Lent - Fasting, Feasting & Raucous Festivals
Lent, its a somewhat enigmatic practice these days. When I explain to people that I'm just on fruit, veg, water and protein shakes until Easter they tend to reply with an innocent "why?". They have no idea that we are currently in the middle of lent. And this isn't people I get chatting to in a pub after a show or people I meet out on the streets, its people who are committed Christians and genuinely love Jesus.
The church calendar has gone quite out of fashion over the past few decades. Seen as pharisaic, law like & overly structured, people opt for a less structured, 'free' year of worship and devotion. People are suspicious of what might be called 'religion' and opt for the designation 'relationship' instead; which I'm pretty sure are the same thing in any case. To re-ligament, to reconnect, is all about being brought back into relationship with the creator of the universe through the work of Jesus; the example of his life, his death on the cross and breakthrough of his resurrection at Easter... which, come to think of it, is something else we don't seem to do very well in the church here in the west (by and large).
Death has been defeated & our king has risen from the dead. How do we remember this? "He is risen", "He is risen indeed", then on with the church service and the rest of Sunday resumes as normal.
We have the single best reason to party ever! There has been no other event in history that warrants an over the top, ridiculous, exuberant, raucous, kick-ass party! And yet, there is generally not a firework, or a party popper for that matter, in sight. (Check out the video of the churches in Greece doing something with a bit of Boom at Easter - bit odd, especially the idea of being rival churches (?) - but still - BOOM!).
I find myself now, in the middle of lent, eating fruit, veg and drinking only water (with some added protein) and longing for Easter - I'm so pumped to celebrate in memory of the dynamite power of God breaking through and being drawn into the mystery, once again, that this dynamite power now lives within me.
I'm beginning to see that the two are linked. Just like the alter being stripped down in high-church tradition for the season of lent builds expectation for the colour and celebration of Easter, so this period of fasting is building anticipation in me.
Now, its not that this is the sole reason for lent. Fasting is a spritual discipline that has so many merits of its own. The stripping away of our desires - first for food, then sexual desire & then our pride (check out some of the classical Christian writers or the saying of the desert fathers for a fuller explanation of this process). The extra time made for the other spiritual disciplines (read Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster). The money saved which can be used to feed the poor. The clarity in God's presence leading to increased revelation (I'll blog about this lentern revelation at some point). But now, I'm counting down the days till Easter as well and there is something in the spirituality of food and all the above that is causing this; similar to how I long to celebrate communion when I haven't for a week or so.
I'm not counting down to chocolate, to beer or even a zebra steak (though that would be pretty nice) because I've been breaking the fast every week on either a Saturday or Sunday and they've really not been that exciting. Breaking the fast has stopped me taking pride in my fasting though, a wonderful lesson in the link between discretion and humility (again, check out the desert fathers).
What I am counting down to is... I don't even really know how to put what I'm feeling into words. But I do know that I intend to party like a mad-man, to let loose, to get wild, to #RaiseTheJoy level in every way that I can and to be a conduit of kingdom party to all those around me.
And maybe, just maybe, the anticipation, the waiting, the suspense, will mean that I let loose in such a way that it changes who I am. So much so that into the year ahead my partying & my wild-man kingdom gung-ho warrior spirit will be stirred up to a new level.
Then next year, the same again. The year after, again. Again. Again.
A structure, a rhythm, that sets it up, year on year, going from Glory to Glory. Bringing the Kingdom party to all people. Sending out invitations to people who didn't know that they were invited and to those who didn't want to come because they thought it was dull and unexciting.
We are an Easter people and Halle-flippin-lujah is our cry... BOOM!