Per Fidem Intrepidus means "Fearless Through Faith". My courage isn't my own, it comes from the Holy Spirit, it's my faith in God and my personal savior Christ Jesus that calms my fears and allows me to move forward in this fallen world. Personally I'm afraid of a lot of stuff, but having the faith that Jesus adopted me as his little, sin filled, brother keeps me going.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

For Lent I'm Giving Up...

From Ash Wednesday, which is today February 13 2013, to Maundy Thursday which falls on March 28th (and will be a future blog entry) Catholics and Christians celebrate the season of Lent. The 40 days of Lent are to commemorate Jesus' 40 days of temptation in the desert. During this time three traditional practices will be taken up with renewed vigor: prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I find it interesting that these three practices which Catholics and Christians are emphasizing during lent are the three major tenants of the Jewish religion. (Do you think the average catholic realizes that?)

Growing up a catholic in a very catholic area I was taught that the season of Lent was a big deal. Primarily everyone would give up something that you enjoyed; chocolate, ice cream, TV, what ever you enjoyed the most. It's a form of penance. And of course giving up meat on Friday was a big thing about the whole season. I'm not saying that we went vegan, we just gave up meat. Instead of bacon and eggs for breakfast we'd have bagels or cereal. Tuna sandwiches or PB&J were the mainstay for lunch and for dinner: Fish Fry! A traditional Western New York Friday fish fry is a thing of joy and wonder: a beer battered chunk of haddock big enough to cover a steak platter, cole slaw, potato salad, macaroni salad, french fries, a slice of rye bread, and enough tarter sauce to cover that flank of leviathan you're about to delve into. Anything less was completely unacceptable, and anything more was nearly impossible. 

A confession here: I've always looked forward to lent for all the wrong reasons. 1. Lent ends winter (and in Buffalo NY ending winter is a Very Good Thing), 2. I cheated and gave up stuff I liked but knew I should not have in the first place (like Lucky Charms), 3. Fish Fry. I love fish fry. Giving up liver and onions on Friday  for a savory slab of heaven with all the sides and my favorite beverage (tarter sauce)? It's a no brainer! I could survive on fish sticks and Scooby Doo shaped macaroni and cheese 8 days a week if possible (although my bride generally frowns on that on the average of 9 days a week)

But now that Jesus has wrapped his arms around me and accepted me as his adopted brother Lent takes on a different meaning, more spiritual than I ever could have believed was possible. First things first: celebrating Lent in any way shape or form has nothing to do with my salvation. Lent is not a mandatory exercise in faith laid down by a Higher Authority, nor are the acts of fasting, prayer and almsgiving necessary in my relationship with Christ Jesus. The traditions of fasting and almsgiving are acts and my salvation is not based on acts but based instead on repentance of my (myriad of) sins and my steadfast faith and trust in my Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. Fasting is normally an act of penance but we who have been saved do not need to perform penance, Jesus performed it for us. The fasting and almsgiving are acts that I now enjoy because I have been saved in grace and they are now my way of celebrating God's love for me and my passionate love for Him.

This Lent I'm going to pray a lot, reflecting on Jesus' ministry and words, and as the world slides closer to the end of times. I'm going to witness as much as possible. I truly believe that with the seeker sensitive emergent church more interested in entertaining goats rather than feeding the sheep we remaining evangelical Christians are the only life raft many people have. 

What am I giving up ? Well, my bride and I are buying a house, and to make closing costs we're giving up quite a bit, so what's one more thing? I figure that the very best thing to give up would be something Jesus hates. I'm not sure how He is on chocolate, ice cream, and TV, but I do know something Jesus really dislikes: Hypocrisy.

Matthew 23 displays how much Jesus disliked hypocrisy, and his favorite target was the Pharisees and in His final days as a man it appeared that Jesus was doing everything He could to push them into crucifying Him. It's like He woke up and said to Himself "What can I do today to really tick them off?" then He went and did it. In the end He had them so ticked off that there was no way they would back off from His execution. Matthew 23 shows how He called the Pharisees to task
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying: The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them. They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. (Matthew 23:1-4)
When Jesus says "Chair of Moses" He's describing something like a universities "chair of philosophy"  His expression to sit in the chair of Moses was claim to have the highest authority to instruct people in Mosaic law, the basis of Judaism, but in reality there is no Chair of Moses. He's stating that the pharisees claimed an imaginary authority for themselves and seated themselves above the people. The Levites and the priests had authority to make decisions based on the law but scribes and pharisees went beyond legitimate authority and were adding human tradition to law. 

Jesus is not telling the people to disobey the scribes and pharisees, but to obey the Law, and not the extrabiblical burdens that the scribes and pharisees were adding. A modern version would be for a pastor to tell you that you must bow to the rising sun while you pray every morning or you won't be saved, meanwhile he rarely rises before noon. 

So in my Lenten worship of Jesus I must concentrate on practicing what I preach, to worship my Lord in a way that will glorify him, and to those that I witness to I stay true to scripture and guide in the footsteps of our Savior and not dignify man made extrabiblical rules.

And there's a whole lot more Matthew 23 to come!

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