March 11, 2019

It was an amazing thing this morning. My body woke up on time just like always and it was a good morning. Unfortunately someone had set all the clocks ahead one hour so that threw me behind a little. What is up with that? I hope your morning has been good but I’m going to guess some of us will be fighting the urge for a nap this afternoon. Was this really a good idea? OK, I’m done with that. Already looking forward to Fall Back!!

I want to talk about a somewhat unusual topic (for me) today . . . Lent. In case you missed it, Lent began this last Wednesday, March 6th and continues on to the Thursday before Easter. It is based around the idea of sacrifice for 40 days though technically Sundays are not counted. Did any of you grow up with Lent as a tradition in your home or church? No? Me either. It’s funny how we as Baptists (and most Evangelicals) choose not to practice Lent. I think it is mainly because we don’t want to identify with the Roman Catholic Church. We want to be seen as separate and different and yet we celebrate Advent and Christmas and Easter. Did you know the observance of Lent is older than the observance of Christmas? It is true that Lent is not in the Bible but again neither are Christmas or Easter. Let me share some quotes pulled from various articles and maybe it will help us understand Lent just a little better.

“So why don’t most Baptists do Lent? It’s a curious omission for an uptight group like ours that’s obsessed with avoiding sin. Maybe that’s part of the problem we have with Lent. If we set aside a particular period for fasting and self-denial, then it might be admitting that gorging and indulgence is OK the rest of the year.  The programmed austerity of Lent might also give license to the frivolity of the pre-Lenten celebration of Carnival (aka Mardi Gras). Also, Lent is just too Catholic for most Baptists. In 1522, Protestant followers of the Zurich Reformer Ulrich Zwingli famously broke the Lenten fast by eating sausages as a symbol of their freedom in Christ. Lent is not found anywhere in the Bible, and Baptists generally follow the Zwinglian “regulative principle of worship” that says we should practice only what is explicitly commanded in the New Testament. Jesus even said something that seems to go directly against the tradition of Lent. Jesus said,

Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matt. 6:16-18)”

From an article titled “Why Baptists Don’t Do Lent.” I like that the author admits most Baptists are “uptight” – ha. We are indeed often known more for what we are against than what we are for. And that should make all of us a little sad.

Here’s an interesting little piece of Lent history in the U.S. “The McDonalds Filet-O-Fish owes its existence to pious Catholics. Lou Groen, the Montfort Heights, Ohio, store owner who invented the sandwich, came up with the idea because the local population was 87% Catholic. While executives were initially skeptical of the idea, a competition held on Good Friday of 1962 proved that the market was hungry for fish.” So, hey, if you like the Filet-O-Fish you can thank a Catholic for it. I grew up in a small German Catholic community in the middle of Kansas and we always had fish for lunch in the school cafeteria on Fridays.

If you are a sports fan you might have watched an ESPN program called “Around the Horn” and the host of that show is a guy named Tony Reali. Every year on Ash Wednesday, Tony, being a good Catholic, has an ash “smudge” on his forehead. I admire him for his courage in following his faith. Personally I think the ash “smudge” might be a step too far in drawing attention to our fasting as the passage in Matthew above talks against but I still appreciate the sacrifice.  

“For Baptists, Lent is a choice not an obligation. Freedom in Christ means we are free to choose to observe Lent or not. Observing Lent puts us in sync with the broader Christian community. Also, we cannot fully appreciate Jesus’ resurrection without spending time reflecting on his sufferings. We live in a privileged society where hardly anyone suffers for being a Christian. A little self-imposed hardship during Lent builds spiritual character and can deepen our understanding of our faith.”

So, maybe next year we will consider an optional time to practice Lent as a body of believers. Think about it. Pray about it. What better way to prepare our hearts for the celebration of Easter than participating in His sufferings.

Thanks to Pastor Ernesto and our Hispanic Praise Team for a great job in leading us in worship yesterday. We are blessed to have them as a part of our body. I know God is using them in the life of our church and our community. They have already been a source of encouragement to many!!

Last Word: A special Happy Birthday to my granddaughter, Lyla Jade Hixon, who turns THREE tomorrow! We celebrated her birthday at our home yesterday with her parents, Derek and Ashley Hixon.

I am ON MISSION Today! Are You?