I was thinking this morning about Fat Tuesday. No, I am not being politically incorrect. It isn't "size challenged" Tuesday. It is Fat Tuesday. It was on this day that many would use up all their fat before they entered Lent. They would not use fat again until Easter. Rather than waste the fat, and they couldn't store it and have it not go bad, they would use it up. Pancakes, donuts, anything that would use up the fat. And then...Ash Wednesday.
I was thinking about the questions about Lent. What will you give up? Will you go to worship the extra times? What is going to be the way that you approach Lent this year? And I noticed one thing, the focus was upon the self. The answers might be couched in "religious words" and pious thoughts, it seems to always come back to me, what am I going to do?
That messes up Lent all together. It isn't "what am I going to do?" Lent is about what Christ has already done for me. He has given up His throne (He is still the Son of God, true God but has become human). The Son of God is incarnate, God in man made manifest. He does this for one reason, to bear our sins, to take our place under the Law, to fulfill the Law totally and completely for me and you, to suffer and to die for that salvation of all mankind.
Lent is not about me. It isn't about what I "give up." It isn't about how "sorry" I am for my sins. It isn't about me showing the world I am a penitent by wearing ashes on my forehead. It ins't about how intense I can be about my sins and how deep my repentance runs. All that is works. All that is focused upon me.
Lent is about Christ. He is the reason we go through Lent. He is the reason we worship. The suffering is His, not mine. The fulfillment of the Law is His, not mine. The actions are His, not mine. The death is His, not mine. The burial is His, not mine. He does it for me but I don't have a thing to do with what He does. He alone, forsaken by the Father as He hands on the cross, pays the full and complete price for my sins. He alone cries out, "It is finished!" He alone. Not me. Not you. Not our ashes. Not our prayers. Not our flogging, literal or figurative. We do not add to what Christ did at all.
And if we think we do, by our actions, by our piousness, by our way that we mope through the season of Lent, then we are destroying the work He has done. The moment we try to put our actions with His, we bring the Law back to ourselves. It is His actions, not ours!
So enter the season of Lent, with oil on your head, joy in your heart and a surety that cannot be shaken. When you pray, go to your room, your closet, your private place, and pray. Then come out with a smile on your face and joy in your heart. Do not disfigure you face in order to tell others what you are doing. To do so, returns you back to yourself. Come out of your prayer room and tell others what Christ has done. Celebrate life. That is what people need to hear - not what you do or don't do, what your actions are, how sorry or penitential you are but how powerful, glorious and wonderful what Christ has done for you and for them.
Lent is about Christ and His suffering. It is not about you and your suffering. Remember that as you eat the doughnut or pancake. Remember that as you go to worship tomorrow. Listen to the Gospel reading from Matthew and let that be your guide during the season of Lent.
Blessed Fat Tuesday. Happy Mardi Gras. Peaceful Shrove Tuesday. Celebrate today. And then, celebrate tomorrow as well. It may be Ash Wednesday but it really isn't a terribly sad day. Christ has taken your place, given His life for you and now, you, through faith given by the Holy Spirit through the Means of Grace, are given His righteousness.
No ashes for me. The oil of celebration and the joy of salvation will be my celebration.