Super Bowl, Ash Wednesday and Lent


by David Cassidy,Christ Community Church,Franklin

Super Bowl 50 will be played later today, and while I don’t have a dog in the hunt, it’s always a great party. Over the past thirty years the game has become a national celebration, a spectacle that is as much about the clever commercials and brilliant halftime entertainment as it is about football. While the fans hope for a good game, the non-fans will hope for some good beer and nachos with friends, while together we hope for a one more great party.

And what a party! According to the American Institute of Food Distribution, Super Bowl Sunday is the second highest event in America for most food consumption — following only Thanksgiving. 120 million pounds of avocados; 14,500 pounds of chips; 1.23 billion chicken wings; 3.8 billion pounds of popcorn; 325 million gallons of beer; and with 4 million pizzas being bought, Peyton Manning is a winner even if the Broncos lose the game.

I love a good party as much as anyone (especially if I get to cook something for it), and yet I am also very aware that while non-stop partying may give us a short-term buzz (while setting back the new years resolutions yet again!), it isn’t going to make any of us one bit wiser. In fact, while Scripture certainly encourages – no, even commands! – deep and joyful celebration, it also reminds us that there are seasons in our lives when we need a dose of humility, coming to terms with the brevity of our lives and the reality of eternity. Am I just being a downer? Not at all.

“It is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting,
because that is the end of every man, and the living takes it to heart” (Ecclesiastes 7:2)

Yes, the wise man who wrote that there is ‘a time to every purpose under heaven’ included seasons of reflection and repentance that lead to renewal in the rhythm of our lives as well as seasons of celebration. That’s why we need Lent. Every. Single. Year. We party – a lot! Good. Let’s be quick to acknowledge, however, our need for the Savior, and remember that we live for more than meets the eye. Lent kicks off with Ash Wednesday – this week! Ashes aren’t exactly a hip cultural emblem, but the truth is we need to be reminded of our mortality (“ashes to ashes”) and of our need to turn away from the stuff that kills us and towards the One who gives life (that’s called ‘repentance’ in Biblical speech, ashes being a primary emblem of such repentance).

The writer of Ecclesiastes also noted that “God has set eternity in the heart….” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). There’s a dimension of our humanity that can only be satisfied with the eternal, the mystical and transcendent if you will. We can ‘medicate’ the craving with a number of things, but ‘things’ are just that, the stuff of this realm and can’t satisfy the heart’s longing for the eternal love. No amount of partying, money, success, sex, religion, power, friends, pleasure, or service can do it. We were made for eternal things, and all of the above, while good, won’t scratch that itch.

CS Lewis capture our predicament well when he wrote in ‘The Weight of Glory’, “It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

I’m making some really good chili on Sunday, and also popping in on a couple of parties as well. Can’t wait! But Ash Wednesday is coming. And I need it. I hope you will join me and millions more in the house of wisdom as Lent begins with Ash Wednesday this coming week. Let’s enter this season of authentic repentance and renewal with prayerful hearts. The biggest party of all will be in eternity, which is what our hearts really crave. Joining in that eternal celebration begins with confessing that it’s only mercy that has secured for us an invitation to the celebration.


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