Mardi Gras - Shrove Tuesday - Fat Tuesday
Today is a day to indulge. In many traditions, today is referred to as Shrove Tuesday. Shrove comes from the word shrive which means absolve. Thus, Shrove Tuesday is the day before Christians seek absolution from their sins on Ash Wednesday.
Another name for today is Fat Tuesday which sounds much more elegant in French-Mardi Gras. Fat Tuesday refers to the tradition of eating, drinking, and indulging before giving up gluttonous ways. All of these traditions signify our preparations for getting right with God and coming clean. Although there are different names for today, there seems to be a common element of indulgence.
I think this reveals humanity's tendency to live in the extremes. You are either good or bad. Either you are abstaining from your temptations or you are giving in without abandon. Either you are playing the game with rules or the rules do not apply to you.
Think about when someone is preparing to go on a diet.
What is often the first thing they do?
Go on a binge.
A young man is about to get married.
What do his friends do for him?
They throw him a bachelor party. A last hurrah.
Before we move into a season of what we see as being "good", we want to get out all of our "bad" first.
I think this also reveals the deep ways humanity bristles against rules and boundaries.
Tell someone they cannot do something, and immediately they want to do it.
Create a law, rule, or policy, and immediately someone will question it and be tempted to break it.
You do not have to look too far into the scriptures themselves to see this tendency.
In fact, you do not have to look further than the Garden of Eden.
Yet, instead of seeing the season of Lent in extremes, I think it is important and helpful for us to consider what this season is NOT and WHAT it is.
Lent is NOT...
meant to be a season of killing your joy and dulling your pleasures.
meant to be that last chance to finally get it right.
meant to be a time of feeling bad about how much we mess up.
meant to be an opportunity to think about the things we can do better.
meant to examine the bad habits and the patterns we have slipped into.
meant to be a time to admit that we are not perfect, but we are forgiven AND made new each day by God.
Ashes were once mixed with oil to make a cleaning product. They were the first soaps. And so when we are marked by the ashes on Ash Wednesday we are essentially being marked with soap. The ashes represent that we need to be cleansed. We need the power, grace, and forgiveness of Jesus Christ in order to be made new. This is our salvation. However, I also believe one of the biggest misunderstandings of salvation is that we need to be cleaned only once.
When someone asks me, "Are you saved?" My response is often, "Yes, every day. Every day I need to be saved from my selfishness, my self-centeredness and my sinfulness."
Sometimes, we can lie to ourselves and think-"Hey, I am doing pretty good. I do not need to look at how I can better myself." However, the truth is we do not see the grime and filth that sticks to us without us even realizing it.
In the last couple of weeks with the salt on the sidewalks and the mud from the thawing of the snow and ice, my husband and I have tried to keep our floors and our dogs clean. The dogs are much more of a challenge. Our younger dog, Joseph, seems especially attracted to dirt and mud.
Last week I had given both Abraham and Joseph baths. Trimmed them up, dried them and they were pristine clean. Then today as we were on a walk Joey decided to play in a mud puddle. When we got back to the house our little caramel colored dog, looked more like the color of a strong espresso (without the cream).
As I put him into the bath, I couldn't believe how much mud and dirt came pouring off him. It was caked into his paws and tail. Certainly not all of it was from his romp in the mud puddle. It took me a good twenty minutes to get him clean. After I was done bathing him and I was toweling him dry, I said to him, "Joey, why can't you stay clean?" He looked right back at me as if to say, "Why can't you?"
The truth is we all need to be washed of the dirt and the filth of the world that sticks to us. It cakes on us and hides in the recesses of our minds, our hearts and spirits.
As we enter this Lenten season, let's not come begrudgingly to God.
Rather let us come joyfully, knowing that we need to come clean before God, and we need to be cleansed by the power of Christ's grace, mercy and love.
Blessings, Rev. Shana Johnson, Conference Minister