Friday, February 19, 2010


Tonight as part of our Lenten devotions, we will begin the tradition of Friday evening Stations of the Cross, followed by a Knights of Columbus sponsored fish-fry supper. The dinner is complete with hush-puppies, cole slaw, beans, and drinks. Our Youth Group sponsors a dessert table for those who did not include sweets among the Lenten ‘give-ups’). Our Scouts help by bussing tables. It’s a real party atmosphere, and it’s a tremendous experience of community.

But wait—what is wrong with this picture? We just engage in a pious devotion remembering the suffering and agonizing death of the Son of God for us, and we go to what is effectively a banquet?

As it turns out, I think there is nothing wrong with this picture. To think there is, one must engage in the kind of mental contortions that allowed us, in the past, to argue whether faith or ‘works’ was more important to the Christian life. It was a theological and devotional battle fought for hundreds of years—should a Christian’s focus be on Good Friday or Easter Sunday? To focus on the former, it was argued, produces a morbid Christianity that leads to the [Jansenist] view that even when we are doing good, we are still somehow sinful. To emphasize the latter, it was countered, meant that we were forsaking the price of our salvation (I Corinthians 6:19-20) in order to accept ‘cheap grace’ (as Bonhoeffer called it).

The key is that these are really two sides of the same coin—heads is not more important than tails since both constitute the identical penny.

So we remember (the theological term in liturgy is anamnesis) the life and death of the Lord—we remember (and bring forward into the present, especially in Holy Week) the reality of our redemption. But we also celebrate that Golgotha is not the end of the story: we have the empty tomb, the appearances and commissions, the transformations of men from cowardice into courage. So our fish-fry is rather like the beach breakfast of John 21; it is like the celebrations of ‘breaking of the bread’ in Acts. It is the realization of Jesus present with us (“Behold, I am with you always…”—Matthew 28:20). We remember, then we give thanks; we give thanks as we remember. It is the joy of being a Christian that we celebrate the past in the present, knowing we have a future.

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