Pastoral Ponderings—Paczki Poison?
Not that I have anything against Poles, paczki, or anything remotely resembling a donut. If anything, I love them too much! But the Polish practice with paczki—and all the other traditions like Mardi Gras relating to “Fat Tuesday” right before giving up anything “good” for Lent, has detracted so much from what Lent is supposed to be about. Though I love donuts– whether Polish or not– we often go into Lent a bit handicapped, when we primarily think of Lent as a time of “giving up” all the good stuff like paczki, as a spiritual practice.
Many Protestants don’t think much about Lenten practices at all, but when we do, we too often think they mean some kind of sacrifice, or giving up something good, as somehow a being a spiritual thing to do, without much further thought. But the millennia long Lenten traditions in whatever form, of special spiritual disciplines for Lent are intended to be practices that deepen our relationship with God, to perhaps deepen our spiritual hunger rather than make our bellies hungry. And deepening our relationship with God is a GOOD thing to be embraced—not good stuff we give up!
Perhaps I’ve over-reacted across the years to this misunderstanding, so rather than doing any kind of Lenten disciplines, I’ve tended to ignore this facet of Lent instead—and I have thus NOT benefitted from the blessing that could come from such practices. I was visiting Christ Episcopal Church in Kent for their Ash Wednesday service years ago, when their priest, Father Reid, was describing his Lenten discipline of smoking his cigars more. He said that for him, smoking cigars slows him down, giving him time to pause, reflect and pray, in ways he was not able to do in his otherwise hectic life.
What if we think of Lenten practices less in terms of “giving up,” and more in terms of how to take on, or be more frequent in practices that grow us closer to God—as Father Reid did with his cigars? It might put Lenten practices in a more positive light, something to look forward to, rather than dread. So that’s what I’m trying this Lent. I’ll be doing more of what deepens my journey, and sharing it with you, as what helps me most is writing, sharing, and reflecting (often with pictures)—so keep your eyes out on our church website and blog postings for more.
So has Paczki Day poisoned how you think of Lent, to think of as giving up the good stuff for Lent? Would my Dr. get upset, you think, if I were to take more time to reflect with another cup of coffee or two each day for Lent, rather than reducing my coffee intake? I mean, it’s not taking up smoking cigars, after all…
To more ponderings with Pastor Jim