How Shriven Are We?

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.

The modern larder: Stop-and-Shop on Watertown Street

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About amymccreath

I'm a pastor and mother who loves to make connections between people, between ideas, and between stuff we label "sacred" and "secular." I aspire to be like a Cedar of Lebanon in the midst of the changes and chances of life, but like most folks, generally find that I can really only navigate the tumult hand in hand with others. Good coffee helps, too.
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2 Responses to How Shriven Are We?

  1. Terri says:

    Dan and I give up meat on Friday’s for Lent, a practice of his RC upbringing that has become a practice in our household. Truth be told I could be a vegetarian, so giving up meat is not a tough requirement. BUT it does call me to mindfulness. “Oh,” I think,
    “It’s Friday in Lent. What to make for our meals that does not include meat?” Oh…it’s Lent. It’s a different season in time, in life, in faith. What am I doing this Lent to be mindful of who I am, and whose I am, how I am living my faith, and how I am engaging and deepening my relationship with God, self, and others. It’s Lent. giving up meat is just a practice that leads me to be attentive to my faith life in a particular way during Lent.

  2. thank you so much for this — and I’m glad to meet someone else who tries not to be a “surl” — it’s my default setting, I think!

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