Mar 20, 2009

Lenten ponderings for chocolate-loving Christians

Ev Buhr contemplates 40 days of no chocolate: No leftover Valentine’s treats, no snowman soup (hot chocolate, marshmallows and a candy cane stir stick), no divine dark chocolate (medical experts claim a bite of dark chocolate a day keeps the heart disease away), and no chocolate chips straight out of the bag.

Photo by Donita Wiebe-Neufeld

My early experiences of Lent are fuzzy at best, perhaps because Lent didn’t really get onto the Mennonite worship resource scene until 1993, when pastors began asking for materials on it. However, I do recall hearing people from other denominations say they were giving something up for Lent. What did that mean? How did giving up coffee or chocolate make you a better Christian or prepare you for Easter?
As I pondered these questions, I read that in the early Christian church, new converts were baptized at Easter. So perhaps for people like me who absolutely love chocolate, comparing the process of becoming a Christian to transforming a cacao bean into chocolate might make such a 40-day “sacrifice” more meaningful.
Like cacao beans, Christians are varied in type and come from many regions, all with unique qualities and characteristics. Together, they create the particular blend the coffee or congregation is known for.
Also, when cacao beans are carefully roasted, they crack open and water vapour is released. This brings out the flavour of the bean. That seems similar to the process of learning about our relationship with God and others. We need to learn at a steady pace so that we continue to grow in faith. Perhaps undergoing baptism is when we’ve cracked the outer shell and reveal the flavour within.
Then there’s the winnowing and grinding which gets rid of the outer layer of the bean. A course grinder cracks the husks, which are then blown away. The centre of the cacao bean is ground into pulp and transformed into a smooth liquor, which is mixed with other ingredients to form chocolate.
How wonderful it would be if we too could just crack the outer shell and blow the debris of our old lives away. Good news! This is possible through Jesus Christ! We are given the opportunity to start over as a new creation. And it’s up to me as a Christian to allow God’s Spirit to work in my life grinding away the pulp and bringing out the very heart of my faith—the essence of who I am.
When asked who we are, most of us respond with what we do for a job, or who we are in relation to others (somebody’s mom or sister). How many of us respond with “I am a Christian”? Once I am a Christian, I can be mixed with others to form a community of believers.
After that comes the processing, refining and tempering processes, which include adding milk, cocoa butter, lecithin, and sugar, then agitating and folding this mixture in a special machine to break down the chocolate and give it that melt-in-your-mouth feeling.
Within a Christian community, we too add ingredients that fit with our recipe. Ingredients like worship and music styles, welcoming faces and the number of potlucks can determine which community we combine with. Together, we learn, discuss and “agitate” our faith. We blend to form a cohesive whole. And as we continue our Christian walk, we’re tempered into a stable form through a solid foundation of Scripture, prayer and good works. An on-again/off-again relationship with Christ will give us a poor quality or, to use a chocolate term, “bloom.”
And finally comes the good part—the moulding and dipping, which turns the chocolate into something that is pleasing to look at and wonderful to eat. We have reached the point of celebration.
That’s the part I can get into! Celebrate with a big batch of brownies at Easter! Ooh, that chocolaty goodness, warm and a bit oozing in the middle. What a reward for giving up chocolate for Lent.
And yet how small a thing to remind us of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem and the ultimate sacrifice of his death on the cross for us. Will giving up chocolate for Lent make me a better Christian? Probably not, but perhaps it will give me a small understanding of the “sacrifice” that is required of those who seek to follow Jesus, and a little nudge to think about that sacrifice every time I turn down some form of chocolate this Lenten season.

Ev Buhr is a Christian and president of Alberta Women in Mission.

Article previously published in Canadian Mennonite


  1. Since reading your article I have become much more aware of Lent. Instead of taking something away during Lent, I decided to add something. I am adding choral Easter music to my day and this is helping me to reflect on the meaning of Good Friday and Easter. Thanks for prompting my thinking which led to action.

  2. I agree that we Mennonites don't focus that much on Lent. We are more a church of the ressurection, but some reflection during this time seems appropriate. I also have heard that adding something instead of taking away is another method, and I think it would have been harder to add one new thing everyday than it has been to avoid chocolate.