Tomorrow (2/14/2024) is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent (or Quadragesima, if you’re feeling fancy). Friday KVPC is having a sausage dinner commemorating the Affair of the Sausages, essentially denying the efficacy and necessity of Lent. I thought I’d express some of my thoughts regarding this.
If you’d like a history of it a quick google search will give you a variety to pick and choose from. After I performed such a search, I gleaned from the Museum of the Bible and Christianity Today some interesting facts. Lent as a practice that is a preparation for Easter through fasting can be traced back to St. Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. 130-200 AD) where it was a two or three day fast. At the Council of Nicaea (i.e. the Nicene Creed) in 325 AD the season of Lent was more formalized, though the practice between the Eastern and Western churches differed (the Eastern and Western churches basically became the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches in the Great Schism 1054 AD). It was at that time the season of Lent was extended to 40 days based on various biblical accounts, but most importantly an imitation of Jesus in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11).
The season of Lent is meant to be a time of self-denial, so that’s why often you’ll hear the phrase, “what did you give up for Lent?” Some people give up something they enjoy as a way to focus away from gratifying themselves and point them too Christ. The Roman Catholic Church has changed its rules for Lent over the years, but generally speaking only two days require full fasting: Ash Wednesday and Good Friday. Then on the other Fridays you are to avoid eating meat as a way to keep the fast going throughout.
In this demonstration of self-denial we see an outward expression of inner, spiritual, devotion. Particularly fasting is to help the Christian in this season of preparation to exercise penitence (or penance, possibly) and self-examination. There are many other benefits of fasting to your Christian life and all of them are available to you.
So, if fasting is good and a period of fasting and heightened devotion is good, why don’t we do it at KVPC?
It’s unbiblical to bind the consciences of believers with man-made traditions. Lent isn’t optional for the Roman Catholic, it’s a requirement.
It elevates a particular Lord’s Day above the others. In the New Testament the Sabbath was moved from the last day of the week to the first in honor of our Lord’s Resurrection, which we celebrate every week! For most of us, we grew up with big Easter celebrations so this is kind of ingrained in us, Easter is a special Sunday! It can implant a false religiosity and faith that thinks “if I come on Easter I’ll being doing something really special”.
Since it is required by the Roman Catholic Church (RCC from here on), though they wouldn’t call it a sacrament with everything they imply, it is basically practiced and treated like one (if it walks like a duck…). There are only two sacraments in the New Testament: baptism and the Lord’s Supper.
Speaking of sacrament, there’s another quiet TRCC/sacramental teaching inherent in Lent: our acts of devotion, when sanctioned by the church, are as good as the Word of God. The more we add to our devotional practices, our religious duties, or worship the more we run the danger of diminishing God’s word’s authority in our lives.
We should all practice the spiritual discipline of fasting, for one it reminds us that we are waiting for a day when the bridegroom will return, and as a second reason fasting furthers prayer–when you feel a hunger pang, you pray. I, as your pastor, recommend you doing it without getting a sacramental ashen cross lain upon your forehead. If you get it at the RCC, you are entering a false church for the purpose of true devotion at best, and that’s no way to begin your 40 day journey to the empty tomb. If you go to one of the various protestant churches that have lost their way and began to follow Popish desires, they might not require it, but neither does your God.
God has called you to himself through his Son who has given you the normal, boring, ordinary means of grace to be strengthened, if you desire, add fasting at times, but if there was ever a season not to fast, it’s during Lent. God hasn’t ordained this, we can focus on the second coming by feasting on the good things he’s given us here. We can look at the areas of our hearts where we are harboring sin by remembering that the lives we have are worth living as we live them according to God’s revelation. So many of us are trapped in the idea that our God is one who restricts our freedom rather than the God who grants freedom, we don’t need a church season reinforcing that false teaching too.
One final thought for those of you who are going to get your ashes tomorrow: wouldn’t you rather participate in the fellowship of your church than participate in the Pope’s? God put you in a Reformed church for a reason, let’s celebrate that together!
Sausage Dinner at 6 pm Friday 2/16/2024 preceded by a devotional on Christian Freedom and then Trivia (Bible and Reformation topics).