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Category Archives: anticipation
With Easter so near we can almost taste the chocolate, many of us have gone from weeks of reflection on our relationship with God through Christ to lists of to-dos for special family meals, and to-buys for Easter baskets for our kids. Those with little girls may be out buying that perfect Easter dress and with little boys maybe getting little dress shirts and ties. As with other special days of celebration we like to make a fuss.
With our kids a little older now, we don’t really do much with baskets or egg hunts any more. We aren’t hosting a family event, so the panic clean-up is not under way. The biggest sign that we are only 3 days away from Easter morning was last night when my husband arrived home with a huge box of bacon. For years he has helped to organize the sunrise breakfast at our church and, for many of us, bacon plays a central role in the event. At this point, the decisions about worship have all been made, the anthems planned and as practised as they are going to get.
It is time to let go and let ourselves be swept away in the story and the emotional roller-coaster of this four-day period. We will rise from the Passover meal with Christ on Thursday night feeling at the same time so close to him and confused by what he has said will happen. Afraid that he will be leaving us, worried that we might deny him. We will be horrified by the treatment he takes and the cries for his crucifixion, we will feel immense guilt as we see him hanging there on the cross, an innocent man. Our sense of loss and grief will overtake us as we hear the words, “It is finished.” This will be followed by a lost day in which regular life continues but feels like it shouldn’t. And then there will be Sunday.
On Sunday morning we will rise to go back into our churches which were last seen in a moment of deep grief and pain, and be lifted up on the amazing wave of the news, “He lives!” Let yourself feel it all this Easter weekend, and remember it throughout the rest of the year, for this is why we are Christians!
Today marks the beginning of what many call Holy Week. This week contains within it the whole of the Gospel message for God’s people. Today is Palm Sunday. You know the one, people lined the already busy streets to catch a glimpse of Jesus, or at least to see what all the fuss was about. In a way it represents the height of our misunderstanding of the role and nature of Messiah.
When a Roman legion returned from a successful campaign the city of Rome held a Triumph. A triumph was basically a hero’s parade in which the legion in full regalia, and toting along any captives and slaves, rode and marched through the city streets. It was the only time that a legion was allowed to be in the city en masse. The people of Rome would be lining the streets, cheering and waving to the conquerors who had either protected them or fought to gain them new territory. There was no personal benifit for most of these people but it was a great chance to celebrate!
When Jesus entered Jerusalem the people held in their hearts and minds all the dreams of the Messiah coming leading a legion of sorts and driving the Romans out of their city and their land. To them it was a triumph, they seemed to miss or ignore that he was not riding a fine steed, but a young donkey, and he was not armed or wearing armour. Perhaps we needed to be completely blind to who was really coming into Jerusalem in order for the story to work out properly.
So, even as you wave your palm branch and sing Hosanna this morning, enjoy the party but remember that the real triumph awaits us in seven days time.
Today we begin with a confession. I am that distracted blogger referred to in today’s title. By what have I been distracted? *hears the beep indicating new email and quickly switches tabs to see what it is* It doesn’t seem to take much these days to distract me. We give my dog a hard time because he will get barking over as little as a leaf blowing by, but I’m afraid I’m more like him that I would like to admit. I’m hoping that I am not alone in this trait of distraction.
On the up side, as far as I know no traffic accidents are caused by my distraction. Unlike driving with my cell phone to my ear, there are no immediate effects to my distraction. People don’t get a notice that I have posted anything for several days, no one’s hurt in this story. No one but me that is.
For every day that I go without posting I get less and less inclined to even click on the link to wordpress. I spent most of the weekend on the computer but just left that tab in the corner and ignored it. I began to feel guilty, even about not doing something no one asked me to do, with no deadline except the expectation I have set up for myself.
With Easter two weeks away, I would like to claim that my distractions have been church related; planning and practicing for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and 6 weeks of Easter Sundays. This, at least, would feel justified. No, my distraction has largely been looking at things people have for sale on-line. I don’t need anything, don’t have any intention of buying most of what I see, and yet there I sit skimming through the latest offerings on etsy.com or ebay. It can be mesmerizing!
Whatever our distractions may be, and I’m sure there is huge variation in causes, pulling our attention back to the things that really matter to us; our faith, our families etc. can be a tough one. Everyone else has some idea about what should get your attention. The Pharisees felt that Jesus was giving all his attention to the wrong people. They did all they could to distract him and get him back on their religion and the people at the top. But in the end it was for those of us at the bottom that he suffered humiliation and death, so that we might have eternal life.
Here’s to our efforts against distraction in these last 13 days before Easter!
The days are getting longer, the sun stronger, and the snow is lasting for a shorter time. These are sure signs of spring, of rebirth of our natural world. The reawakening of mother earth. Along with this people’s spirits are lifting and thoughts and dreams are focused more on the short summer (in Canada anyway) which is on the horizon.
This brightening can be seen in the church as well. Sure, we are still in Lent for our worship services, but at choir practices and planning meetings the focus has moved on the joyous celebration which is coming in a mere 23 days! We are still practising our hymns for Lenten services but now the end part of practise is focused on the cheering crowd of Palm Sunday and the weeks of celebration which begin on Easter morning.
So, hang in there! Easter, rejoicing, and spring are coming!!
OK, I realize that this picture is not one of a line of ducks, as one might have expected from the title of this post. It is however evocative of spring and Easter and that is my topic for today.
As I look around my living room right now I see a snowman plate set hanging on the wall across from me, the remnants of my Christmas village still sprawled across the railing and top of the bookshelves, an empty vase, and other general clutter. I did finally take down the last of my nativities earlier this week, although it hasn’t made its way to storage yet. With only 31 days before Easter, I had better get on the ball or it will be too late for bunnies and chicks and we will be into summer!
I’m not suggesting that the season of Lent is about home decor, nor that there is any need to actually decorate our homes seasonally at all! For many of us, though, as is our home – so goes our mind. The most important thing about Lent is getting one’s focus on a right relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and we can’t do that if we are still stuck in Christmas, or clutter, or unfinished projects, or whatever else may surround us.
There is, of course, no actual time limit to getting our relationship with God on solid footing. God accepts us whenever we come to him. Our church calendar provides these designated periods of each year as a reminder, a way to keep us on track. So, I’m just putting it out there, you have 31 days left to get those ducks, or bunnies, or flowers lined up!
Today I went to the daily lectionary page of pcusa.org for some inspiration. Today’s Old Testament reading was Genesis 37:25-36, the scene in which Joseph’s brothers sell him into slavery ‘down the river Nile’ in Egypt. This struck me as an odd story on which to focus during Lent. The Gospel reading, Mark 1:29-45 covered the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law, healing of many people who were brought over to her home that evening, and a leper the next morning when he had gone apart from the group to pray. This continuation of the story of Jesus seemed much more appropriate.
Then I got thinking…
Joseph was very popular with his father and, in the eyes of his brothers, spoiled. They were all older than he was and all had a right to a place higher in the pecking-order of esteem and inheritance than he should have had. They were the ones who deserved the attention.
Imagine now that the role of the older brothers is, in the New Testament, taken by the Scribes and Pharisees of his day. Jesus, despite all that he had done for people in need, made these people nervous, even jealous. What did these older brothers do? They sold Jesus down the river, or up the cross to be more accurate.
When Joseph was sold, it turned out to be to the benefit of all of Israel. It had all been part of God’s plan. Likewise, when Jesus was sent to the cross, through the planning of the Caiaphas and the betrayal by Judas, it was for the benefit of all people.
Most of us do count-downs to important dates. There is an app called Twinkle that will keep a count going for all your important dates. I have it counting down to March Break, family birthdays, Easter, and my retirement (as a sort of joke since it so far in the future). That distance in the future is what I want to address today.
I don’t imagine there is anyone who does not start counting down the days as they near vacation time. We joke that it is bad when you start counting over a month ahead, but is it? I guess for things like my retirement, which is over 2000 days away, it would appear that I am very unhappy in my job and just can’t wait to get out! That would be bad! I do actually like my job, but I have plans for later and I guess that is where the change occurs. When we count down to something exciting, like a vacation, it is usually less about getting away from something and more looking forward to the change. When we are looking at some far future plans we may be simultaneously doing our best at our current, and working toward future goals.
In the church calendar we have two long periods of waiting, or counting down, to important events in the Gospel. We count down the days of Advent ending with the celebration of a birth (40 days of Advent, 40 weeks of pregnancy…coincidence?). We count down during Lent, looking ahead to the feast of Easter.
No matter how important a countdown is, a shorter one will take temporary precedence if we don’t guard against that. So March break is in a little over 3 days and that is exciting, but there is little to do in terms of preparing, whereas Easter is 39 days away and there will probably never be enough time to truly prepare ourselves to stand by that empty tomb and accept that Jesus’ great sacrifice and triumph over death was really for us!
Noah was 200 years old when he finished building the ark. At God’s word he loaded a huge number of animals and presumably food for each onto the boat, then he, his wife, his sons, and their wives, all boarded and the doors were closed. The rains began and it was the beginning of one whole year of confinement on board this big, noisy boat.
Think about that year a little bit. Have you had your kids at home for the last week? How has it gone? In my experience, even as few as four or five days trapped together in the house will have siblings at each other’s throats… imagine a whole year! On top of that, of course, there were the in-law interactions to consider. The animals all needed feeding, their living spaces needed to be cleared of manure, and as I listen to my dog barking upstairs while I write this, there would be noise!
At this time of a new year people often stop to reflect on the coming year and make resolutions to make the most of this time. Imagine with me what Noah may have put on his list of resolutions for the year after they stepped back onto dry land…
I will remember that scorpions, giraffes, and lions do not make good house pets.
I will give thanks every day just to be alive
I will appreciate the feel of the earth (sand, grass, stones, even mud) under my feet
I will spend some time alone with God each day
I will remember that my family members need their space, but appreciate any time they want to spend with me
I will thank God every time I see a rainbow in the sky
When God speaks, I will listen!