29 March 2019 — Fourth Friday of Lent
What’s for dinner? In other denominations, Fridays in Lent are meat-free. No steak or burgers. No bacon. Oddly, due to the latin root “carno” (i.e., carnivore), fish isn’t a “meat”. So, fish Friday it is. If you’ve ever gone out to dinner on a Friday, there is always clam chowder. This originates from the Roman Catholic tradition of not have fish on any Friday. After Vatican II (a revision of the Roman Catholic ways), fish Friday became a thing only during Lent, like today. So, what’s for dinner, again?
Why ask this? Did you know about the reasons why clam chowder on Fridays? Some geographic areas follow this same observation, but often don’t know why. It just is. There are a lot of “that’s the way it is.” Do we ever wonder why? Let’s unpack this together a little. Our supermarkets full of pork, beef, chicken, fish are an historical anomaly. Sheep, goats, beef (okay, not pork for Israelites) were not part of the normal diet. Such meat was eaten as either part of the sacrifice (hence the deep sin of Eli’s sons) or a celebration. Both of these events have a deep tie to worship and thanksgiving to God. While in the early church, eating such meats (beef, sheep, goat, etc.) was still not a regular practice, it was decided that to honor Good Friday throughout the year, meat (i.e., flesh) was not eaten in honor of God (Jesus) who died in the flesh.
How we approach Fridays in Lent, Good Friday, Easter, 4th of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas is very important. Even secular holidays are important in how we observe them. As Christianity fades from our culture, Lent, Good Friday, Easter, Christmas, and other Christian observances, how we mindfully observe them becomes critical, for it becomes our witness. How the culture raises other observances into almost a sacramental view is important for us to understand. It is because something is missing.
When the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh built their alter is was a sort-of good thing. It was a hedge against being forbidden from worshipping at the Tabernacle. That sounds smart until you think through the heart. They didn’t trust their fellow Israelites. For some reason, there was already an emotional barrier in place. The heart of worship is supposed to be God. The sacrifice is an act to remind us of God’s grace. When a culture raises things to the point of God-relational act (such as sacrifice or worship), it becomes a secular holy thing. It wasn’t that long ago, that the Super Bowl was the event of the year. Yet, because it really isn’t important (sorry, football fans), it loses its shine. Something else will replace it. When the Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh build this altar they effectively declared that the altar defined their relationship with God. They even put it in God-honoring language that the remaining Israelites bought into.
So, what does this have to do with dinner? There are many things (habits and traditions) we do that we are not even aware of, or are so accustomed to that to not do them seems wrong. To most of us, fish Friday is not a religious act of devotion, yet it remains one for others. Eli’s sons didn’t care about the sacrifice, but more about the choice food. The Reubenites, Gadites, and half the tribe of Manasseh built an altar that their descendents became entrapped and confused (in regards to worshipping and relating to God). As we approach a discussion of sacraments and legacy, sometimes our legacy can be false sacraments we left behind.
1) Think of a normal worship service (whichever you attend). What’s one thing, that if removed, would keep you from feeling as if you were truly worshipping God?
2) Spiritual Disciplines often can become actions we do, but have no life. What spiritual disciplines do you practice? How do they give you life?
3) If you chose to abstain from something during Lent, have you been consistent? If not, why not? If so, have you experienced and changes or had significant reflections?