Freedom in the Choice of Food: Or, Breaking With Tradition

On 16 April, 1522 Huldrych Zwingli’s sermon titled Von Erkiesen und Freiheit der Speisen was published in Zurich at the printing house of Froschauer. It was a greatly expanded version of the actual sermon preached shortly after the Lenten Fast was broken, with his approval. Unlike Barth’s Romans, this book really did fall on the playground of the theologians like a bomb.

Zwingli’s point was simple- the Church wasn’t authorized to heft upon souls requirement foreign to the requirements of the Bible. Its tradition wasn’t superior to Scripture; Scripture takes precedence over tradition.

Consequently, he remarks

Und sölichs anzuozeygen habend ir etlichtütsche gedicht lassen ußgon, etliche früntlichen uff stuben unnd by geselschafften disputiert und geredt, etliche ietz zum letsten in diser vasten (als sy gemeint haben, es mög sich niemans mer verbösren) in iren hüsren und so sy by einander gsin sind, fleisch geessen und eyer, käß und ander spysen, so byßhar ungebrucht sind in der vasten. Weliche aber meinung ein andren weg, denn sy gemeint, ußgeschlagen ist, dann ein teil sich daran übel verböseret, und das uß guoter einfaltiger meinung. Der ander teil nit uß liebe gottes noch siner gebotten (als ze besorgen ist), sunder das sy möchtend niderlegen das, so den gemeinen menschen leert und verhuet, das sy nit mithellen wellen iren anschlegen, haben gethon, als ob sy verletzt syen oder verbösret, damit sy die unruow meertind. Der dritt teil der glychßneren eins falschen geists hat ouch derglichen gethon unnd heimlich zuogeschürt, das der gewalt sölichs nit welte noch sölte lassen liggen, es wurde die vasten abtilcken, glich als ob sy nimme vasten köndend, wenn der noturfftig arbeiter, der in diser zyt des glentzes am schwäresten die burde und hitz des tages tragen muoß, zuo uffenthalt des lybs und der arbeit sölich spysen ässe. Ja dise alle habend die sach also beschwärt unnd verüblet, das ein ersamer rat unser statt genöt worden ist, darinnen zuo handlen.

Sausage, Lent, and the Outbreak of Reform

On 9 March, 1522 the printer Froschauer and his assistants had dinner.  What they had blew a hole in Catholic practice and caused a stir in Zurich the repercussions of which would be felt all across Europe.  They had sausage.  They ate meat during Lent and Zwingli, who was there, approved (though he didn’t eat sausages, apparently not being fond of them).

Schaff describes the situation – colorfully –

Zwingli was permitted to labor in Zurich for two years without serious opposition, although he had not a few enemies, both religious and political. The magistracy of Zurich took at first a neutral position, and ordered the priests of the city and country to preach the Scriptures, and to be silent about human inventions (1520). This is the first instance of an episcopal interference of the civil authority in matters of religion. It afterwards became a settled custom in Protestant Switzerland with the full consent of Zwingli. He was appointed canon of the Grossmünster, April 29, 1521, with an additional salary of seventy guilders, after he had given up the papal pension. With this moderate income he was contented for the rest of his life.

During Lent, 1522, Zwingli preached a sermon in which he showed that the prohibition of meat in Lent had no foundation in Scripture. Several of his friends, including his publisher, Froschauer, made practical use of their liberty. This brought on an open rupture. The bishop of Constance sent a strong deputation to Zurich, and urged the observance of the customary fasts. The magistracy prohibited the violation, and threatened to punish the offenders (April 9, 1522).

Zwingli defended himself in a tract on the free use of meats (April 16). It is his first printed book. He essentially takes the position of Paul, that, in things indifferent, Christians have liberty to use or to abstain, and that the Church authorities have no right to forbid this liberty. He appeals to such passages as 1 Cor. 8:8; 10:25; Col. 2:16; 1 Tim. 4:1; Rom. 14:1–3; 15:1, 2.

The bishop of Constance issued a mandate to the civil authorities (May 24), exhorting them to protect the ordinances of the Holy Church. He admonished the canons, without naming Zwingli, to prevent the spread of heretical doctrines. He also sought and obtained the aid of the Swiss Diet, then sitting at Lucerne.

Zwingli was in a dangerous position. He was repeatedly threatened with assassination. But he kept his courage, and felt sure of ultimate victory. He replied in the Archeteles (“the Beginning and the End”), hoping that this first answer would be the last. He protested that he had done no wrong, but endeavored to lead men to God and to his Son Jesus Christ in plain language, such as the common people could understand. He warned the hierarchy of the approaching collapse of the Romish ceremonies, and advised them to follow the example of Julius Caesar, who folded his garments around him that he might fall with dignity. The significance of this book consists in the strong statement of the authority of the Scriptures against the authority of the Church. Erasmus was much displeased with it.

And it all started with a greasy blob of meat scraps held together by intestine…

Lenten Lunacy

With the second week of Lent coming to an end, there’s one thing Christians are giving up this year that’s a bit different from typical comforts like chocolatealcohol or meat.  Instead, in a move that just might benefit the earth as well as their health, thousands of Christians are giving up carbon this year, according to TreeHugger.  Dubbed “Carbon Fast,” the idea began with a small following started back in 2007 by James Jones, the Bishop of Liverpool.  Now a full blown movement operating under the non-profit Christian aid organization TearFund, it has spread to communities in the U.S., Canada, the Netherlands, India, Hong Kong, Australia, and Brazil, American Progress reports.

It lines right up with sanity fast, a similar Lenten observance…  and it also aligns with the real purpose of Lent, which is to make observants feel better about themselves for a few weeks.

Quote of the Day

Paul said “I am crucified with Christ.” I say “I think I’ll give up Diet Coke for Lent.” That’s why he was an apostle and I’m a tourist. — Lawson Stone

Explaining Mardi Gras and Lent to the Reformed: A Short Primer

Since most Reformed Christians (real adherents of Reformed theology) don’t observe such Catholic myths as ‘Fat Tuesday’ or ‘Lent’ let me offer a short primer so you know what the Catholic/Un-Reformed are doing for the next few weeks:

Mardi Gras– An opportunity to live as riotously and sinfully as one wishes with the belief that a few moments of ‘penance’ at the conclusion of the ‘celebration’ will please God and erase guilt.

Lent– The hyperpious notion that if one slathers ash and dirt on one’s forehead and gives up a few non-essential pleasures during a period of 40 days one is somehow made right with God, in spite of and even indeed in contradiction oftentimes to the condition of one’s heart and one’s authentic spiritual state.

Ash Wednesday– That day when the Un-Reformed slather ash on their faces and festoon their blogs with constant reminders of their super-seriousness concerning spiritual things.  It is ‘kickoff day’ for the period of Lent, after which, as soon as the Easter Egg Hunt is over, practitioners return to their pre-Lenten state of riotous living and debauchery.

Just remember the words of Jesus-

When you are fasting, do not put on a gloomy look as the hypocrites do: they go about looking unsightly to let people know they are fasting. In truth I tell you, they have had their reward. But when you fast, put scent on your head and wash your face, so that no one will know you are fasting except your Father who sees all that is done in secret; and your Father who sees all that is done in secret will reward you. (Mat 6:16-17).

Go, wash your faces, you Lentians, and do your pious acts in privacy, so that they are between you and God!

For Those Busy Episcopalians Who Can’t Be Bothered With A Worship Service…

Ashes to go, for your Ash Wednesday festivities…

For those too busy to go to church on Ash Wednesday, The Rev. Sandra Cosman of St. John’s Episcopal Church will be out standing on Main Street Wednesday, February 22 offering ‘Ashes to Go.’  For two hours, 1 to 3 p.m., Rev. Cosman will stand in her vestments holding a bowl of ashes from the burning of last year’s Palm Sunday palm fronds, offering all faiths a thumbprint of the ash on their forehead. Adminstered to the same spot on the forehead where Christians are baptized, they mark the beginning of the Lenten season.  It reminds us of our humanity and our mortality,” summed up Rev. Cosman who will recite the words “Remember that you are dust and to dust you shall return” when the ashes are applied.

Yes, and it also reminds us of the unwillingness of people to set aside time for worship.  So, instead of making themselves available to God (which is the core purpose of worship), they want God to be available to them, to fit into their oh so busy schedules…  I’ve got a new motto for the Ash crowd:

Ash Wednesday: Another Day I Can’t be Bothered to Worship….

Via Dan Stoddart on G+

Oh You Catholics, With Your Lent and Your Cakes and Your Little Baby Jesus-es on Them

NPR has a right fascinating essay on the tradition of placing a baby Jesus on a cake.  No, friends, you can’t make that kind of stuff up.  Only our Catholic friends could.

This can only mean one thing- that pseudo-spiritual season called Lent must be approaching- that time when folk who abstain from chocolate are magically transformed into spiritual people…

More ‘Lent Makes No Sense’ News

Lent- that man made tradition of giving stuff up, of self sacrifice, for the 40 days leading up to Easter – makes no sense to me (as I’ve opined previously). Here’s another reason:

Some people Pronews 7 spoke with say they are giving up things like carbonated sodas, eating fast food, or even abstaining from the social media world.  A priest in Tampa, Fla., according to WTVT, claimed he was giving up driving for Lent. Why? He says since gas prices are so high, he has decided to try to use other methods of transportation that do not run off fuel.

I’m not sure how giving up carbonated drinks makes the world a better place or how it can even remotely be likened to a ‘sacrifice’.  And the priest who has given up gas… what’s sacrificial about that?  He’s actually benefiting from it.  He’s saving money, getting exercise by riding his bike and walking as much as possible, and helping the environment too.  How is any of that even remotely sacrificial?

Or do the Lent-ians just have a very bizarre concept of sacrifice in which sacrifice actually means ‘self indulgence’?  Is sacrifice anything that makes you healthier, better, or wiser?  That’s a view of sacrifice completely at odds, it seems to me, to Jesus call to ‘take up your cross and follow me’ which means nothing less than ‘die to yourself!’ (or at least that seems to be how Paul saw things- cf. Gal 2:20 —  Χριστῷ συνεσταύρωμαι ζῶ δὲ οὐκέτι ἐγώ ζῇ δὲ ἐν ἐμοὶ Χριστός· ὃ δὲ νῦν ζῶ ἐν σαρκί ἐν πίστει ζῶ τῇ τοῦ υἱοῦ τοῦ θεοῦ τοῦ ἀγαπήσαντός με καὶ παραδόντος ἑαυτὸν ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ ).

Lent…  it’s just too self indulgent on so many levels.  Ironically.

Lent: That Wonderful Time When People Can Pretend to Be Spiritual…

Whilst the rest of the year they don’t have to actually BE spiritual- they did their part during Lent.

[Yes, I’m a bit of an anti-Lentist.  It just strikes me as a pretentious attempt at part time spirituality.  If the meaning of Lent were meaningful then it would be something that Lent-ers did all the time and not just for a few weeks.  People who are married don’t take their marriages seriously a mere 40 days – or they wouldn’t be married very long.  Taking self denial, the core of Christian practice, seriously for little over a month and then going back to self indulgence seems just rubbishy.  One is either always married or not married.  Similarly, one is either always in a state of self denial and thus real discipleship, or one isn’t a real disciple].

Mardis Gras: Just Another Excuse to Act Wickedly

Want to expose yourself for little plastic beads?  No problem.  Want to stumble the streets in a drunken stupor?  Have at.  Want to do it with mobs of other like minded people?  There’s a place for you!  It’s New Orleans Mardis Gras… ostensibly the last ‘big party day’ before the season of ‘Lent’ commences.

So go an act as wickedly as you like… you can ‘repent’ during ‘Lent’ and then you can do it all over again next year.

[Which fact shows beyond doubt that neither repentance nor Lent are meaningful in any truly spiritual sense for the massa perditionis].