The Forty Days of Lent

Ash Wednesday is not my favorite day. Lent is certainly not my favorite Liturgical season. I don’t especially like the color purple. I never liked wearing purple vestments. The color purple was the color of the Caesars, of Imperial Rome. Jesus never wore purple, not that I know that personally, but purple dye was used only by those in the Antipater family, and was quite expense. Jesus would never have spent money on such a luxury. And Liturgical Purple is so dreary and boring!

And I don’t like that Lent lasts Forty Days, and that G-d sent Rain for Forty Days to cover the earth with water (Gen: 7:12) and that Moses spent Forty days and Forty Nights on top of a mountain, without food and water, and I hate that Jesus went Forty days fasting (Mat: 4:2), and rose from the dead and was with them in Sion for Forty Days. I mean, what is with Forty Days? A moon month is usually Twenty Eight Days, why not that? What period of time does the Forty days refer to, what is the meaning, numerologically? No, I don’t hold with the study of numbers as codes in the Bible, perhaps there is truth to be found there, but I simply seek the meaning of God’s Word in my life, and I find no symbolism in the period of Forty Days. If any of you have a grasp of its meaning, please, see me after this service.

And I really get tired having to think of something to give up for Lent; I mean, what does it mean to give up something today? Hey, back in the day, when bread, porridge, a root or two and water were the usual menu selections, giving “up” something was kind of special. Now, if I give up chocolate, does that mean Nestles, Hershey’s, Godiva? If I give up coca-cola, can I have a Pepsi? If I give up something that I find hard to do, like working-out, or enjoyable, like reading the NY Times on Sunday mornings, does that mean I can’t watch David Gregory on Meet the Press or Chris Wallace on Fox news Sunday?

And the Liturgy, “A Penitential Office for Ash Wednesday” right there on page 60 of my pew copy of the 1928 “Book of Common Prayer,” what a downer, starts with “Have mercy on me.” Do I really want to read it aloud before Morning and Evening Prayer for Forty Days, that is depressing! And I so much love offering Holy Communion; it lifts up my spirit and fills me with joy, and reading that Penitential Office, kneeling, before the Collect, is a real buzz killer.

It’s easy to see why so many shepherds fail to lead their flock in saying the Penitential Office aloud; Lent can drive people out of Church!  Of course, they will all be back for Easter! I once wanted to place those large straw baskets, the one’s like in the fishes and loaves verses, before the Altar, and then have all the parishioners bring in the things they had given up and fill those baskets through-out Lent; but the Rector said, and I had to agree, doing so would block the Processional, and really, it was said: “Giving things up for Lent, that’s like New Year’s resolutions, who keeps them?”

“Still,” I said, “it’s only Forty Days…there’s that “Forty” again… It’s not like a whole year.”  The Rector may have been right, most people give up something…not “some things” and the baskets would look foolish empty. “People give up watching their favorite show on TV, or only play nine holes, every other week-end, or give-up fried foods, say, fried chicken or french fries. How would those things fill the baskets?”

Of course, the Rector, a future Bishop, was right. Yet another reason why I don’t like Lent.  It’s stupid to give up something that you can do without, or that is, at worst, a minor inconvenience. Jesus, the Son of Man, gave up food and water for Forty Days, and Moses, just a man, did the same for Forty Days! How is giving up “Gilligan’s Island” five or six times a sacrifice?

Nope, Lent is a loser. It’s an anachronism; a vestige of the piety of the “Dark Ages;” no one really “gives up” anything of value, not in this day and age. Most Christians don’t even regularly  give their tithe, “giving up” ten percent of their income, and G-d commands us to do that. Funny, they will tip a waitress ten percent for good service, but tip G-d the same ten percent for absolutely everything, including their existence, their very life? No way, Jose!

I think it’s pretty clear why I don’t “get” Lent. What’s the point of it? Have you really ever thought about it, about the “Why” of Lent? Like most of the “Flock” I run around with, I broke my “crook” long ago and joined the crowd. I am not sure I really need Lent, or that it serves any good purpose. After all, so many fellow sheaves tell me:  “G-d is Love, G-d…is…Love, see it says so right here in the Bible, and right there. We are all going to Heaven when we die …”Jesus loves us, this I know”… ”  What could be better than that, and we do such good works, with our food pantries, and food stamps, and clothing drives, and Diversity… we even have lesbian women priests, and gay men priests, and gay Bishops, …and soon a lesbian Bishop… we just need to be good to each other, and it will all be okay… Oh, oh, and work for fairness and justice, that’s what the Church should do, and G-d loves us all.”

Who needs Lent anymore?

True, during Lent we do get to wear fancy purple vestments, trimmed in gold, almost every day.  Maybe that’s not such a bad thing, and the chanting is soothing, and the wafting incense and flickering candlelight make us all fell closer to the Divine.  Still, I just can’t get in the spirit of it.

Nope, truth is, I really don’t like Lent at all, but not really for the reasons I have mentioned, though I admit I often, especially today, think about such things.

Actually, I don’t dislike Lent at all, I Hate it!!!

because…

Jesus died for me! He died because of me, He died for my sins.

Every day of Lent, I am reminded so.

No way am I worth His sacrifice that longest of all days, from the Mount of Olives to the three hours hanging from a tree! How can He love us so?

Forgive me Father, forgive me for His sake, have mercy, have mercy on me,

Have mercy on us all…  + + +

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