The day before Ash Wednesday is Pancake day. It announces the first day of lent.
It means that we get to eat pancakes. More importantly it’s a time when we commit to giving up a luxury for forty days. This year we’ve chosen to fast from console games. That said, we’re not all that religious about it. For instance, because our fast is not food related we count Sundays, whereas traditionally those days are free from the Lenten commitment. Our aim is simplicity. We draw out the material and spiritual benefits of lent for our kids in the hope that they will see and experience them in a healthy way.It doesn’t have to be complicated.
Participating in Lent also connects us to the broader ecumenical Christian community, both past and present (hence the Bonhoeffer book in the header). Lent lends itself to us as a challenge to participate in something greater than ourselves. To be shown that life without some non-essential things is still a life well lived. The season officially marks out a time for remembering the importance of grace, forgiveness, repentance, gratitude, and self-denial.
Barth makes this same point in one of his later sermons on 1 Corinthians 15:50-58:
‘What is Easter?
Easter is Jesus as he is, Jesus as Victor.
Paul describes it in 1 Corinthians 15:50-58:
“Thanks be to God, who gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.”
It is not enlightenment, nor a model to imitate, nor a religion, nor a church that gives us victory.
It is Jesus…by God’s act Easter happens and Jesus is revealed as victor, there the promise is fulfilled that death is consumed in the victory…because Easter is, because Jesus lives, because the last trumpet sounds, because the all-deciding Word of God has been spoken. We can know the why, and we can take the admonition to heart. Or should we really not know it? Then let us seek, ask, and knock at the door until we know it, much better’ [i]
(Karl Barth, Sermon April 4th, 1920)
Barth reaches for the theological ground he shared with Johann Christoph Blumhardt and his son Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt.
The latter who wrote:
‘Even if our age has become riddled with evil, even if death runs rampant on the earth, we will not accept these as final facts.
We must not sleepily say, “It is the Lord’s will. What will be, will be.”
No, we must resist and, like Moses, throw ourselves into the breach […] Salvation and healing are the will of God. To the devil and to all powers of hell, which accusingly proclaim the hopelessness of our situation, we will cry out, “You will not win! We know this because we know Jesus, who is victorious over every devil.” [citing Matthew 4:4] [ii]
If we fuse the two quotes into one. Together they formulate, frame and direct the Lenten road.
Paul, Barth and Blumhardt set the tone by helping us kick-start our journey.
Traditional Shrove Tuesday prayer:
Mercifully hear our prayers oh, Lord, and spare all those who confess their sins to you; that they, whose consciences by sin are accused, by your merciful pardon may be absolved; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.