Romans 3:23 – For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. (NIV)
Today is Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, as the French call it. It's also known as Pancake Day in Britain, or more precisely "Shrove Tuesday". Historically it was the day that all went to confession to have sins "shriven" or absolved by the priest, to be better Christians throughout the six weeks of Lent.
Pancakes are part of the celebrations because Lent was traditionally a time of fasting, so fatty foods like meat and sausage were all used up during the Fat Tuesday feasting. The easiest way to prepare and eat was through the making of pancakes. This part of the celebrations probably pre-dates Christianity because communities all over the world would hold an end-of-winter feast to use up the last of their winter meat before it spoiled.
Fat Tuesday and Ash Wednesday weren't originally celebrated in reformed Presbyterian churches because of the strong connections to the Roman Catholic Church. These days, however, many people are more interested and intrigued with mixing traditions rather than maintaining doctrinal standards. We're more into what I term "pancake piety," where we mix the best of the different strands of Christianity in order to be more inclusive in our community. There's nothing wrong with doing that, because some of the oldest traditions on our Christian calendar were once a mixture of biblical celebrations and pagan feasts.
So, today we gather to feast and have fun, to sing and party, to revel and relax. And whether or not we go to confession and have our sins shriven, we understand that Jesus is the holy and only One who absolves us from our past mistakes and justifies us before God. We all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, but with Christ as our Saviour, we can be forgiven and restored to God's kingdom.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, from what we read in the Gospels, You loved to feast and have fun with other people. We know that at the heart of our celebrations, You are in the midst of us. As we gather together to celebrate this day, we seek Your forgiveness and long for Your absolution from all of our sins. In Your holy name, we ask and pray. Amen.