Monday, February 21, 2011
What does a Baptist know about Lent?
The short answer, of course, is "nothing." I can't ever recall hearing a mention of Lent from the pulpit. Baptists aren't much on fasting in general, and 40 days of it certainly seems excessive to us. The primary trait of Easter in the evangelical setting can degenerate into High Attendance Sunday. Now that church is so casual, even the idea of a new Easter dress is nostalgic and quaint. Feeling the void and drawn by the appeal of something I didn't have that someone else had, I started observing Lent a few years ago. I'm a chronic list maker and item checker, so the first thing I did was compile my list. Imagine my surprise when I counted 46 days from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Just my luck, I had chosen the longest Lent in history to beqin my quest. Then someone told me not to count the Sundays, and that put the total much closer to 40. For my first Lent, I chose a time sacrifice -- rising one hour earlier than I wanted to each morning to read passages from the Gospels. Another year, I fasted from solid food from Thursday evening to Friday supper. This amounts to only two meals omitted per week, so it's not wildly sacrificial, but there's no question I missed those meals! Lent inconveniently falls at the end of the semester and during baseball season. One year I got so far behind that I gave up on the whole thing and had my own personal Lent in May after school was out. Having grown up with no liturgical calendar and an emphasis on a "personal relationship with Jesus" it didn't seem that crazy to just adjust the situation to my convenience, but honestly, that's probably taking the whole "priesthood of the believer" idea a little too far. I remember being told that if I were the only person on earth, that Jesus would've died just for me. Maybe so, but of course there would have been no one there to execute him so I'm not sure how that would've played out. The point is that while personal responsibility is important, so is community and tradition. It's a very powerful idea to think about Christians all over the world humbling themselves in hopes of becoming more spiritually aware of the presence of God.