Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A new take on Lent

After 28 years of living in Louisiana, I still almost go up to people on Ash Wednesday to tell them they have something on their face.  I say almost because I catch myself just before the words escape my mouth when I remember what day it is.

Although I've been in the Full Gospel church for the past ten years, I grew up Methodist.  Methodists aren't traditional protestants like Baptists, Lutherans, Presbyterians, etc.  Methodism came from the Anglican church, which separated from the Roman Catholic church via King Henry VIII of England, not by Martin Luther as the rest of the Protestants did.  As a result, the Methodist church has become an interesting half-breed over the past three centuries, still honoring some Catholic traditions such as Lent.

Growing up (or at least in middle and high school), I honored the Lenten tradition of giving up something for forty days sans Sundays.  Of course, there were the sarcastic sacrifices, such as giving up Catholicism or kidnapping, but usually I gave up something like carbonated beverages or chocolate.  As mentioned earlier, you get Sundays off, so I could theoretically go back to kidnapping for Sunday as long as I let the child go on Monday and still be okay.  The worst part, though, was forgetting all about my Sunday off of the fast and missing my opportunity to consume whatever I gave up.  I'd beat myself up like crazy over those times.

Once I got out of the Methodist church, I got over the ritualistic side and both realized I could fast whenever I felt the need, and didn't have to be obligated to give something up with carnal regulations.  I always saw the Lenten sacrifice as a bit of a burden anyway, so I'd rather give God something I am willing to give instead of something I have to give begrudgingly.  "Obedience is better than sacrifice," Samuel tells Saul (I Samuel 15:22).

In the meantime, I've made friends with missionaries to Muslim countries.  One thing they do, being in the inescapable spot of being surrounded by Ramadan, is to spend the month of Ramadan praying for Muslims.  I think I'm going to take the time between now and what is commonly celebrated as Easter and pray for Catholics.

Don't get me wrong, I don't hate Catholics; I love them, which is why I'm praying for them.  I live in south Louisiana, which has more Catholics per capita than the Pope's bedroom.  I can't get away from it, just like the West Bank Mardi Gras parade that traps us in every year at church. 

If you love Catholics too, and you want to see them come out of religion and into a relationship with Jesus Christ, please join me.  I'd love to have you along.


  1. Zeke,

    Let's be careful not to automatically equate Catholic with necessarily needing to "come out of religion and into a relationship with Jesus Christ." Whereas I certainly agree there are Catholics who fit in that category we both know there are also religious Protestants who qualify just the same.

    I commend you in your desire to use the Lenten season as a time for spiritual maturation and discipline and to pray for people to relate to Jesus better. I applaud you for your desire to call other believers to likewise appropriately use this time in the Church year for these purposes too.

    I get concerned though with language which suggests that "Catholic" necessarily means out of relationship with Jesus.

    I certainly do not want you to discourage you from praying for anyone to come into the Good Life in relationship with Jesus (which I believe is your main point). Still, while there are Catholics (and Protestants) who are sadly stuck in a religious system and do not know Jesus, I want to make sure we Protestants remain open to the fact that there are Catholics who know and love Jesus (and can teach you and I a lot about what it means to have a relationship with Him.)

    Just a thought to consider.

    : )


  2. Your first paragraph made me laugh because I always do that.