* A seasonal re-post *
“Fat Tuesday” is the day before “Ash Wednesday” which marks a 40 day countdown to Easter Weekend. Got all that? Probably not, unless you were either raised in a liturgical Church or you live in countries where Fat Tuesday, Pancake Tuesday or Shrove Tuesday are a big deal.
In Australia this hasn’t been the case so much until recently. Retailers can seize upon as a commercial opportunity and some Church and Community groups use it as a chance to connect and serve their members.
For many Christians, particularly the Catholic, Eastern and Liturgical groups, Ash Wednesday is the start of Lent. A period of sacrifice, penance or fasting in the lead up to the annual observance of Jesus death and resurrection.
Lent is a transliteration of a term with Germanic and Latin roots that means “lengthen” and was synonymous with the Spring season, as in, ‘the days begin to lengthen in Spring’. Thus the name, Lent. That’s all well and good if you’re in the Northern hemisphere, if not, it’s just a weird word.
What lent has come to mean and is now practiced all over the world, is a period of sacrifice or partial fasting. Sanctified weight loss programs exploit the vulnerable, as do anti-cigarette campaigners, alcohol prohibitionists seize the opportunity to get people to quit drinking and all manner of well meaning propaganda finds it’s way into our life. One year a Church leader tried the same angle with iPods. A friend of mine is doing a similar “fast” from Facebook and other social media. I might join him.
Just like Chicken Soup, there’s little harm from abstinence of a few luxuries. Take a break from your iPod if you must, leave off the chocolate and lose a kilo or a belt notch. So long as you beware the trap in thinking that your abstinence somehow makes you closer to God, more loveable to God, or more worthy of his forgiveness, grace and goodness.
Nothing less than Jesus can save you, give you God’s forgiveness and assurance that your heavenly Father loves you enough to send his unique Son to die in the place of sinners. Once Lent is over and Christians celebrate Easter Sunday, it’s not because they get to eat chocolate again. It is because Jesus has put an end to Satan, sin and death and is our sovereign and almighty Lord.
If staying off Facebook or your iPod helps you make that clear to your friends, please go ahead. I wonder though, if you’re not giving up anything for Lent, for whatever reason, how do you view those that do?
courtesy of “Theological Word of The Day“
The annual holiday celebrated by Christians on December 25 celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ was born somewhere between 7 and 2 BC. Dec. 25 is probably not the date when Christ was born, but was designated as such in the 4th century in order to substitute for pagan celebrations of the winter solstice. The designation Christmas comes from a combination of “Christ” with “Mass.” Often the Greek X (Chi) is substituted for “Christ” making Xmas (as was the custom in the early church when abbreviated Christ’s name). Although there is no command in Scripture to celebrate this day as a holiday, Christians believe the incarnation is the foundation to salvation and, according to many, the greatest miracle in the history of man.
So, Merry Xmas to all :)
One of the most polarizing events in Sydney’s cultural calendar is the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras. What started as a political advocacy and protest march has grown into a major Australian tourism extravaganza. It regularly attracts international celebrity and acclaim. Locally it’s a popularly promoted festival and gives rise to various protests and campaigns in reaction and response from the more conservative, usually Christian, members of the Sydney community (although not exclusively these days), who are concerned about the tone, message and lifestyle mardi gras promotes.
I wonder though, how Jesus, friend of sinners, would react and respond to the occasion. I don’t see any precedents in the New Testament that indicate he would be a red-faced, screaming, placard holding protester. Neither, do I see the Son of God off his face at the after party having popped a few of whatever may be the latest party drug or stimulant. I suspect his action would be one of grace, love, compassion and service.
Local Sydney Pastor, (among other things), John Dickson, penned this prayer. I think Jesus would be the one who would model how this prayer is answered and lived out to the glory of God.
For my friends, who are at Mardi Gras tonight, and, well, if you read this at all, are probably doing so late Sunday afternoon or Monday at the earliest, hear the words of this prayer as my prayer for you AND me.
A PRAYER FOR THE NIGHT OF MARDI GRAS – by John Dickson
God of the righteous and the wicked,
Have mercy on your people, the church,
for their wickedness:
for allowing biblical convictions about love and sex
to justify unbiblical words and actions
toward men and women made in your image.
As it rains on tonight’s parade,
may this speak not of your judgment
but of your promise to cleanse and forgive
all who turn to you for grace.
And teach our nation,
especially your church,
to follow Jesus, the Friend of Sinners,
that we would learn how to care deeply
for those with whom we profoundly disagree;
through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
What does God owe you and I? How about someone who has given their life to the service of God? What is the obligation on God’s part to repay that person for their service and sacrifice? What can be said to someone who pours out their life in some far off country caring for terminally ill patients without any access to modern western medical technology or perhaps works in a refugee border camp providing education to children? Surely such saints will call for some sort of reward from God?
In Matthew’s gospel, the Apostle Peter seems to ask a similar question;
See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?
~ Matt 19:27
In response to that Jesus tells the parable of the workers in the vineyard. You might think that was the end of it, if not for the way Matthew continues to build his narrative. Following the parable, Matthew relates Jesus third and last prediction of what will happen when he reaches Jerusalem. What follows after that are two accounts of people asking Jesus for something. As you compare the two accounts a sharp contrast is clear in how they respond to Jesus and what they think God owes them.
In the first account, the Sons of Zebedee, James and John, have their Mother ask Jesus to give them the highest positions of honour in his future kingdom. Evidently it was insufficient for their ambition to be promised “thrones“. They wanted much more; to make sure they were above their peers, the other 10 apostles.
The second account also is about two men, this time both are blind beggars. Their wish is that Jesus would show them mercy and that they might be able to see.
What a vast difference. James and John assume a posture of entitlement and Jesus corrects their view of themselves and their view of him. What they couldn’t see, or didn’t hear, was “the last will be first and the first will be last.”
The blind men, however, have a posture of penitence and desperation. In response, Jesus also corrects their ability to see, by healing their physical blindness.
The reactions of those nearby each pair is also illuminating. The remaining 10 apostles are indignant that James and John would dare ask such a question. After all, it’s what they wanted ask (as indicated by Jesus calling them all together to teach some more), but James and John got in first. In the case of the blind beggars, the surrounding crowd is embarrassed and upset with the beggars because they seem to be asking the wrong question. When the crowd tries to silence them they only scream out even louder.
Some, it seems, follow Jesus to manipulate God and others. They may disguise it as leadership or influence, but it’s all about their ambition to be the big men on campus. The argument they use is, similar to Peter’s earlier question, “I follow you, therefore you should give me …fill-in-the-blank…“
Others, like the blind beggars, follow Jesus because they have received his mercy. Rather than seeking to make an exchange with God; their performance for his reward; they rely solely on his mercy because Jesus has already made the exchange by giving himself as a ransom for sinners.
Are you in one of these two groups? Or, perhaps, do you identify more closely with those who observed the pairs of men interacting with Jesus?