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Taking God seriously

What does God think of pancakes? 

In terms of the Biblical feasts, there’s an extended break after Shavuot/Pentecost that stretches right through the summer months. God is off on His hols, or is He? We may switch off, but He certainly doesn’t and, as the balmy summer days come to a close, He reminds us that life is very much a serious business and the autumn feasts were created accordingly.

The Lord said to Moses, “Say to the Israelites: ‘On the first day of the seventh month you are to have a day of sabbath rest, a sacred assembly commemorated with trumpet blasts. Do no regular work, but present a food offering to the Lord.’” (Leviticus 23:23-25)

Sadly, the Church pays no attention to this Biblical command, judging it as not relevant. In fact the closest thing to this in the Church calendar is the time of Lent. But, instead of food offerings to the Lord, it suggests that we bake pancakes or indulge all of our appetites at noisy street carnivals. This is Shrove Tuesday, now largely overlooked in our secularised society, and is meant to be a time of self-examination, of being shriven (absolved) of our sins. It is curiously also a day of cramming in as much food as possible, hence the pancakes, in preparation for the forty days of fasting and sacrifices in the Lent period, which starts the very next day. In fact Shrove Tuesday is known as Mardi Gras, in many Catholic countries, which is French for “fat Tuesday” and has become a day of ostentatious excess.

We contrast this with the Biblical feast of Rosh Hashanah, the day of the sacred assembly mentioned above. This begins, for Jewish people, a ten day period of reflection and repentance known as the Days of Awe, leading to the solemn festival of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, when each Jew lays themselves bare before their God and hopes for forgiveness of their sins and failings of the past year.

There’s a big difference between the two scenarios above and it is a question of attitude in man’s dealings with Almighty God. In the Jewish tradition there is even a forty day lead-up to the Days of Awe. The preceding month, Elul, is also a time of repentance in preparation of the actual time of repentance. It’s the sense of a gradual increasing of awareness of the need of a correct relationship with God.

Mardi Gras and pancakes smacks of a disconnect between man and God. Is God really happy with the idea that I promise I’ll be a good boy tomorrow, just let me indulge myself first today? Does this speak of a healthy relationship between man and God? It just doesn’t seem to be a mature, loving attitude and there is no precedent in Scripture. It also seems to be granting a license for over-indulgence to a day intended for self-examination. It makes no sense. Is it really taking God seriously?

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