The typical Baptist church has very little knowledge or understanding of the liturgical calendar, and I think we miss out on something powerful when we don't acknowledge these significant events throughout the year. Over the past few years, learning about and creating a family environment in which the liturgical year will be a part (but not an idol) has become increasingly important to us.
One of the ways we can choose to celebrate the liturgical calendar is through the recognition and observation of the season of Lent, beginning with Ash Wednesday. The Lenten season is a time to reflect on our sin and the death to which our sin leads, to remember our need for Christ, to renew our commitment to the Lord by continual repentance of our sin, and to recognize that Jesus conquered the grave, and therefore conquered sin and death. Though not every Christian participates in Lent by fasting, it is a common discipline during this time of year. Many Catholic individuals fast from meat on Fridays (hence the plethora of Friday Fish Frys during this time of year), but you can fast from anything- food, drinks, hobbies, etc- which you feel may be becoming an idol in your life. Ideally, you would then use the time you would normally spend during that activity (whether it is eating, playing golf, or anything else) to draw closer to Christ through prayer, Bible study, Scripture meditation and memorization, and the like.
This year, I have decided to fast from television; I've noticed ever since we began subscribing to Netflix (we don't have any type of cable) last summer that I have watched more hours of television than I care to admit. Granted, subscribing to Netflix means we get to enjoy excellent British television and some great educational programs. However, Netflix's excellent selection of British shows and fascinating documentaries makes it rather difficult because I find myself wanting to spend more time in front of the telly.
I am not completely fasting from television, however, and am allowing myself the following exceptions:
1) The Amazing Race. This is a tradition for our weekly Souper Sundays and is a great time of fellowship with dear ones. It's an hour-long show on Sunday evenings (and I might just have to give Andy Rooney from 60 Minutes a few minutes of my time as well).
2) Workout DVDs. While the weather is definitely warming, I still like the option of popping in a DVD for a good work out in the morning before I head off to work. Hopefully, the amount of time I spent doing this will actually increase, since it's pretty pathetic right now.
3) BBC World News. I like to stay informed, and this is by far my favourite news program; it's a 30 minute show on weekdays. I realize this short segment will be sufficient news coverage for me considering how I listen to BBC Newshour and NPR and regularly visit several different news sites at work (my top picks: BBC News, Der Spiegel, NPR, CNN, and The Telegraph). I'm also adding some other responsibilities and activities to my weekly schedule, so I may not even be at home when the program is airing.
The traditional liturgical calendar doesn't count Sunday as a fasting day, and I toyed with the idea of allowing myself 'day off'- perhaps an hour on Saturdays or allowing myself to watch educational programming such as documentaries, but that just seems like an easy justification to watch television when I want. And besides, the Lenten season is 40 days (47 if you count Sundays); if I'm unable to give up television (except for the aforementioned three exceptions) for a little more than a month, then I've got some major issues which will need addressing.
And oh yes, I've just made a last-minute decision to give up sweets. Why? Because I love them. Seriously, my community group jokes about chocolate being my idol. And Cadbury Mini-Eggs are out in stores now, and if I don't purposefully give up those delicious little fiends, then I will spend our entire savings account on them. As an added bonus, I'm sure my gall bladder will thank me for not shoving copious amounts of solid milk chocolate egg shapes into my mouth.
Isaac is joining me in celebrating Lent by fasting from all types of soda. One of the things our church is challenging us to do as a body of believers during this season is to memorize Romans 8, which is 39 verses. We are excited about this challenge, and many individuals in our community group have already expressed their intent to be a part of this and are seeking ways in which we can hold each other accountable. Please pray that we would be diligent and committed to this challenge of hiding God's Word in our hearts.
What about you? How you celebrate Lent and Ash Wednesday?