Have you heard the story of the granddaughter, mother and grandmother cooking together? The granddaughter was making a roast, a long time family recipe. She prepared the roast by first cutting off the ends of it, two perfectly good ends as she was taught by her mother.
“Mom, why do we always cut off the ends of the roast?” Mom answered, “Why not ask your grandmother. She’s the one who taught me.”
So the granddaughter asked. Grandma answered, “Oh granddaughter, I HAD to cut the ends of the roast off because the pan I used was too small for the whole roast!”
A newly released poll by the Barna Group asking Christians if they knew what liturgy was produced the following answers: About one third answered that they knew. And about one in five said they had no idea what liturgy was.
It seems that, along the way, some Christians have cut off the ends of the roast and don’t know why.
Why do I say that? Last Wednesday was Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Season of Lent. How many Christians do you know who practice Lent as their preparation for Easter? Did you know that Easter was celebrated over three days in the beginning of Christianity? The Latin for the celebration of Easter is Triduum, which simply means three days.
Many Christian congregations only celebrate Easter for one day. Easter Sunday. Traditionally Easter lasts for 50 days and ends on the Sunday of Pentecost.
My point is I believe we need Lent more that ever right now.
We held a Service of Ashes on Ash Wednesday. One of the Scriptures we recited together was Psalm; 51. It is a traditional Psalm for Lent. It says, in part, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.” We recited this Psalm fully aware that earlier in the day a nineteen year old, armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, murdered seventeen high school students and adults in South Florida. Seventeen families who have been assaulted, and now grieve, asking, “Why?”
But we are not even surprised. Perhaps rightly so. A study done by the Journal Health Affairs concluded that America is the most dangerous of wealthy nations for a child to be born into. The most dangerous to be born into. Gun violence in America is 49 times higher than other wealthy countries.
Those students who died on Ash Wednesday, indeed all of the children who have died from gun violence simply had the bad luck of being born in America. Oh, we’ll pray for the families, pray for the children. But prayer absent of action is meaningless. As the saying goes, “If you’re going to pray for potatoes, you’d better have a hoe in your hands.”
Psalm; 51 concludes with this verse, “Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation, and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance. O Lord, open my lips and my mouth will declare your praise.”
We Christians need Lent. We need to keep the whole roast, not just the part that we’re used to. You see, Lent is about what it means to die with Christ so that we might be raised into new life in Christ. Lent reminds us that we don’t have to wait, had better not wait, until we actually die in order to experience the gift of life eternal that Jesus presents to us through his own death. Through Jesus’ death, at the hands of those who believed that violence and death were the ultimate powers in the world, God affirms the power of non-violence. The power of love, the power that holds all things together. If we only truly believed that.
Deliver us from bloodshed, O God.
The Rev. Ron Griffen is lead pastor of First United Methodist Church in El Centro.