From Feast to Fast: Shrove Tuesday

Leave all screens turned off and outside of the gathering space/room.
Set a single candle in the center of your space or on a child’s nightstand or headboard.

As you light the candle, you might sing together the refrain only of, Change My Heart, O God1:

Change my heart, oh God; make it ever new;
Change my heart, oh God, let me be like you.

This is a time to become fully present with one another and with God.
Invite everyone to take a deep breath in and exhale fully.
Repeat this deep breathing for about 20 seconds, everyone at their own pace.

Excitement over past or future events - or, worries, pain and/or guilt - can keep us from immersing in God’s loving Presence, right here and now.

You might invite participants to Let Go as follows:

“In one or two words, how have you separated yourself from God, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: know that you are, right now, in God’s Presence.
Breathe out: release into God’s grace any guilt, shame or pain that separation has 


You might invite participants to Receive Grace as follows:

“How has God made you new, today?
Allow time for a response from each individual.
Breathe in: notice how God’s Spirit is as close to you as your breath.
Breathe out: thank God for always being close.”


Before moving on, take two more deep breaths.

Then share a summary of this evening’s text. Using your own words is strongly encouraged. If that feels uncomfortable or overwhelming, or if you would like a young person to lead this portion, here are some thoughts on this story:

[Supplemental information:
In the Late Middle Ages (1300-1500), Christians around Europe appropriated2 an 
ancient mid-February Roman festival honoring the deities Saturnalia and Lupercalia 
and turned it into the Lenten fast, which was becoming defined as removing from the 
diet all fat, i.e., prized foods such as oils, meats, lard, eggs and dairy; and in some 
places, sugars
The day is called “Mardi Gras”, French for “Fat Tuesday” (because we feast on fatty 
things), “Carnival” in Portugal, Spain and Italy (because we “remove/say farewell to all 
meat”) and Shrove or Pancake Tuesday in England. “Shrove” comes from the Old 
English term for “absolve”: traditionally, the day before Ash Wednesday, the “Shriving 
Bell” calls people to the church to confess and have their sins “shriven” or forgiven by 
their pastor or priest. Pancakes come into it because people decided they’re the 
perfect meal for eating up fats, dairy and sweets.]
We begin this family contemplative practice on Shrove/Pancake/Fat/Carnival Tuesday 
following Jesus’ invitation. In our first reading, Jesus says, “pray to God who is in that 
secret place”.3 This is encouragement to seek the Divine within the quiet of our home, 
our room, our own mind, heart and body.
Jesus’ many reminders and instructions on how to pray will shape these first several 
practices. Tonight, Jesus encourages us to let our prayer, fasting, or any spiritual 
practice be seen only by God. This means that we don’t brag about it or make a big 
deal about it; we don’t do it to impress other people. We take on a spiritual discipline or 
practice to get closer to God, to sink deeper into God’s presence.
Fasts teach us to trust that God provides everything we need for our body-mind-spirit
well-being. On Shrove Tuesday we eat up our “stores” and “earthly treasures” (like 
fats, dairy and sugars), so that by not eating these things - or whatever other 
disciplines we might follow - throughout Lent, we quietly practice trusting that God will 
give us enough shelter, food, clothing, protection, love, grace in our relationships, etc.
Hopefully, you ate something special to celebrate Fat/Carnival/Shrove/Pancake 
Tuesday. Tomorrow, the Lenten fast begins.

Readings can be shared around the circle by verse, or a different reader can lead each night.

A reading from Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21:4
6:1 "Beware of practicing your piety before others to attract their attention; if you do 
this, you will have no reward from your Abba God in heaven.
6:2 "When you do acts of charity, for example, don’t have it trumpeted before you; that 
is what hypocrites do in the synagogues and the streets, that they may be praised by 
others. The truth is, they’ve already received their reward in full.
6:3 But when you do acts of charity, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand 
is doing;
6:4 your good deeds must be done in secret, and your Abba God - who sees all that is 
done in secret - will repay you.
6:5 "And when you pray, don’t behave like the hypocrites; they love to pray standing 
up in the synagogues and on street corners for people to see them. The truth is, they 
have received their reward in full.
6:6 But when you pray, go to your room, shut the door, and pray to God who is in that 
secret place, and your Abba God - who sees all that is done in secret - will reward you.
6:16 "And when you fast, don’t look depressed like the hypocrites. They deliberately 
neglect their appearance to let everyone know that they are fasting. The truth is, they 
have already received their reward.
6:17 But when you fast, brush your hair and wash your face.
6:18 Don’t let anyone know you’re fasting except your Abba God, who sees all that is 
done in secret. And Abba God - who sees everything that is done in secret - will reward you.
6:19 "Don’t store up earthly treasures for yourselves, which moth and rust destroy and 
thieves can break in and steal.
6:20 But store up treasures for yourselves in heaven, where neither moth nor rust can 
destroy them and thieves cannot break in and steal them.
6:21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be as well.

At the close of the reading you might begin with basic questions, such as:

  • Did this reading have any words or ideas that anyone doesn’t understand?
  • Let’s explore what those might mean, together.

If you are ready for further discussion, you might consider these questions:

  • Does your family or community celebrate Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday/Pancake Day?
  • How so? Or why not? Ask around!
  • What did your family or community feast on - if anything - to mark the day? How was this significant?

From your devotional basket, please take the following items:
~Notebook or binder for everyone
~Drawing or coloring utensil(s) for everyone

Be sure notebooks/binders and utensils are handy but not a distraction.
You might invite the group into prayer with these or similar prompts:

I invite everyone to find a comfortable posture appropriate to prayer and encourage everyone to close their eyes.
Let’s all take a few deep breaths to settle our minds:
~let go of the discussion questions and conversation;
~let go of the Bible story;
~let yourself rest for a moment in the love of your family and the presence of

After a few deep breaths, share the following:

Make an image in your mind of a meal from today that you ate with other people.5

Pause for a few moments.

Look at each part of the meal, if you know them, think about specific ingredients that 
were important.

Pause for a few moments.

Create a clear image in your mind of your favorite food from this meal. Let yourself see, smell and taste your favorite food from today.

Pause for a few moments.

Go ahead and open your eyes and draw the one favorite or important part of today’s important meal.
The drawing doesn’t have to be perfect, it doesn’t even have to look like the thing it represents, just something to help you remember and focus on that one most important or favorite part of the meal.

Pause for thought and drawing; about three minutes.

Once you have a simple picture of your favorite food from today, look at your picture 
and consider how this food makes you content or happy to be you.

Pause for 30 seconds.

Continue to look at your picture and consider how this food connects you to your 
favorite people.

Pause for 30 seconds.

Continue to look at your picture and consider how this food connects you to people 
you do not know.

Pause for 30 seconds.

 Continue to look at your picture and consider how this food connects you to God.

Pause for 30 seconds.

When people have completed drawings and have had time for silence, invite their attention back to the room with words like these:

I invite you to return your awareness to this place.
You might quietly wiggle your toes and fingers or gently roll your shoulders or your 
Slowly bring your body and mind back to here and now, and rest for a moment.

Resting is important: the transition from silence to immediate action or thought can be very jarring. Let the movement from rest to engagement be gentle.

After a few beats, while people are still transitioning, introduce the reflection questions, as follows:

As you bring your awareness back to here and now, I encourage you to reflect on a 
moment or a sensation, a thought or feeling that seemed powerful or meaningful to you.
Consider what you observed, saw, felt or experienced in this time of prayer.
Where or in what way did you experience God in this time?

After a minute or two of resting, encourage people to write, draw or doodle about their experience.
Allow about 3-5 minutes; gauge the activity-level of participants to determine when they are “done”.
Invite people to share their reflections with the group/family, only as they are comfortable. Not everyone will have something to share or feel comfortable sharing their experience. Let this be okay: not everyone needs to share.

Listen carefully to one another.
Acknowledge each sharing with words of affirmation.
Discussion can and should be about curiosity, clarity and/or affirmation. This is not a time for correction or psycho-analyzing experiences.

As the following song is sung, the Leader should gather all materials utilized during the practice. Stow them in the basket for easy removal and future use.

Sing together the refrain only of, Change My Heart, O God1

Change my heart, oh God; make it ever new;
Change my heart, oh God, let me be like you.

As they blow out the candle, children can offer the following blessing/prayer with their adults:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

Adult(s) can share the following blessing/prayer with the child[ren] as they turn out the lights:
“I love you and I know you love me; let’s always be gentle with each other.”

1. Eddie Espinosa, Acoustic Worship; 1995.
2. Christians and other people do this a lot: take elements of another culture and use them for their own purposes, without consideration of the history, context or beliefs of the culture from which they were taken. Appropriation is almost always an act of a dominant culture over-against a minority or marginalized culture.
3. Centering Prayer, one of the most commonly known forms of Contemplative Prayer, is based on Matthew 6. Richard Rohr’s description is clear and helpful.
4. From The Inclusive Bible (Rowman & Littlefield; 2007). Used with permission from The Quixote Center.5. Help all participants focus on a specific meal. If possible, let it be a meal the family shared together and/or with your faith community. If not, let it be a meal that was shared in another form of community (i.e., school). OR, let each participant focus on their favorite meal of the day.


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