Questions that Arise
By DAVID WEBSTER.
"How are you keeping Lent?"
"I beg your pardon?"
"I said: How are you keeping Lent?"
"Are you being funny? I'm a Presbyterian. I don't keep Lent."
"You think it un-Presbyterian to keep Lent?"
"Certainly. Don't you?"
"Well, it's rather difficult to say just what is and what is not Presbyterian. There was a time when a Presbyterian minister in Scotland was censured by his Presbytery for 'celebrating the popish feast of Christmas."
"You mean that Presbyterians did not observe Christmas at all?"
"Yes. People were so afraid of 'popery' that they wouldn't allow special feasts of any kind."
"Well, that was going to extremes. All Christians should keep up Christmas. But, surely Lent is different. What's it all about, anyhow? When is it?"
"We're in it now. It's the forty days before Easter and it started on Ash Wednesday, which this year was February the
11th. In order that people should really understand what it was that they were celebrating at Easter, the Church laid it down that the preceding forty days should be a period of self-examination and self-denial."
"What do you mean by self-examination?"
"At Easter we celebrate the death of sin and the triumph of Christ. If it's to be more than an occasion for eating chocolate eggs and going to the Show, we ought to celebrate the death of sin in ourselves. We should concentrate on one of our own weaknesses and resolve that with God's help we will be delivered from it."
"But surely we should be doing that all the time."
"Undoubtedly. But we don't! And don't you think it helps if you can feel that other people in other communions are trying to do the same thing as you are?"
"I've never thought about it. I suppose it would help. But then you mentioned self-denial as well. Do you mean fasting?"
"Fasting is only one form of self-denial, helpful to some people and not to others. But here is something you might care to think about. At a certain place in India, Christians were gathered for a conference, and while they were there they learned that the people in a neighbouring village were very poorly off because of the destruction of their crops. The members of the conference voluntarily went without one meal each day so that the food so saved could be used for the relief of the villagers."
"Well, that's obviously a useful form of self-denial, and I think I see what you're driving at. If we denied ourselves something during Lent we could take the money that we would otherwise have spent and give it for some Christian purpose as a kind of thank-offering at Easter time."
"Yes; and it would be a doubly valuable offering, because it had really cost something. But, in any case, whatever you are going to do, you must do yourself. Because the one thing that IS un-Presbyterian is that the Church should dictate for you the channels in which your spiritual life must flow. Only remember, 'Inasmuch as ye did it not to the least of these. . . .' and 'Love so amazing, so divine. . . . demands my all'."
—"St. Andrew's Church News," Goulburn.