And this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, “Who are you?” He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?” He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”
(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, “Then why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.” These things took place in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing. John 1:19-28
Today, Episcopal churches all over will hold pancakes suppers. The tradition started long ago, when folks rid their pantries of fat, celebrating the last day of the Epiphany season before Lent began. Fat Tuesday or Mardi Gras, is celebrated by people all over the world. In England, it is commonly referred to as Pancake Day. I am truly fascinated with the many ways people celebrate today.
On Pancake Day, "pancake races" are held in villages and towns across the United Kingdom. The tradition is said to have originated when a housewife from Olney was so busy making pancakes that she forgot the time until she heard the church bells ringing for the service. She raced out of the house to church while still carrying her frying pan and pancake. The pancake race remains a relatively common festive tradition in the UK, especially England, even today. Participants with frying pans race through the streets tossing pancakes into the air and catching them in the pan whilst running. The most famous pancake race,at Olney in Buckinghamshire, has been held since 1445. The contestants, traditionally women, carry a frying pan and race to over a 415 yard course to the finishing line. The rules are strict: contestants have to toss their pancake at both the start and the finish, as well as wear an apron and a scarf. Traditionally, when men want to participate, they must dress up as a housewife (usually an apron and a bandanna). The race is followed by a church service. Whatever you chose to do today, remember it is a day of preparation, a day to get ready for a change of season and a change of hearts.
John was being questioned about his ministry and his methods. He was clear as to who he was and what he was doing. He was the one preparing the way for the coming of Christ. He was the one helping people turn from their greed and self=deception and open their hearts to the love of God. Christ's ministry was about begin and John was making the way open by encouraging folks to rid themselves of the excesses that insulated them from true love and true healing. John was the one who prepared them all for the Savior of the world. God invites us today to prepare for the change of seasons and the passion of Christ as we welcome the season of Lent. Before we can begin we are invited to divest ourselves of the excesses have bound us in the past days and to turn again to God.
Today, I ask God to help me celebrate Shrove Tuesday, this day of the turning of the seasons, by letting go of those things which keep me from the love of God. May we all celebrate Shrove Tuesday by examining the hidden shelves of our lives and being ready to let go and make room for God. May we let go, knowing what God has for us is ever greater than what we can amass and hoard.