Anyone who knows me well will know that my favourite musical (and I like a good musical) of all time is ‘Fiddler on the Roof’ the opening song is a song called ‘tradition’ where Tevye (the Protagonist and Jewish father of 6 daughters!) thinks about the traditions that he and his community adhere too.
“Because of our traditions, we’ve kept our balance for many, many years.
Here in Anatevka we have traditions for everything…
how to eat, how to sleep, even, how to wear clothes.
For instance, we always keep our heads covered and always wear a little prayer shawl…
This shows our constant devotion to God. You may ask, how did this tradition start?
I’ll tell you – I don’t know. But it’s a tradition…
Because of our traditions, everyone knows who he is and what God expects him to do.”
Now I realise that not all church traditions are God breathed and not all traditions are even helpful, but some are, and I don’t think we should throw the hypothetical baby out with the bath water.
Lent is something that has been a tradition since the early church fathers in the 3rd-4th century and is thought be something syncretised around the Council of Nicaea. Traditionally, lent is a 40-day time of reflection and fasting, casting our eyes to God in the lead up to the great celebration of Easter!
The practice of lent is not something that Jesus commanded us to do and is not something that we should adhere to in a religious-do-the-bare-minimum-to-get-by kind of way. But it is a time that we can choose to focus our hearts and minds more closely on God and remember in those 40 days that Jesus spent fasting in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:2, Mark 1:13) and the 40 days that Moses spent on mount Sinai meeting with God (Exodus 24:18) and use the time to pause and reflect on all that God has called us too.
Many people give things up during lent but over the last few years we have been encouraged as a church to instead take something up; to grow in a spiritual discipline, to pray more fervently, to read your bible more regularly, to share your faith and the good news with those around you and may be even fast.
This year I will be working through the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Lent book for 2021, Living His Story: Revealing the extraordinary love of God in ordinary ways by Hannah Steele, which is a devotional book that explores evangelism as a way of sharing God’s love with people. In the hope of growing closer to God and growing in how to share that good news with others.
What could you do to grow in all that God has for you?
In what ways can you partake in this ancient tradition that seeks to steady and focus us in an ever-changing world?
By Ashley Kauffman