Wednesday, February 28, 2018
Religious traditions, often having been around for a long time, may not have one clear cut origin or meaning to them. When I speak with people about baptisms, for instance, I explain the tradition is like an onion, with layers of meaning and history to it, some of which may resonate more or less with them.
The same is true about the tradition of Lent.
Lent can be associated with Jesus making his way to Jerusalem, because the Sunday before Lent is Transfiguration Sunday when Jesus is about to set off for David's city, and Palm Sunday is when he and his disciples get there.
Yet we're also told that the forty days of Lent (we don't count Sundays) represent Jesus' time in the wilderness, holding off the temptations of Satan as described in Matthew and Luke.
But then we hear that, according to church sources, "Lent comes from the Anglo Saxon word lencten, which means 'spring.'"
Are these layers of meaning or a hodge-podge?
Both, I'd say. On the one hand, these interpretations don't seem to have much to do with each other. One tradition is connected to the beginning of Jesus' earthly ministry, another to the end of it, and yet another to the time of year.
But on the other hand, they are connected. Jesus' forty days in the wilderness imply that we can take the time to reflect on our own ministry and relationship with God, which then enables us to contemplate what Jesus does on the way to and in Jerusalem and what God does through Jesus.
In the John 2 reading, Jesus is asked for a sign, and he tells the crowd that if they tear down this temple, he will have it rise again in three days. They thought he was talking about the Jerusalem temple, where they stood, but he meant his body.
We celebrate Lent in the beginning of spring because it lines up historically with the Passover festival, but also because Lent and Spring both renew our hope. Spring renews our hope in life returning, and Lent and Easter give us hope, even if it's felt like spiritual winter from time to time, that God's undying love is with us forever and rises even over the power of death.
So today, when I saw some crocuses blooming for the first time in front of our house, I stopped and contemplated--for forty seconds?--the hodge-podge of meaning I find in it. What I experienced was that the blooms renewed my hope that life is being renewed and that the God who raises the flowers is also the God who raises Christ after he gives he life for us.
God, through our pauses and reflections, may you raise hope in our hearts in Christ's name, Amen.
First United Church of Christ
34 West Main Street
Milford, CT 06460
All are welcome at First Church! As an inclusive community of God's children, we affirm the radical welcome and hospitality of the United Church of Christ; No matter who you are, or where you are on life's journey, you are welcome here!
|Contact Us / Directions|
|News & Events|