietistic of pietistic Christians wanting to compare their holiness to yours… what can you say to that?

“Oh…Because I’m giving up chocolate…”
Well good for you,

To all you out there.. if you are going to fast for lent… Don’t tell me about it… for your sake,.. really.
Otherwise don’t bother fasting. You already missed the point. You might as well have your chocolate too.

Philemon 1:23


Written by RyanGaffney

February 10, 2008 at 11:11 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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