Tag Archive | Holy Week

Celebration and a Sense of Doom

A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and that followed were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest heaven!” When he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was in turmoil, asking, “Who is this?” The crowds were saying, “This is the prophet Jesus from Nazareth in Galilee.” (Matthew 21:8-11)

We celebrate Palm Sunday today – the day that Jesus made a triumphal entrance into Jerusalem. . . and the beginning of a week that brought denial, betrayal, a trial, crucifixion and finally, resurrection.

This coming “holy week” is the culmination of Jesus’ life – the reason He came as God’s son. We experience a wide range of emotions as we move through the week.

It is the time of the Jewish Passover – a time when people came home to celebrate with their families. It was a holiday then, and still is today, a time to be with family and celebrate with the Passover meal.

If you use your imagination for just a moment, you can feel the press of the people as they gather along the road from Bethany to Jerusalem. You can smell the dust, and the donkeys, you can hear the crowd. You can see the brightly colored holiday clothes of festive pilgrims gathering in Jerusalem.

You can feel the excitement in the air; you may find yourself climbing a tree to break down a palm branch, and then straining to see through all the other waving branches. Off in the distance, a muffled roar, indistinguishable words, then a cheer, and then a chant: “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna!” You may even find yourself shouting

“Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

Soon the road was jammed with pilgrims and locals alike. They joined the disciples in laying their cloaks across the path to show Jesus honor. They broke branches from the palm trees and waved them in the air, and spread them on the road. While the cloaks and the palm branches make this a procession fit for a king, the cheers of the people were even more significant.

“Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9)

It was a great celebration!! People were happy and joyful, celebrating life.

But it was also the last week of Jesus’ life.

In the jubilation of Palm Sunday, we forget that in a few short days Jesus will be betrayed, arrested, tried, abandoned, whipped, spit upon, slapped, scourged, tortured with a crown of thorns, mocked, ridiculed, and ultimately nailed on a cross. And the same crowds that had sung “Hosannas” at his arrival, would shout “Crucify Him!” – and ask Pilate to release Barabbas and put Jesus to death.

Their love for the Lord was shallow and based entirely on their hope of what exciting things he could do for them. In their confusion, and anger, and fear, those who on Sunday had welcomed Jesus as their new messiah, by Friday had turned on him, disappointed in Jesus and their continued lives under the Roman rule. So tired of all they could not control, they cried out for vengeance they could control. If Jesus would not be their king and free them, then they might as well get rid of Him.

Jesus knew that the end of his earthly ministry was near. It was time to do what he had come to do. It was now or never; he was ready to be obedient to God, and to accomplish the purpose set out for him. The road on Palm Sunday was not a road to freedom. It was the road to sacrifice. It was not the road to power, it was the road to humility and humiliation. It was not the road to fame, it was the road to death. It was not the road the crowd thought; it was the road God had planned.

None of us knows just how long each of our lives will be, how much time we have left. Every time we learn of someone who dies young, we are reminded of that.

None of us can know all that the future holds. We don’t know how long we will be on this earth. But we can know that God has a purpose for us. He calls us to love him and love others with the kind of love that He showed us when he sacrificed His only Son. He calls us to speak out the truth, to reach out our hands, to hold out our hearts.

And he calls us to do that now. When we think we are not ready to make a commitment, that is the best time to do it. God doesn’t expect us to be perfect. He just wants us to try. . . try a little each and every day.

And that day is now.

We don’t know how many more days there will be. We cannot afford to miss even one.

It is time to try to live our lives in the way Jesus taught. We are to

“Love one another as we love ourselves” (John 13:34-35)

Jesus gave his life for us; we can do no less to honor Him.

Let us pray:

Creator who loves us dearly, thank you for sending Jesus to be our redeemer. No matter how, or where or when we worship you, we want to do it to honor you and not ourselves. May we reflect Jesus’ passion and share in your grace. In the name of the Son of David we pray. Amen.

 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 9 April 2017

Getting Ready for Holy Week

Next week we begin the observance of Holy Week, one of the most sacred times in the Christian faith. With the arrival of Palm Sunday, we finally end the season of Lent, a time of reflection and repentance readying us for the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus.

We all have lots of things in our lives that impede us from fully embracing the salvation the Jesus gave us through His death and resurrection. Greed and hatred are in our hearts; we have not rid ourselves of other impediments to let us fully know Jesus. But we have one more week to take a look at ourselves.

As the Apostle Paul said:

    “I want to know Christ–yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,” (Philippians 3:10)

We all want to live a life that is guided by Jesus. And we know that it is not going to be easy. And no matter how hard we work, we are never going to be as perfect as Jesus. But all He asks of us is to try.

    “I want to know Christ” (Philippians 3:10)

Said the apostle Paul. Did he mean that we ‘know’ Jesus in our head or in our hearts?

There is a big difference from knowing a fact or ‘head knowledge’; all our brains are full of facts, things we have learned throughout our life. Some we remember immediately and some take a while to remember. We know important dates, names of people who are close to us. These are stored in our brain.

But there is another type of knowledge; knowledge that exists in our hearts: things that tug at our soul, making us feel warm and fuzzy. That is the ‘know’ that Paul was talking about. It is intimate; a personal knowledge of God, of God’s love and our place in His world.

When we have that deep love of God and Christ, we have the desire and determination to follow Jesus. We want to live a life that shows others the love of God and Jesus. Each and every day we try to treat others as we are commanded in Matthew 7:12:

    “do unto others are you would have them do unto you”

And in Matthew 22:39:

    “love thy neighbor as thyself’.

This is the way to gain that inner knowledge of God and Jesus. And with that knowledge, we are assured of eternal life through the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. We are assured by Jesus that He has

    “gone to prepare a place for us” (John 14:3)

So in this last week of Lent, we have one more chance

    • to draw nearer to Jesus,
    • to embrace the unconditional love that God offers us,
    • to prepare ourselves to be fully ready to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

We can do this through identifying those things that we want to change about ourselves. We can do this by

    • spending time in personal reflection of where we want our lives to go.
    • feeding our spiritual needs.
    • trying to fully live into the Golden Rule.

We have one more week. Just one more week.

Please join me in spending the remainder of this holy season of Lent in prayer, asking God to prepare our hearts to share and to receive the stories and truths that challenge each of us most. And celebrate the gift of eternal life.

Amen
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 13 March 2016

The Seven Days That Changed the World

(Luke 19:28-44)

Today we begin the final week of Lent. In Jesus; at one time these seven days were called Passover, as it is still called today by the Jewish people. Christians around the world know these seven days as Holy Week, the Passion of the Christ. It is a week that starts with triumph and celebration, goes to betrayal, condemnation, and death; then climaxes on Easter Sunday with in the resurrection of Jesus – His triumph over death, and the saving of all mankind.

It is seven days that changed the world.

These seven days have been the topic of a thousands of sermons, countless debates, and numerous books and films. These seven days have inspired the greatest painters, the most skilled architects, and the most gifted musicians. To try and calculate the cultural and historical impact of these seven days is impossible. But harder still would be an attempt to account for the lives of men and women who have been transformed by the life of Jesus and the events of Holy Week. And yet these seven days, as they played out at the time in Jerusalem, were of little significance to anyone but a few people involved.

What happened on those seven days?

Let’s look at these seven days to see how they changed the world:

  1.  This Sunday, commonly known as ‘Palm Sunday, is the first of the seven days of Holy Week. As related to us in the Holy Gospels, Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem on a donkey to the shouts of ‘Hosanna’, fulfilling an old prophecy in Zechariah 9:9.
  2. Shout and cheer, Daughter Zion! Raise the roof, Daughter Jerusalem! Your king is coming! a good king who makes all things right, a humble king riding a donkey, a mere colt of a donkey.

    People were excited – the man they knew as Jesus was arriving in Jerusalem. . . coming to celebrate Passover and save them from the persecution and tyranny of the Roman rule. In The Gospel of Luke we learn they shouted:

    Blessed is he who comes, the king in God’s name! All’s well in heaven! Glory in the high places! (Luke 19:38)

    Or at least that what they hoped for and dreamed of and thought. People lined the streets and waved palm branches as He rode in on a donkey. People spread out their cloaks on the road to soften His path. It was a time of great celebration and anticipation. But little did they know what they waited for was not what they were going to get.

  1. On Monday Jesus walked into the Jerusalem Temple and found money changers and stalls of animals. This was the great temple of Jerusalem – the place of the Ark of the Covenant, the house of God. The Temple authorities had been using the Second Commandment about no graven images to cheat the people by requiring them to exchange their Roman money for Jewish shekels, thus making the Temple a place of profit rather than of prayer. In a great rage, Jesus overturned the tables and ran all the animal sellers out of the temple.
  1.  On Tuesday Jesus taught in parables, warning the people against the religious authorities who cheated the people. As we hear in the Gospel of John, Jesus also predicted the destruction of the great temple of Jerusalem, saying:
  2. Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days. (John 2:19)

    This enraged the Jewish religious authorities and they started to plan for the crucifixion of this troublemaker, Jesus. They asked him all kinds of questions, trying to trick him into saying things that would indicate He was a rebel and was aiming to overthrow the Romans. But Jesus stayed quiet and gave them no justification for arrest.

  1. Wednesday, the fourth day, is also known as ‘Spy Wednesday’. This is the day that Judas, who was going to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver met with the religious leaders and made the deal to identify Jesus the following night with a kiss. The thirty pieces of silver was the going price for the purchase of a slave in that time.
  1. On Thursday, in an upper room, Jesus celebrated the Passover meal with his disciples. But he gave it a new meaning. No longer would his followers remember the Exodus from Egypt in the breaking of bread. They would remember his broken body and shed blood in a meal that became known as ‘The Last Supper’ or ‘Communion’ or ‘Eucharist’.
  2. Knowing what was going to transpire, Jesus agonized in prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane at what lay ahead for him in the Garden of Gethsemane.

    It was during His praying in the Garden of Gethsemane that the Jewish officials and Roman soldiers would come to the garden. Judas led the Jewish priests to the Garden of Gethsemane and identified Jesus by kissing him and addressing him as “Master.”
     
    Jesus foretold that he would not only be betrayed but denied as well by his closest friends. Peter, on whom He would found his church, indeed denied knowing Jesus three times before the cock crowed, just as Jesus had foretold. The priests and Roman soldiers took Jesus away and imprisoned Him.
     
    Thursday of Holy Week is also called ‘Maundy Thursday’. In the evening many Christians strip their altars of everything and cover all icons and statues and crosses with black cloth to symbolize the mourning of the betrayal and upcoming crucifixion of Jesus. The stripping of the altar also signifies the seizing of Jesus’ clothes and the humiliation he suffered.
     
    Trinity has a Maundy Thursday service which is very moving, held at 7 pm in the church. I would invite every to come attend the service and participate in the solemn remembrance of the imprisonment, death and resurrection of Jesus.

  1. Friday, the fifth day known as ‘Good Friday’, isn’t named ‘good’ meaning pleasant or fun but holy or pious. Jesus was abandoned by his disciples, suffered through a false trial in front of Pontius Pilate, and was condemned to death by the Jewish officials. The Bible tells ys that Pilate had been warned by a dream of his wife that Jesus was innocent of the charges made by the Jewish officials. But the crowd wanted blood and so he washed his hands, symbolically removing from him any responsibility for what was about to occur.
  2. It was the custom during Passover for the Roman officials to free one criminal. Pilate wanted to release Jesus, but the crowd, riled up by the religious officials. wanted blood. So Jesus was sentenced to death on a cross, a sentence which was only given to the lowest and vilest of criminals. He was even made to carry his own cross through the streets of Jerusalem to Golgotha (“The Place of the Skull”), where he was crucified with two common thieves.

    He suffered for about three hours and then died. Since Jewish custom required burial within 24 hours, His body was removed from the cross and placed in an unused tomb belonging to Joseph of Arimathaea.

    Many Christians honor these three hours with prayers and music and meditation, but there are no formal services with Communion.

    At Trinity, we observe Jesus’ walk to Golgotha and a walk around Capitol Square, with a life-size cross. This begins at 11 am from the front steps. When we complete the walk, we come into the church and meditate for three hours on the death of Jesus. You are welcome and come and go as you wish, respecting the solemnity and quiet of the vigil.

  1. On Saturday, the observance of Lent ends. Jesus lay dead in the tomb and women came and anointed his body with oils and spices, as was the Jewish custom. The disciples locked themselves in a room, afraid to come out for fear of being imprisoned or killed. No one remembers of understands that Jesus will rise from the dead the next morning. No one understood that when he said
  2. “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”(John 2:19)

    He was talking about Himself and His resurrection.

    Today’s Christians often hold an Easter Vigil at the onset of Saturday evening, as a time of waiting in prayer for the resurrection of Christ. Often baptisms are conducted so that these new Christians may rise with Jesus on Sunday. The practice of communion begins again in celebration of Christ’s resurrection.

  1. On Sunday, Jesus’ ordeal was over, the stone had been rolled away. Jesus was alive. He appeared to Mary Magdalene, to Peter, to two disciples on the road to Emmaus, and to the 11 disciples gathered in a locked room. His resurrection was proclaimed and our salvation ensured.
     
    Easter Sunday is a day of great celebration of Jesus’ resurrection and our salvation guaranteed by His death and resurrection.

Trinity holds a festival Eucharist at 9 am on Easter Sunday, with music and choir and trumpets to celebrate the wondrous resurrection of Christ. Following that service is brunch to celebrate. Please consider coming to enjoy the pageantry and celebrate in the resurrection.
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH; 24 March 2013

Happy Holy Week!

This past weekend was beautiful — sunny (finally!), with bright flowers starting to pop out everywhere and little birds singing. Winter seems to have finally left, at least for a little while (I hear we are going to get more snow on Tuesday!).

A friend of mine, said to me, “You must be busy getting ready for Easter. So what’s the thing to say — do you tell people “Happy Holy Week?’” “Well,” I said. “You could say ‘Happy Easter,’ when it’s actually Easter day, or ‘Christ is Risen!’.

But until then it’s kind of confusing: there’s a lot of different things going on in Holy Week.

Think about it. During Holy Week, we wave palms in the air and hail Jesus as king, the long-awaited messiah who’s going to save us, then we change our minds and scream that the Romans should crucify him; we share a loving last supper with Jesus and he washes our feet, then we sneak out after dinner and betray him. Jesus begs us to stay with him, we promise we will, then we don’t. We abandon him, he’s arrested and beaten; he forgives us, then we run away. Then Jesus is killed; we lay him in the tomb and weep; we go back for him, then he’s gone, then he’s back, and then — wait! — he’s not dead at all.

We call this week before Easter Sunday ‘Holy Week’ because it was originally the time of the Feast of Passover when the Jews were saved in Egypt, and because of the miraculous things that Jesus did in the last week of His Life.

We witness to Christ in song and story throughout Holy Week.

On Palm Sunday we process with our palms and incense and songs. We celebrate Jesus triumphantly riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Men, women and children lined the streets yelling ‘hosanna’ and waving palm branches. They were greeting the messiah who they believed had come to save them.

On Holy Monday we remember Jesus’ throwing all the money changers and vendors out of the Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of worship for the Jews and they were required to present money and animals for sacrifice to the priests when they visited. Animal vendors, and money changers had set up booths in the court. People believed that God actually lived in ‘Most Holy of Holy Places’ the inner sanctum of the Temple. This desecration angered Jesus so much that he turned over the tables of the money changers and ran all the animal vendors out.

On Holy Tuesday, Jesus spent most of the day on the Mount Of Olives, where he preached what we now know as the’ Sermon on The Mount’, telling crowds of people what the Kingdom would be like and how we could join Him.

On Spy Wednesday we remember Judas Iscariot, a zealot, who thought he was doing the right thing by agreeing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver.

He thought that if Jesus was jailed, the people would rise up and overthrow the Romans.

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus shared a common meal with his disciples – this has become the celebration we call Eucharist or Communion. Many churches strip their altars and cover any icons and statues on Maundy Thursday in preparation for the mourning of Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. There will be no celebration of Communion until the resurrection.

Many other churches hold feet washings, washing each other’s feet, to commemorate that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Jesus reminds us that we are to love each other as he loved us.

After the meal, Jesus went to the Garden at Gethsemane to pray. He asks the disciples to stay and pray with him, but they all fall asleep. Jesus is left to pray for strength for what is to come by himself, abandoned by his own disciples.

Judas then identified Jesus for the Roman guards with a kiss and He was taken away by the soldiers.

We don’t know why this Friday got the name of ‘Good Friday’ – it certainly was not a ‘good’ day. Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, and sentenced to death. He was then forced to walk to the Hill of Golgotha, carrying the cross on which he will be crucified. There is a commemoration of this walk called the ‘Stations of the Cross’ where participants remember each of the steps to the crucifixion. Here at Trinity, we do a Stations of the Cross around the Statehouse, interweaving Jesus’ trials with social justice issues.

It is generally accepted that Jesus was nailed to the cross around noon on Good Friday and died after three hours. Many churches, including Trinity, hold a vigil with readings and music during this three hour period. The Bible says that when Jesus died, the world turned black, which scientists think was a solar eclipse in the middle of the day. Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross and buried in an unused tomb.

Holy Saturday ends the season of Lent for Easter Sunday will be a celebration of new life. Holy Saturday is a day of waiting for the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Some churches hold a twilight or midnight vigil waiting for the resurrection; others have people praying throughout the night, waiting for Easter Sunday.

The word ‘Easter’ comes from the German ‘ostern’, meaning the direction from which the sun rises, celebrating the spring sun, when all things return to life again. Some churches, if they do not do an Easter Vigil, hold a sunrise service to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as the sun comes up.

This is a day of great celebration with banners and special music and great feasting. We have left the penitential season of Lent and are reveling in the fact that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, we all have new and eternal life. All our sins have been forgiven with His death and have been promised a place in Heaven for eternity.

So this Holy Week, think about each of the days and what preparation you can make to be ready for the festive celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, was we approach the week of the trials of your Son, let us remember our own shortcomings and vow to cleanse ourselves of those things that keep us from you. By raising Christ, your Son, you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life. Let our celebration raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square,
Columbus, OH 13 April 2014

Happy Holy Week!

This past weekend was beautiful — sunny (finally!), with bright flowers starting to pop out everywhere and little birds singing. Winter seems to have finally left, at least for a little while (I hear we are going to get more snow on Tuesday!).

A friend of mine, said to me, “You must be busy getting ready for Easter. So what’s the thing to say — do you tell people “Happy Holy Week?’” “Well,” I said. “You could say ‘Happy Easter,’ when it’s actually Easter day, or ‘Christ is Risen!’. But until then it’s kind of confusing: there’s a lot of different things going on in Holy Week.”

Think about it. During Holy Week, we wave palms in the air and hail Jesus as king, the long-awaited messiah who’s going to save us, then we change our minds and scream that the Romans should crucify him; we share a loving last supper with Jesus and he washes our feet, then we sneak out after dinner and betray him. Jesus begs us to stay with him, we promise we will, then we don’t. We abandon him, he’s arrested and beaten; he forgives us, then we run away. Then Jesus is killed; we lay him in the tomb and weep; we go back for him, then he’s gone, then he’s back, and then — wait! — he’s not dead at all.

We call this week before Easter Sunday ‘Holy Week’ because it was originally the time of the Feast of Passover when the Jews were saved in Egypt, and because of the miraculous things that Jesus did in the last week of His Life. We witness to Christ in song and story throughout Holy Week.

On Palm Sunday we process with our palms and incense and songs. We celebrate Jesus triumphantly riding into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey. Men, women and children lined the streets yelling ‘hosanna’ and waving palm branches. They were greeting the messiah who they believed had come to save them.

On Holy Monday we remember Jesus’ throwing all the money changers and vendors out of the Temple. The Temple in Jerusalem was the center of worship for the Jews and they were required to present money and animals for sacrifice to the priests when they visited. Animal vendors, and money changers had set up booths in the court. People believed that God actually lived in ‘Most Holy of Holy Places’ the inner sanctum of the Temple. This desecration angered Jesus so much that he turned over the tables of the money changers and ran all the animal vendors out.

On Holy Tuesday, Jesus spent most of the day on the Mount Of Olives, where he preached what we now know as the’ Sermon on The Mount’, telling crowds of people what the Kingdom would be like and how we could join Him.

On Spy Wednesday we remember Judas Iscariot, a zealot, who thought he was doing the right thing by agreeing to betray Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. He thought that if Jesus was jailed, the people would rise up and overthrow the Romans.

On Maundy Thursday, Jesus shared a common meal with his disciples – this has become the celebration we call Eucharist or Communion. Many churches strip their altars and cover any icons and statues on Maundy Thursday in preparation for the mourning of Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday. There will be no celebration of Communion until the resurrection.

Many other churches hold feet washings, washing each other’s feet, to commemorate that Jesus washed the feet of his disciples. Jesus reminds us that we are to love each other as he loved us. After the meal, Jesus went to the Garden at Gethsemane to pray. He asks the disciples to stay and pray with him, but they all fall asleep. Jesus is left to pray for strength for what is to come by himself, abandoned by his own disciples. Judas then identified Jesus for the Roman guards with a kiss and He was taken away by the soldiers.

We don’t know why this Friday got the name of ‘Good Friday‘ – it certainly was not a ‘good’ day. Jesus was brought before Pilate, the Roman governor, and sentenced to death. He was then forced to walk to the Hill of Golgotha, carrying the cross on which he will be crucified.

There is a commemoration of this walk called the ‘Stations of the Cross’ where participants remember each of the steps to the crucifixion. Here at Trinity, we do a Stations of the Cross around the Statehouse, interweaving Jesus’ trials with social justice issues.

It is generally accepted that Jesus was nailed to the cross around noon on Good Friday and died after three hours. Many churches, including Trinity, hold a vigil with readings and music during this three hour period. The Bible says that when Jesus died, the world turned black, which scientists think was a solar eclipse in the middle of the day. Jesus’ body is taken down from the cross and buried in an unused tomb.

Holy Saturday ends the season of Lent for Easter Sunday will be a celebration of new life. Holy Saturday is a day of waiting for the resurrection on Easter Sunday. Some churches hold a twilight or midnight vigil waiting for the resurrection; others have people praying throughout the night, waiting for Easter Sunday.

The word ‘Easter‘ comes from the German ‘ostern’, meaning the direction from which the sun rises, celebrating the spring sun, when all things return to life again. Some churches, if they do not do an Easter Vigil, hold a sunrise service to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus as the sun comes up.

This is a day of great celebration with banners and special music and great feasting. We have left the penitential season of Lent and are reveling in the fact that with the death and resurrection of Jesus, we all have new and eternal life. All our sins have been forgiven with His death and have been promised a place in Heaven for eternity.

So this Holy Week, think about each of the days and what preparation you can make to be ready for the festive celebration of the resurrection of Jesus on Easter Sunday.

Let us pray:

Dear Lord, was we approach the week of the trials of your Son, let us remember our own shortcomings and vow to cleanse ourselves of those things that keep us from you. By raising Christ, your Son, you conquered the power of death and opened for us the way to eternal life. Let our celebration raise us up and renew our lives by the Spirit that is within us. Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden Ministry, Trinity Episcopal Church on Capitol Square, Columbus, OH 13 April 2014

What Is Lent?

Last Wednesday we celebrated Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. While I was eating my share of pancakes at a Shrove Tuesday dinner, someone asked me just exactly what is Lent, which started me thinking. For those of us raised in the church (particularly the Roman Catholic Church), we never really talked about what Lent is. We just knew we had to be on our best behavior and give up something (the most common being chocolate).

The name word is a German word for Spring (lencten) and the Anglo-Saxon name for March – lenct –because Lent usually occurs in March. This is another example of Christianity borrowing from other traditions through the ages to help make worship more familiar to the people.

SHROVE TUESDAY
In many places around the world, the last day before Lent (known variously as Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnivale) is celebrated as a last fling before the solemn days of Lent. Carnival is the common name for the celebration of Shrove Tuesday because people were expected to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent and the term carnivale is Latin for “farewell to meat.”

ASH WEDNESDAY
Lent begins with Ash Wednesday, the day when the ashes from the burned palms from last Palm Sunday are used to place a mark of the cross on our foreheads. As it says in the Bible,

from dust we came and to dust we shall return. (Genesis 3:19)

Lent is the period of the liturgical year leading up to Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is preparation through prayer, repentance, charity and self-denial for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the suffering and death of Jesus, ending with Easter Sunday and the celebration of the His resurrection.

LENT
Traditionally, Lent is forty days long, starting with Ash Wednesday and ending with the Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as preparation for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.

It doesn’t take too much reading of the Bible to see that ‘forty’ is a magic number, not only for Christians but also for a lot of other faiths:

    Moses spent forty days on Mount Sinai when God gave him the Ten Commandments

    The great flood lasted forty days
    Moses and the Hebrew people wandered for forty years in the desert after leaving Egypt.

    Jesus lay in the tomb for forty hours before His resurrection

The forty days of Lent also represent the time that Jesus spent in the desert before the beginning of his public ministry. During those forty days he faced temptation and doubt, purified Himself for His upcoming ministry.

It is a tradition that the season of Lent be celebrated by fasting, (both from food and parties), prayer, and also a time for reflecting on our lives in preparation for the resurrection of Jesus.

In earlier times, days of fasting were established, when only one meal a day could be eaten with no meat or dairy. And Fridays were specified as non-meat (I can remember as a child that Friday was fish and macaroni and cheese day). These dietary restrictions have been, for the most part lifted. In place of these are suggested donations to charity and doing social justice work.

There are many churches who do not recognize the Lenten Season, primarily because it is seen as a distinctly Roman Catholic commemoration. Over time quite of few churches have adopted the Lenten observances.

PALM SUNDAY
Palm Sunday commemorates Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. People stood along the road and waved palms as he passed by. Many church hand out palms to its congregants in remembrance.

MAUNDY THURSDAY
Maundy Thursday is often celebrating by eating a communal supper or celebrating Communion, much like Jesus ate with his disciples before he was turned over to the Roman officials. Often there is communal feet washing, just as Jesus washing his disciples’ feet.

After the Last Supper, Jesus went to the Garden Of Gethsemane to pray for strength to endure his upcoming suffering and crucifixion.

GOOD FRIDAY
Christian tradition says that Jesus was hung on the cross at noon on Good Friday and died at 3 pm, as the world turned black. Churches often hold a vigil during this three-hour period.

EASTER VIGIL/SUNRISE SERVICE
The Christian faith says that Jesus rose from the dead on Easter morning. Some churches hold a vigil on Holy Saturday awaiting Jesus’ resurrection. Others wait until Sunday morning to hold an outside sunrise service to celebrate His Resurrection.

As we mark the last days of Jesus’ journey, let us use this Lenten Season to look at our own lives and move forward in new life to the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Amen
 
 
Delivered at In The Garden, Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, OH, 13 March 2011