Saturday, February 9, 2008

Sackcloth and ashes

The season of Lent is upon us. For much of our society the beginning of Lent is marked by the Mardi Gras, or for us in the more restrained areas, Pancake Tuesday. The tradition behind these celebrations is clearing out the last of the fat and sweet foods that Christians would deny themselves over the next 40 days - the source of "giving up something for Lent".

In our modern consumer society the idea of deliberately no consuming is a foreign idea. We have come to be so defined by what we buy and use (or throw away), that refusing to buy more, use more, consume more is almost treasonous. How will our economy grow if we don't support it by spending our hard earned money? That is after all the purpose behind the tax cuts.

Unfortunately our society is too sick to be revived by a little bit of extra spending. Our entire economy is built on a house of cards. More and more people are falling off the edges. They are not just poor, they have become invisible. They are like Lazarus the beggar at the gate, and too many of us are like the wealthy man who just steps over him without really noticing.

That brings me to the real purpose for Lent. Repentance. Turning away from the things that have led us away from true relationship. Turning away from things. In the Old Testament, when people repented they put on sackcloth and ashes as a visible sign of their change of heart. In medieval times even the highest in the land put on sackcloth and ashes in penitence for their sins.

Perhaps for the next 40 days we should be repenting our divisions, our comfort at the expense of others, our arrogance that somehow we deserve to have all the stuff we have. Maybe we should bring back the sackcloth and ashes.

Think about it.


donteatpoop said...

I wouldn't mind the sackcloth and ashes, but we have a dress code at work.

I've also never really gotten into lent; I have nothing but respect for those who do so in order to adhere to their worship but to me the whole "stop doing this, and be nice to people" should really be an every day thing. Why should I only avoid cursing for 40 days? Why not for a lifetime?

celticfrog said...

That is a good point DEP, but my contention is that our entire consumer lifestyle is what we need to be repenting. We need to start somewhere. Why not during Lent?