Sunday, March 05, 2006

The modern evangelical church lets people down, as every church is prone to do. Guilty this time, on the charge of downplaying the mysterious.

Lent has arrived, and while I'm not a member of the Catholic church, I am a member of the church universal, the catholic church.

Giving up meat on Fridays just doesn't work for me. But I am going to give up pop (soda, coke, whatever it's called in your neck of the woods).

It's something I can stand to sacrifice, at any rate, and caffeine is a drug, so it can't hurt to kick my drug habit, right?

This is one of those things where modern evangelicalism fails me. Advent and Lent are both full of interesting stuff that's been jettisoned by evangelicals. How often do you hear evangelical pastors encourage congregants to fast, or make dietary sacrifices of some sort for a 40 day period?

I have seen some evangelicals in the last decade who have connected Passover celebrations to Easter and the last supper. I love that. There's so much rich symbolism there, that's often neglected. So maybe there's hope some evangelicals will embrace Lent in a broader way. I realize it's not in the Bible, but megachurches, worship teams, and PowerPoint worship slides aren't either.

Googling the topic, I just found out "fasting, long familiar to Catholics as a Lenten fact of life, is increasingly popular with evangelical Christians striving for spiritual awakening" according to a piece in Slate.

The author goes on to say "Catholics have for so long thought of themselves as the defenders of ritualÂ?the masters of incense, genuflection, and splendorÂ?that it still seems strange to be sharing ash-wearing with Presbyterians and Methodists. But our shared affection of late for some of the old ways of worship represents a small victory for mystery, ritual, and awe."

That's one area emergent (postmodern, whatever) Christianity is swinging the pendulum. That's a rebellion not against evangelicalism or catholicism, but against modernity. Modernism is all about triumph through science, forward progress, scientific method, forumlas, research, etc.

Sometimes, though, we need to step back and realize there's a lot of mystery and awe in our faith. Our Lord died on a cross, and on the third day rose from the dead, ascending into heaven. Scientific research won't help me understand that.

So I'm taking part in Lent, whether or not it's endorsed by my church. The ritual isn't so important as the attitude, and I want to prepare myself for the mystery of Easter, and want to go through a 40 day journey of sacrifice if it'll take my focus off the selfish onto the Selfless one.


Jeff H said...

I'm giving up cokes for Lent this year, too. That's one thing I do like about the Methodist church is that they haven't divorced themselves totally from the liturgical aspect of church. We aren't required to participate in Lent, but we are encouraged to do so.

Ρωμανος ~ Romanós said...

Brother, I happened upon your blog in a link we share in the book Perelandra. Your ideas about Lent and fasting, etc., are what I want to comment about. Though I am not an evangelist for Orthodoxy, I want to ask, have you ever looked at the Orthodox Church? So many evangelicals who are looking for depth and meaning in church seem to turn to Roman Catholicism, which is, unfortunately, like calling up the White Witch to defeat King Miraz. At best Roman Catholicism is a distortion of an authentic ancient, evangelical Christianity that is still alive and well in Greek Orthodoxy. What I don't want to convey in this comment is a Hellenistic triumphalism. I also don't want to put out a shingle for Orthodoxy in itself. In spite of the riches of Orthodox Christianity, it's Jesus in whom the true Treasure is to be found. But, brother, take a look and see whether you might find some meaning in the ancient Church, rumored to be dead but still alive.