Wednesday, February 13, 2013


By Elliot Grudem and Bruce Benedict | Christ the King Presbyterian Church |

The Lenten season starts on Ash Wednesday (2/13/2013). For many recognizing Lent, that day marks the  first day of a forty-day fast from something. The day before Ash Wednesday is known as Shrove TuesdayFat Tuesday, or Mardi Gras (French for “Fat Tuesday”). Many people have at least a day of feasting before the season of fasting. Perhaps no city in America celebrates Mardi Gras better than New Orleans. The weeks leading up to Mardi Gras (again, the Tuesday before the first day of Lent) as well as the actual day are a season of parties and parades throughout New Orleans. Many revelers—especially those who have traveled to New Orleans to celebrate—gather on Bourbon Street on Tuesday evening. The party goes long into the night, ending at Midnight on Tuesday night. Since Lent starts at 12:01 a.m. on Ash Wednesday, the New Orleans Police Department gather at Midnight on Mardi Gras, form a wall of officers and horses, and use that wall to clear Bourbon Street. In the minds of many, that‟s a great picture of Lent: Party up to the last minute before the Lenten season starts. Get what you can before you have to give it up. Feast before you have to fast. It's the reason the celebrations associated with Mardi Gras are often referred to as Carnival—a word that comes from the Latin for “goodbye meat.” In the minds of others, that‟s also what makes the Lenten season at best a disappointment and at worst a farce. It seems almost hypocritical to celebrate the Seven Deadly Sins before suppressing them.

There is much confusion in the American Evangelical Church regarding Lent. To be sure, the Bible doesn't require us to recognize seasons like Lent or even Advent. In Romans 14:5, Paul writes that the celebration of holy days is a matter of Christian liberty. Paul continues, “The one who observes the day, observes it in honor of the Lord” (Rom. 14:6). Therefore, any recognition of Lent must be done in a way that honors God. As Jesus made clear when he quoted Isaiah to the Pharisees, external actions void of heart-engagement are not honoring to God:

Well did Isaiah prophecy of you hypocrites…"This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me." | Mark 7:6

Therefore, any special attention to the Lenten season that honors God must include heart-level repentance and real faith, not external obedience to church tradition. So the Lenten season and its encouragement to take an extended time to focus on the death and resurrection of Christ provides us with an opportunity to honor God as well as a temptation toward sin. There can be a real value in marking this season, but only if done with a heart that seeks to honor God.

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