Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23: 34)
Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday, Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday–there are a plethora names for this day. Most of us understand it as an eat-all-you-can, party-till-you-drop day before we enter our Lenten fast. So, don your Mardi Gras beads and stuff yourself with rich syruppy pancakes and get it all out of your system. Right?
Well, at the risk of interrupting your partying, I think it’s about something more. (Don’t you hate that?) The word “shrove” (as in “Shrove Tuesday”) comes, sadly, not from the word for over-the-top entertaining but from the English verb “shrive”, meaning confess. (Oh, shoot, you say!) I know, it’s a hard word for us, particularly when we’re drowning ourselves in pancakes. But, yes, it is a day of preparation, a day when we leave behind what we know, those things to which we are accustomed, and begin the journey to the Cross.
It is sad that in our world, there are many of us (Christians, that is) that have equated confession with judgment. And we want to run from it. After all, sin is somewhat subjective when you think about it. Try as we might, there are few “black and whites” when it comes to sin and history has shown that when a culture inflicts that notion, oppression of some type usually results. So confession becomes a somewhat shaky ground on which we tread.
In Barbara Brown Taylor’s book, Speaking of Sin, she says that “sin is our only hope, because the recognition that something is wrong is the first step toward setting it right again.” That is what this day represents–the invitation to set things right, to confess, to shrive. It is the day to prepare, to begin that long and arduous turn away from who we have made ourselves to be and toward God and God’s vision for what we could become. Forgiveness is not the thing that we are trying to attain. It is the starting point, a gift from God for those who want to begin again.
So, in the midst of your Mardi Gras wildness and your pancake extravaganzas, as you don your masks for one more hidden transgression, remember to stop, to shrive, to begin the turn. Lent begins tomorrow.
For this season, I will try (yes I will try!) to post at least a short devotional every day on this blog. Many of you are part of the email group that gets it every time I post. (For those who have signed up through this blog, you will get it but for some reason known only to Google, you will get it 12-18 hours later. Go figure!) So if there are others that would like to be part of the email group that gets it right away, just email me through the St. Paul’s website at stpaulshouston.org. (Go to “About St. Paul’s”, then “staff”).
Additionally, I am reposting my “Bread and Wine” Lenten blog from several years ago. It is located at http://breadandwine-lentenstudy.blogspot.com/ or you can let me know if you would like to be added to that email group.
AND another opportunity…I have been posting my Lectionary notes that many of you get emailed each Thursday on http://journeytopenuel.blogspot.com/ It’s a once-a-week post but if you’re interested, take a look.
Thanks for being a part of my Lenten journey!
Grace and Peace,