All over Watertown, and all over the world today, people are eating pancakes. It’s Shrove Tuesday, when Christians prepare for the holy season of Lent by “clearing out the larder” so they are left with Lent-sanctioned provisions like fish, pretzels, and unsweetened tea.
Or at least that’s what we say we’re doing. Back in the day, people really did clear out the larder, really did make pancakes (and doughnuts and king cakes, etc) with the leftover flour, sugar, and cream in their actual homes. And then they fasted, to some extent.
But today, most Shrove Tuesday dinners involve going to the supermarket to buy pancake mix and syrup, the leftovers of which are then added to the larder in the church basement.
Now, I don’t mean to be a surl, and I have every intention of enjoying just such pancakes tonight here at CGS, and I am very thankful to the tremendous person who is captaining this project here. But I wonder what it means for us to eat our way towards Ash Wednesday in a church culture where very few people will then actually abstain from anything.
Most Christians I know tell me they are “way past” giving things up for Lent. That’s old school. They prefer to take on practices like generosity or forgiveness or scripture reading. Good stuff, all of that. But have we lost something when we don’t exercise our self-restraint muscles, when we don’t physically clean house, when we keep pushing our shopping carts up the “baking” aisle at Stop-and-Shop?
I ask this not in judgment, but curiosity. After all, there is a large box of Girl Scout cookies sitting under the microwave in my family’s kitchen, and we are not throwing them out today. I wonder what you think, and more importantly, what you’ll do and why.