Noticings – February 14, 2024

Syrup to Ashes
“You are marked in love.”

What a joy it was to have to scramble to set up additional tables to accommodate the diners who arrived to partake in our annual Shrove Tuesday Pancake Supper last night. As always, the Men’s group did a fantastic job, and a delightful time was had by all. We even ran out of pancakes because so many people came to feast with us. It’s traditional to have a feast on the Tuesday immediately preceding the Season of Lent, which begins today, February 14th, with our annual Ash Wednesday worship service.

You may be familiar with the idea of Mardi Gras, which is French for ‘fat Tuesday’, which is another name for the day before Lent. Traditionally, the idea was that you would use up all the ‘fat’ in your cupboards by making things like pancakes for a feast before the practice of ‘fasting’ during Lent. A feast before a fast. Makes sense. It’s also where we inherited the idea of ‘giving something up for Lent’ from.

I prefer the theological reinterpretation of that which invites us to fast and feast simultaneously – but with a twist. The idea is that you ‘fast’ from some habit that distracts you in some way – it could be food, or an activity, or a pastime, or a bad habit – SO THAT you can engage in ‘feasting’ on something spiritual in the newfound time you have because you’re fasting from the other thing. Things like feasting on prayer, or on spiritual music, or on reading scripture, or on engaging in acts of compassion and service. In this way, your fasting creates space for feasting on spirituality. Moaning because you’ve ‘given up’ something that is making you focus on your deprivation and sacrifice rather than on deepening your spirituality is missing the mark.

The Season of Lent is meant to be introspective and inward-focused to prepare us spiritually to experience Holy Week and Easter in their fullness – to lead us toward Jerusalem with Jesus as his earthly story comes to a terrible (and yet somehow beautiful) end. A wonderful way to begin that Lenten journey is to participate in an Ash Wednesday worship service of prayer, and contemplation, and confession, culminating in receiving the imposition of ashes on your forehead (or wrist) as a sign of commitment and a new beginning.

Our Faith United Ash Wednesday service is tonight at 7:00 pm in our ‘upper room’ (living room). Due to its intimate and physically participatory nature (and some tech limitations) we are only doing this in-person. If distance is an issue for you perhaps a church nearer by is offering an Ash Wednesday service that you could attend? Tonight, as Lent begins, we turn from the sweetness of the syrup of ‘fat Tuesday’ to the solemnness and introspection of Ash Wednesday. It is a beautiful movement in the rhythm of the church year. As I impose the ashes on people I pray these words: “An ending and a beginning. You are marked in love.” Indeed, you are. May your Lenten journey be a blessed one.