These Forty Days
“Paczkis – Price Reduced!” The sign greeted me as I entered the grocery store and saw the table of boxed, cream-filled donuts. A woman had loaded at least eight boxes into her cart. “Must be having a Paczki party!” I thought. I almost asked if her if I could come.
What does Lent mean to you? Is it the traditional time of “fasting” after a time of abundance – of giving up rich foods, coffee, Facebook or other vices? Do you think of the darkness, the penitent purple, and the guilt of confessing our sinful nature? Do you look forward to the fish fry at the end of each week? (I do!) Are these forty days marked by the anticipation of warm weather, new life and the hope that spring will arrive in time for Easter morning? (Or will we be hiding eggs in the snow?)
Each year when this particular set of forty days rolls around, I am reminded of the importance of all the standard, traditional associations with Lent, but also of the newness that begs to be discovered each time we make this journey. That newness can be found in a surprising place – the texts of the Bible; in the Gospels and the writings of those who witnessed the events we are once again called to remember.
These stories are the focus of our Lenten Bible Study, “Hosanna,” which begins this Sunday, March 5, after worship. Each lesson of this 5-week study focuses on the events of Holy Week from the perspective of different writers of the Bible. You might be surprised to discover new perspectives, like the view that writers of the Bible were not so much concerned with historical accuracy, but with telling a particular story about the meaning of God and God’s relationship with people.
You might find surprising that what it means to “remember” is not just an act of thinking about something that happened in the past, but “a way of recalling that includes the participants in the old story.” This is what we hope to do each time we celebrate these Forty Days; each time we recount the old story, have our foreheads be marked by the ashes, eat the bread, drink the wine, speak the words of betrayal and pray the prayers of forgiveness. And in being a part of what is not so much old as timeless, we become something new.
May we make the journey together.