Category Archives: Holy Days

Pentecost — May 19, 2024

Image result for pentecost

Bible connection

All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers. — Acts 1:14

When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place. And suddenly from heaven there came a sound like the rush of a violent wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. Divided tongues, as of fire, appeared among them, and a tongue rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other languages, as the Spirit gave them ability. — Acts 2:1-4

All about Pentecost

Pentecost Sunday is a commemoration and celebration of the receiving of the Holy Spirit by the early church. It is the birthday of the church.

John the Baptist prophesied that Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire (Matthew 3:11). Jesus confirmed this prophecy with the promise of the Holy Spirit to the disciples in John 14:26.

Jesus showed Himself to his followers after His death on the cross and His resurrection, giving convincing proofs that He was alive. During this period, he told the disciples to wait in Jerusalem for the Father’s gift of the Holy Spirit, from whom they would experience His abiding presence and receive power to be His witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:3-8).

After Jesus’ ascension, the disciples returned to Jerusalem and joined together in prayer in an upper room. During the Jewish festival of Pentecost (Shavuot), just as promised, the sound of a great wind filled the house and tongues of fire came to rest on each of them and all were filled with the Holy Spirit. They experienced ecstasy and were given the power of communication, which they used to begin the ministry for which Jesus had prepared them. After the coming of the Holy Spirit, the disciples burst out of their fear, out of their room to tell the world. This was the beginning of the missional community of Jesus, the church.

What do we do with this?

Christian churches celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, realizing that God’s very life, breath and energy live in believers. John 20:19-23 may be the core of the message about our risen Savior supernaturally appearing to the fear-laden disciples. Their fear gave way to joy when the Lord showed them His hands and side. He assured them peace and repeated the command given in Matthew 28:19-20, saying, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” Then He breathed on them, and they received the Holy Spirit (John 20:21-23).

The celebration of Pentecost Sunday reminds us of the reality that we all have the unifying Spirit that was poured out upon the first-century church in Acts 2:1-4. It is a reminder that we are co-heirs with Christ, empowered to suffer with Him that we may also be glorified with Him. the day reminds us that the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:7); that we are all baptized by one Spirit into one body (1 Corinthians 12:13); and that the Spirit which raised Jesus from the dead lives inside believers (Romans 8:9-11). This gift of the Holy Spirit that was promised and given to all believers on the first Pentecost is promised for you and your children and for all who are far off whom the Lord our God will call (Acts 2:39).

Receive the gift.  This video suggests a variety of ways you might be touched.

 

Ascension Day — May 9, 2024

What is Ascension Day 2017? Origins, meaning and how to celebrate ...

Bible connection

Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.” Acts 1:9-11

All about Ascension Day

Ascension Day is traditionally celebrated on a Thursday, the fortieth day of Easter (or of Eastertide, the season after Easter). Some groups have moved the observance to the following Sunday.

N.T. Wright thinks Ascension Day is important and he suspects you don’t. His theological point of view is so seldom-considered that it might be important for us to study the following section of his book Surprised by HopeConsider what Luke says happens to Jesus after he rises from the dead and see if it changes how you see the world.

Many people insist—and I dare say that this is the theology many of my readers have been taught—that the language of Jesus’ “disappearance” is just a way of saying that after his death he became, as it were, spiritually present everywhere, especially with his own followers. This is then often correlated with a nonliteral reading of the resurrection, that is, a denial of its bodily nature: Jesus simply “went to heaven when he died” in a rather special sense that makes him now close to each of us wherever we are. According to this view, Jesus has, as it were, disappeared without remainder. His “spiritual presence” with us is his only identity. In that case, of course, to speak of his second coming is then only a metaphor for his presence, in the same sense, eventually permeating all things.

What happens when people think like this? To answer this, we might ask a further question: why has the ascension been such a difficult and unpopular doctrine in the modern Western church? The answer is not just that rationalist skepticism mocks it (a possibility that the church has sometimes invited with those glass windows that show Jesus’s feet sticking downward out of a cloud). It is that the ascension demands that we think differently about how the whole cosmos is, so to speak, put together and that we also think differently about the church and about salvation. Both literalism and skepticism operate with what is called a receptacle view of space; theologians who take the ascension seriously insist that it demands what some have called a relational view. Basically, heaven and earth in biblical cosmology are not two different locations within the same continuum of space or matter. They are two different dimensions of God’s good creation. And the point about heaven is twofold. First, heaven relates to earth tangentially so that the one who is in heaven can be simultaneously anywhere and everywhere on earth; the ascension therefore means that Jesus is available, accessible, without people having to travel to a particular spot on earth to find him. Second, heaven is, as it were, the control room for earth; it is the CEO’s office, the place from which instructions are given. “All authority is given to me,” said Jesus at the end of Matthew’s gospel, “in heaven and on earth.”

The idea of the human Jesus now being in heaven, in his thoroughly embodied, risen state, comes as a shock to many people, including many Christians. Sometimes this is because many people think that Jesus, having been divine, stopped being divine and became human, and then, having been human for a while, stopped being human and went back to being divine (at least, that’s what many people think Christians are supposed to believe). More often it’s because our culture is so used to the Platonic idea that heaven is, by definition, a place of “spiritual,” nonmaterial reality so that the idea of a solid body being not only present but also thoroughly at home there seems like a category mistake. The ascension invites us to rethink all this; and, after all, why did we suppose we knew what heaven was? Only because our culture has suggested things to us. Part of Christian belief is to find out what’s true about Jesus and let that challenge our culture.

This applies in particular to the idea of Jesus being in charge not only in heaven but also on earth, not only in some ultimate future but also in the present. Many will snort the obvious objection: it certainly doesn’t look as though he’s in charge, or if he is, he’s making a proper mess of it. But that misses the point. The early Christians knew the world was still a mess. But they announced, like messengers going off on behalf of a global company, that a new CEO had taken charge. They discovered through their own various callings how his new way of running things was to be worked out. It wasn’t a matter (as some people anxiously suppose to this day) of Christians simply taking over and giving orders in a kind of theocracy where the church could simply tell everyone what to do. That has some times been tried, of course, and it’s always led to disaster. But neither is it a matter of the church backing off, letting the world go on its sweet way, and worshiping Jesus in a kind of private sphere.

Somehow there is a third option…We can glimpse it in the book of Acts: the method of the kingdom will match the message of the kingdom. The kingdom will come as the church, energized by the Spirit, goes out into the world vulnerable, suffering, praising, praying, misunderstood, misjudged, vindicated, celebrating: always—as Paul puts it in one of his letters—bearing in the body the dying of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be displayed.

What happens when you downplay or ignore the ascension? The answer is that the church expands to fill the vacuum. If Jesus is more or less identical with the church—if, that is, talk about Jesus can be reduced to talk about his presence within his people rather than his standing over against them and addressing them from elsewhere as their Lord, then we have created a high road to the worst kind of triumphalism. This indeed is what twentieth-century English liber­alism always tended toward: by compromising with rationalism and trying to maintain that talk of the ascension is really talk about Je­sus being with us everywhere, the church effectively presented itself (with its structures and hierarchy, its customs and quirks) instead of presenting Jesus as its Lord and itself as the world’s servant, as Paul puts it. And the other side of triumphalism is of course despair. If you put all your eggs into the church-equals-Jesus basket, what are you left with when, as Paul says in the same passage, we ourselves are found to be cracked earthenware vessels?

If the church identifies its structures, its leadership, its liturgy, its buildings, or anything else with its Lord—and that’s what happens if you ignore the ascension or turn it into another way of talking about the Spirit—what do you get? You get, on the one hand, what Shakespeare called “the insolence of office” and, on the other hand, the despair of late middle age, as people realize it doesn’t work. (I see this all too frequently among those who bought heavily into the soggy rationalism of the 1950s and 1960s.) Only when we grasp firmly that the church is not Jesus and Jesus is not the church­ when we grasp, in other words, the truth of the ascension, that the one who is indeed present with us by the Spirit is also the Lord who is strangely absent, strangely other, strangely different from us and over against us, the one who tells Mary Magdalene not to cling to him— only then are we rescued from both hollow triumphalism and shallow despair.

Conversely, only when we grasp and celebrate the fact that Je­sus has gone on ahead of us into God’s space, God’s new world, and is both already ruling the rebellious present world as its rightful Lord and also interceding for us at the Father’s right hand—when we grasp and celebrate, in other words, what the ascension tells us about Jesus’s continuing human work in the present—are we rescued from a wrong view of world history and equipped for the task of justice in the present…We are also, significantly, rescued from the attempts that have been made to create alternative mediators, and in particular an alternative mediatrix, in his place. Get the ascension right, and your view of the church, of the sacraments, and of the mother of Jesus can get back into focus.

You could sum all this up by saying that the doctrine of the trinity, which is making quite a come back in current theology, is essential if we are to tell the truth not only about God, and more particularly about Jesus, but also about ourselves. The Trinity is precisely a way of recognizing and celebrating the fact of the human being Jesus of Nazareth as distinct from while still identified with God the Father, on the one hand (he didn’t just “go back to being God again” after his earthy life), and the Spirit, on the other hand (the Jesus who is near us and with us by the Spirit remains the Jesus who is other than us). This places a full stop on all human arrogance, including Christian arrogance. And now we see at last why the Enlightenment world was determined to make the ascension appear ridiculous, using the weapons of rationalism and skepticism to do so: if the ascension is true, then the whole project of human self-aggrandizement represented by eighteenth century European and American thought is rebuked and brought to heel. To embrace the ascension is to heave a sigh of relief, to give up the struggle to be God (and with it the inevitable despair at our constant failure), and to enjoy our status as creatures: image-bearing creatures, but creatures nonetheless.

The ascension thus speaks of the Jesus who remains truly human and hence in an important sense absent from us while in another equally important sense present to us in a new way. At this point the Holy Spirit and the sacraments become enormously important since they are precisely the means by which Jesus is present. Often in the church we have been so keen to stress the presence of Jesus by these means that we have failed to indicate his simultaneous absence and have left people wondering whether this is, so to speak, “all there is to it.” The answer is: no, it isn’t. The lordship of Jesus; the fact that there is already a human at the helm of the world; his present intercession for us—all this is over and above his presence with us. It is even over and above our sense of that presence, which of course comes and goes with our own moods and circumstances.

Now it is of course one thing to say all this, to show how it fits together and sets us free from some of the nonsense we would oth­erwise get into. It’s quite another to be able to envisage or imag­ine it, to know what it is we’re really talking about when we speak of Jesus being still human, still in fact an embodied human—actually, a more solidly embodied human than we are—but absent from this present world. We need, in fact, a new and better cosmology, a new and better way of thinking about the world than the one our culture, not least post-Enlightenment culture, has bequeathed us. The early Christians, and their fellow first-century Jews, were not, as many moderns suppose, locked into thinking of a three-decker universe with heaven up in the sky and hell down beneath their feet. When they spoke of up and down like that they, like the Greeks in their different ways, were using metaphors that were so obvious they didn’t need spelling out. As some recent writers have pointed out, when a pupil at school moves “up” a grade, from (say) the tenth grade to the eleventh, it is unlikely that this means relocating to a classroom on the floor above. And though the move “up” from vice chairman of the board to chairman of the board may indeed mean that at last you get an office in the penthouse suite, it would be quite wrong to think that “moving up” in this context meant merely being a few feet farther away from terra firma.

The mystery of the ascension is of course just that, a mystery. It demands that we think what is, to many today, almost unthinkable: that when the Bible speaks of heaven and earth it is not talking about two localities related to each other within the same space-time continuum or about a nonphysical world contrasted with a physical one but about two different kinds of what we call space, two different kinds of what we call matter, and also quite possibly (though this does not necessarily follow from the other two) two different kinds of what we call time. We post-Enlightenment West­erners are such wretched flatlanders. Although New Age thinkers, and indeed quite a lot of contemporary novelists, are quite capable of taking us into other parallel worlds, spaces, and times, we retreat into our rationalistic closed-system universe as soon as we think about Jesus. C. S. Lewis of course did a great job in the Narnia sto­ries and elsewhere of imagining how two worlds could relate and interlock. But the generation that grew up knowing its way around Narnia does not usually know how to make the transition from a children’s story to the real world of grown-up Christian devotion and theology.

More

From Bishop Barron:

What do we do with this?

What do you think? Can you do some theology with Tom Wright and Robert Barron?

Pray: Thank you for the living hope you give me—you have gone before me and I will go behind you, you intercede for me and remain present with me, you will come again.

For some of us, this theology is hard to understand. The teachers refer to all sorts of thinking we have not studied, past and present: Plato, the Enlightenment, scientific materialism and various breeds of Christian theology. Don’t give up! Try taking the time to slowly move through the material again and see what begins to come clear to you. If you talk to someone about it, you might understand even more. Let them help you make sense of today’s Bible reading.

Hold together the certainty of God with us and the mystery of Jesus gone before us.

Easter Sunday — March 31, 2024

Was Easter Borrowed from a Pagan Holiday?

Bible connection

Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. — Romans 6:3-5

All about the origin of Easter

Was Easter actually borrowed (or rather usurped) from a pagan celebration?

There is an argument that says so. It largely rests on the supposed pagan associations of the English and German names for the celebration (Easter in English and Ostern in German). It is important to note, however, that in most other European languages, the name for the Christian celebration is derived from the Greek word Pascha, which comes from pesach, the Hebrew word for Passover. Easter is associated with the Jewish Passover festival by virtue of the historical record (Jesus was killed during the Passover festival) and symbolism (Jesus is the ultimate passover sacrifice).

Christians always contextualize their faith in one way or another — we express our message and worship in the language or forms of our culture. But that does not mean we compromise our basic truths. Christians around the world have sought to redeem the local culture for Christ while purging it of practices antithetical to the way of Jesus. After all, Christians speak of “Good Friday,” but they are in no way honoring the worship of the Norse/Germanic queen of the gods Freya (for whom Friday is named) by doing so.

In fact, in the case of Easter, the evidence suggests otherwise: that neither the commemoration of Christ’s death and resurrection nor its name are derived from paganism. The opposite is true, the so-called “pagans” came to see their springtime festival as an expression of new life in Christ.

Easter is a celebration with ancient roots

The usual argument for the pagan origins of Easter is based on a comment made by the Venerable Bede (673-735), an English monk who wrote the first history of Christianity in England, and who is one of our main sources of knowledge about early Anglo-Saxon culture. In De temporum ratione (On the Reckoning of Time, c. 730), Bede wrote this:

In olden times the English people—for it did not seem fitting that I should speak of other nations’ observance of the year and yet be silent about my own nation’s—calculated their months according to the course of the Moon. Hence, after the manner of the Greeks and the Romans, [the months] take their name from the Moon, for the Moon is called mona and the month monath. The first month, which the Latins call January, is Giuli; February is called Solmonath; March Hrethmonath; April, Eosturmonath … Eosturmonath has a name which is now translated “Paschal month” and which was once called after a goddess of theirs named Eostre, in whose honour feasts were celebrated in that month. Now they designate that Paschal season by her name, calling the joys of the new rite by the time-honoured name of the old observance.

The first question is whether the actual Christian celebration of Easter is derived from a pagan festival. This is easily answered. The Nordic/Germanic peoples (including the Anglo-Saxons) were comparative latecomers to Christianity. Pope Gregory I sent a missionary enterprise led by Augustine of Canterbury to the Anglo-Saxons in 596/7. The forcible conversion of the Saxons in Europe began under Charlemagne in 772. So if “Easter” (i.e. the Christian Passover festival) was celebrated prior to those dates, any supposed pagan Anglo-Saxon festival of “Eostre” can have no significance. And there is, in fact, clear evidence that Christians celebrated an Easter/Passover festival by the second century, if not earlier. It follows that the Christian Easter/Passover celebration, which originated in the Mediterranean basin, was not unduly influenced by any Germanic pagan festival.

Why the name Easter is not “pagan” 

The second question is whether the name of the holiday “Easter” comes from the blurring of the Christian celebration with the worship of a purported pagan fertility goddess named “Eostre” in English and Germanic cultures. There are several problems with the passage in Bede. He has a sketchy knowledge of pagan festivals, which he freely admitted.

As it turns out, there is no evidence outside of Bede for the existence of this Anglo-Saxon goddess. There is no equivalent goddess in the Norse Eddas or in ancient Germanic paganism from continental Europe. Scholars suggest that the Anglo-Saxon Estor-monath simply means “the month of opening” or “the month of beginnings.” There is no evidence for a pre-Christian festival in the British Isles in March or April.

There is another objection to the claim that Eosturmonath has anything to do with a pagan goddess. Anglo-Saxon days were usually named after gods, such as Wednesday (“Woden’s day”), the names of their months were either calendrical, such as Giuli, meaning “wheel,” referring to the turn of the year; metereological-environmental, such as Solmónath (roughly February), meaning “Mud-Month”; or referred to actions taken in that period, such as Blótmónath (roughly November), meaning “Blood Month,” when animals were slaughtered. No other month was dedicated to a deity, with the exception (according to Bede) of Hrethmonath (roughly March), which he claims was named after the goddess Hrethe. But like Eostre, there is no other evidence for Hrethe, nor any equivalent in Germanic/Norse mythology.

Another problem with Bede’s explanation concerns the Saxons in continental Europe. Einhard (c. 775-840), the courtier and biographer of Charlemagne, tells us that among Charlemagne’s reforms was the renaming of the months. April was renamed Ostarmanoth. Charlemagne spoke a Germanic dialect, as did the Anglo-Saxons in Britain, although their vernacular was distinct. But why would Charlemagne change the old Roman title for the spring month to Ostarmanoth? Charlemagne was the scourge of Germanic paganism. He attacked the pagan Saxons and felled their great pillar Irminsul (after their god Irmin) in 772. He forcibly converted them to Christianity and savagely repressed them when they revolted because of this. It seems very unlikely, therefore, that Charlemagne would name a month after a Germanic goddess.

The name is basically “spring holiday”

One theory for the origin of the name Easter is that the Latin phrase in albis (“in white”), which Christians used in reference to Easter week, found its way into Old High German as eostarum, or “dawn.” There is some evidence of early Germanic borrowing of Latin despite that fact that the Germanic peoples lived outside the Roman Empire. This theory presumes that the word only became current after the introduction of either Roman influence or the Christian faith, which is uncertain. But if accurate, it would demonstrate that the festival is not named after a pagan goddess.

Alternatively, some suggest Eosturmonath simply meant “the month of opening,” which is comparable to the meaning of “April” in Latin. The names of both the Saxon and Latin months (which are calendrically similar) were related to spring, the season when the buds open.

So Christians in ancient Anglo-Saxon and Germanic areas called their Passover holiday what they did—doubtless colloquially at first—simply because it occurred around the time of Eosturmonath/Ostarmanoth. A contemporary analogy can be found in the way Americans refer to December as “the holidays,” or the way people sometimes speak about something happening “around Christmas,” usually referring to the time at the turn of the year. The Christian title “Easter,” then, essentially reflects its general date in the calendar, rather than the Paschal festival having been re-named in honor of a supposed pagan deity.

[Thanks to Anthony McCroy, Christian History, 2009]

More

15 Fact-based reasons to accept the ressurection of Jesus

If you need some celebration tips from the 1950s… [codified by Judy and Fred]

Five minutes from the Bible Project to depict the resurrection in the Gospel of Luke (show the kids!).

What do we do with this?

The Christian commemoration of the Paschal festival rests not on the title of the celebration but on its content—namely, the remembrance of Christ’s death and resurrection. It is Christ’s conquest of sin, death, and Satan that gives us the right to wish everyone “Happy Easter!”

Sometimes we have renamed the day “Resurrection Sunday” so people can get some separation from chicks, bunnies and other fertility symbols. Resurrection Sunday makes candy hidden in baskets full of fake grass seems as innocuous as it should be. Like Jesus followers in the past, we also make our own decisions about how we want to live in our culture and present Jesus to it. Don’t you?

Our general mentality is generosity. We are not only transhistorical (thus, this blog) we are genuinely interested in the genius behind most expressions of life in Christ. Having a joyful celebration of new life budding from the cold earth seems like a good way for people in the northern hemisphere to celebrate resurrection! On the other end of the spectrum, keeping away from faithless imagery and thinking about the most important and spiritually-potent day of the year could be a sincere way to commemorate the Lord’s resurrection. The resurrection is the constant that spans the spectrum.

Holy Week — March 24-31, 2024

What is your cross?https://i0.wp.com/static.wixstatic.com/media/d4dc37_e048ce61ab9344a8bf780759e145e26a~mv2.jpg/v1/fill/w_599,h_599,al_c,lg_1,q_80/d4dc37_e048ce61ab9344a8bf780759e145e26a~mv2.jpg?w=604&ssl=1 If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and ...

Bible connection

Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist but others Elijah and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes and be killed and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me, for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any wish to come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life? — Matthew 16:13-26

All about Holy Week

Holy Week is the week immediately before Easter. It begins with Palm Sunday and leads up to Easter Sunday, the highlight of the Christian calendar.

The earliest allusion to the custom of marking this whole week with special observances is  found in the Apostolic Constitutions from Syria, dating from the second half of the 3rd century.

The Constitutions are a form of  of early church literature (1st to 5th century) called “orders.” Their purpose was to promote “apostolic” prescriptions on matters of moral conduct, liturgy and Church organization. They are written in the name of the authority they evoke (techincal name: pseudepigrapha). Many orders, like the Constitutions purport to have been handed down by the Twelve Apostles.  Apart from the Apostolic Constitutions, which was made known and printed before 1563, all the other early texts of orders were discovered and published in the 19th or early 20th century.

  • In the few lines from the Constitutions about Holy Week, abstinence from meat is commanded for the week. On Friday and Saturday there is to be a full fast.
  • Dionysius Alexandrinus in his letter of 260 (which the Eastern Church preserves as inspired) refers to the 91 fasting days in the calendar, implying that the observance of them had already become an established usage in his time.
  • By the time of of the Christian Emperor Theodosius (reigned 379 to 395), who called the Council of Nicaea, the Codex Theodosianus orders all actions of law to cease for the seven days before and after Easter.
  • One of the “best sellers” of the 300’s, The Pilgrimage of Etheria/Egeria (about a woman who made a pilgrimage to the Holy Land), details the whole observance of Holy Week at that time. [It is worth noting that the name in the Wiki link after the slash above also titles the Egeria Project, which has usurped the name for a  metadata exchange computer program].

The first days of the “great week” to emerge into general observance were Good Friday, and then the Great Sabbath/Holy Saturday. Following the usual custom of the Church, the eve of Easter took on its own significance and a vigil became traditional. In many places the vigil focused on the hope the Lord’s return would occur on an Easter Day.

We have found common cause with the Moravian Church whose Holy Week observances are extensive and immersive. Congregations follow the life of Christ through His final week in daily gatherings dedicated to readings from a harmony of the Gospel stories, responding to the readings with hymns, prayers and litanies. They begin on the eve of Palm Sunday and culminate at the Easter sunrise service. The practice began with the Moravians in 1732. [Here’s an  example from Home Moravian Church in Winston-Salem]

More

Wikipedia has a good description of Holy Week [link]

A tour operator in Jerusalem offers a nice video for people who could not get to the Holy Land for Holy Week during the pandemic:

Stations of the Cross for Good Friday. This walk of following Jesus to the cross (and our own death and resurrection) comes in many forms. Here is one from the Catholic bishops [link]. Here is one our former church created for doing at home during a pandemic [link]. Here is an art-filled video of the Stations by the Holy Land Franciscans [link]

What do we do with this?

You might be connected to a church that observes Holy Week. Get involved. Go to all the meetings. If you are not connected, research who observes these days in your area and join them; it is all one Church, one history, one story even if people cordone off territory for themselves. Many churches have Maundy Thursday and Good Friday observances. The Catholics may include a Stations of the Cross liturgy on Friday. The Orthodox churches are known for their Easter vigils.

Don’t be afriad to create your own journey through the week with Jesus. The way he took his own journey in spite of the pressure to stay safe is an example for all of us. Read the portions of the Bible above and imagine how you can get involved and involve your family and friends. Here are some ideas:

  • Monday: Overturn some tables. This might be a good day to protest: Pray in front of an oppressive institution or statue. Have a letter-writing exercise after dinner.
  • Tuesday: Organize a meeting to read through all the great teaching recorded as part of the Lord’s last week. Maybe act out parts of it. Sing songs connected to it. Point it at people or organizations that need to hear it. Address your difficulty with following it.
  • Wednesday: Emulate the woman who anointed Jesus. Fill your house with fragrance for an hour. Encourage each other to face the daily deaths we all face as we follow.
  • Thursday: Re-enact the Last Supper in some way. There is lots of advice on the internet for how to do this: [kids] [small group of adults]. For you, simple might be fine: you could read the scripture and have your own version of the communion ceremony.
  • Friday: You could journey through the stations of the cross [mentioned above]. You could take off work from noon to three and sit with Jesus in silence. You could watch a movie that includes the crucifixion [Zeferelli’s 1977 Europe-wide cast does well in Jesus of Nazareth. Start at 3:30 for all of holy week, at 5:00 for trials and crucifixion].
  • Saturday: A symbolic day of silence one day a year might be perfect. You could bury a statue of Jesus with the kids and let them dig him up on Easter. Explore the legends that grew up around Joseph of Arimathea [Glastonbury] [Saintes Maries de la Mer].

Ash Wednesday, first day of Lent — February 14, 2024

Bible connection

Read Isaiah 58

Isn’t this the fast I choose:
releasing wicked restraints, untying the ropes of a yoke,
setting free the mistreated,
and breaking every yoke?

All about Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the deep season of Lent. If you attend an  observance, you will probably be given an opportunity to take the sign of the cross on your forehead with ashes collected by burning last year’s Palm Sunday palms.

The symbol is meant to remind us of our need for repentance, the need to turn and go in a new direction. We make the ashes out of the palms we used last Palm Sunday — the palms that symbolized our hope in Jesus being a triumphant king. As ashes, they remind us that we often get things wrong and we often need to turn around, to repent and concentrate our attention on how to depend on God in our lives more actively.

Like the people in Jerusalem who greeted Jesus during his final entry into the city, we all want Jesus to be a visible, easy-to-know-and-follow king who is always the winner, always leading a joyous parade. But as we all know, that parade from last Palm Sundayas is true with every Palm Sunday parade, leads not to our easy discipleship, but instead to the cross, where something far deeper than our desire to win is won for us.

We can’t live lives marked by Jesus and stay on the surface of things, following rules, trying to appear right and be good. Jesus told the Pharisees those aspirations were just not a viable option. He said such an ambition would be a delusion because our hearts are the problem. We need something new to happen at the depths of us. Jesus is calling for a new way of being altogether. We must go to the heart of things and to the heart of ourselves, turn away from our ideas of what’s best and turn to the Living God. That pursuit makes Lent one of the wonders of the year.

More 

A word from Rod for those who feel too bad to be involved in Lent: [link]

Ash Wednesday by T.S. Eliot

Some Catholic teaching on Lent for beginners.

Renovare books for Lent.

A minute and a half from the Anglicans on Ash Wednesday.

A Lutheran pastor tries to make sense of it for the kids:

What do we do with this?

If you are not eager to attend an observance, make yourself do it. If you can’t go at night, go in the morning to one of the Catholic or Episcopal rites. Lent is a season for getting your body to go the direction of your faith. Wear the cross.

If you have not prepared for Lent to begin, now would be a good time to do it. Maybe you should get on Amazon (or go wherever) and buy a cross to wear all season — or make one! (The kids might love to do that). You can try on all the traditional disciplines of Lent (especially the fast). But if you sit with Jesus for a few minutes it might become obvious what this year’s observance should be about for you — go with your inspiration.

13 things you can do to stay of the Lent pilgrimage

  1. Take the weekly readings from Sunday wprship and chew on them all week in the daily time you set apart to be with God. You could use 2POAPT.
  2. Check your church’s calendar and make a commitment for which meetings you will attend, then go to the meetings. This is a bigger deal than we think, usually. Going to a meeting gets our body in line with our convictions.
  3. Try a new spiritual practice. Go on a personal retreat. Try 20 minutes of contemplation every day. Study a book. Saturate yourself in a book of the Bible each week, reading it as many times as you can.
  4. Ponder how you use money. Maybe pick one type of expenditure that you’ll “fast” from during Lent, and then give the money you would usually spend to a charity that makes your heart warm.
  5. Take something on: A weekly letter to someone. A daily random act of kindness. Sunday phone calls to important or needy people in your life. Hold that dinner party you thought about.
  6. When you first sit down in front of your computer, or at the very end of your workday, try a 10-minute guided prayer from Sacred Space daily prayer.
  7. Buy a new cross of icon to use for Lent and give to someone on Easter.
  8. Instead of turning on a streaming service for your next binge-watching session, read the entire Gospel of Mark in one sitting. As the shortest Gospel, it is the most concise story of Jesus’ life, and the cross, a central Lenten symbol, plays an even more prominent role than in the other Gospels.
  9. Unplug from your phone or turn off your car radio on your commute. Let the silence jar you until you are acclimated to being yourself with God in solitude.
  10. Buy a book of daily reflections and keep it by your bed or prayer chair. Try a book by Edward Hays.
  11. Think about a habit that has kept you from being who God is calling you to be. Consciously give up that habit for Lent.
  12. Tap into your creative side somehow. You could try coloring as a way to pray. Write that song or story or poem.
  13. Read the works of mercy Jesus describes in Matthew 25:31-46. Put His teaching into practice by choosing and act or two of service you can offer during Lent.

Mardi Gras — February 13, 2024

Bible Connection

Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth — 1 Corinthians 5:8 

All about Mardi Gras

Like Gideon’s trumpet (Judges 6:33-40), the season of Lent calls all the tribes together to resist the enemies of God. Though we seem weak, we are strong because God is with us. The most unlikely weaklings will dance in the street in the face of the powers attempting to dominate them. Mardi Gras is appropriately uproarious, if you see it right. In some sense, to be a Jesus-follower is to be a fool, to use your clowning to unmask the powers-that-be who pretend they are very serious entities when, in fact, they are just a breath and have a master.

Lent has rarely been see the way we just mentioned. The Eve of Lent became a time to hold off the inevitable, even to mock and diminish the authority of the spiritual season “imposed” on everyone which begins on Ash Wednesday. In Europe, the church of the Middle Ages had a lot of power to impose the rigors of an enforced fast during the 40 days (not including Sundays) leading up to Easter. Before the fast began, people partied and did things they shouldn’t do in order to get those things out of their system before they committed (or were forced to commit) to doing the things they should do.

Lupercalia — Andrea Camasei (1635)

Most historians believe Mardi Gras was brought to the Americas by the French explorer Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville in 1699, but the origins of Mardi Gras go back much farther. According to History.com, Mardi Gras resembles February celebrations from ancient times:

“According to historians, Mardi Gras dates back thousands of years to pagan celebrations of spring and fertility, including the raucous Roman [festival of] Lupercalia. When Christianity arrived in Rome, religious leaders decided to incorporate these popular local traditions into the new faith, an easier task than abolishing them altogether. As a result, the excess and debauchery of the Mardi Gras season became a prelude to Lent, the 40 days of penance between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.”

German Fasnacht costume. Calling Richard Twiss!

Many Protestants give the “side eye” to such cultural accretions to their holy days (Santa and the Easter Bunny, included). Perhaps the enculturation of Christianity was a mainly crafty political move when Christians took over government authority. But maybe that was not all. Maybe Jesus followers trusted Jesus to redeem and use the pre-Christian celebrations. You’ll have to decide. In Philly, Mardi Gras is often for getting drunk, whether people are giving up alcohol for Lent, or not. You’ll have to decide.

One of the things many people did (and still do) on Mardi Gras was eat all the foods they wouldn’t be seeing for a while during their Lenten fast. “Carnivale” means “putting away meat.” In Pennsylvania Dutch territory a “fastnacht” came to be the name of a donut instead of the title of the day (as in Fast Night or Lent Eve). The holiday came to mean “the day we use up all the lard.”

Unfortunately, “Fat Tuesday” (Mardi Gras in French) came to be a day to store up as much of the past as possible, so one could endure the season of moving into what is next. Instead of being shriven on Shrove Tuesday, many people are just like Peter, trying to keep Jesus (and themselves) from going to Jerusalem.

More

The news gave a priest 5 minutes to explain Mardi Gras and the whole season:

What do we do with this?

If Christians don’t lead in the joy, are they hiding their light under a bushel? Do we really believe loving and sharing space with people will contaminate our holiness? That’s not too incarnational. What does it say about Jesus if we withdraw?

Jesus’ journey to the cross is the ultimate pilgrimage into what is next. Let’s respond to the trumpet and move with him. Let’s keep in mind his concerns, so we don’t get stuck in what is merely human. There’s nothing wrong with being human, of course, unless we don’t have in mind the things of God. If people think you are a fool, that might be a good thing.

Getting drunk, like many in the Philadelphia region will be doing, is a short-cut to being a fool and rightly considered foolish. It is not the kind of foolishness we’re talking about.

Martin Luther King National Holiday — January 15, 2024

A national holiday rarely intersects with the Christian calendar. But Martin Luther King is so precious to us that we are including his national “birthday” as part of our observances.

Image result for mlk day

Bible connection

Read Deuteronomy 15:1-15

However, there should be no poor among you, for in the land the LORD your God is giving you to possess as your inheritance, he will richly bless you.

All about the Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday

In 1983, Ronald Reagan signed into law the legislation that made a day honoring Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday. Reagan did not support the legislation. He opposed the King holiday because he thought King did not deserve to be so honored. Plenty of people at the time shared that opinion, and plenty of people still do.

There is, after all, exactly one other American so honored, and that person is George Washington—not Lincoln, not Jefferson. (The third Monday in February, the day we call “Presidents Day,” is officially, as it has always been, in honor of Washington). Giving Martin Luther King Jr., a man who never held public office, an honor that had been reserved exclusively for the father of the country, was a  very loud statement, one that a very conservative president preferred not to make.

Reagan objected because he believed that another federal holiday would just create more government bloat. The King holiday would become the tenth national holiday that came with a paid day off for all federal workers, the cost of which the Congressional Budget Office estimated at $18 million per holiday in 1983 dollars. To those who objected to the cost of the new holiday, Sen. Robert Dole of Kansas, whose conservative bona fides were no less than Reagan’s, said: “I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination.”

Reagan Shaking Hands with Coretta Scott King after Signing Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Bill | Robert and Elizabeth Dole Archive and Special Collections

Luckily for the president, the legislation was passed with veto-proof majorities, making his threatened veto a non-issue. So on Nov. 2, 1983, in a Rose Garden ceremony, Ronald Reagan signed the legislation into law with Coretta Scott King, King’s widow, by his side. This is often listed among his accomplishments.

Reagan’s point was not without logic. The original impetus for the holiday came from labor unions with large African-American memberships that sought a paid day off on MLK’s birthday in contract negotiations. And though legislation creating the holiday was a landmark in American racial relations, all the creation of a federal holiday practically does is give a paid day off to federal government workers. It does not give the day a spirit or a meaning.

Many of the people who had worked diligently for years collecting signatures and petitioning legislators to create the King holiday must have experienced a “What now?” moment when they achieved their goal. They had insisted on having an “official” holiday. They were not interested in Reagan’s counter-suggestion that the King birthday be observed like Lincoln’s, which is to say, without closing government offices. But if the King holiday were to keep true to the spirit of the man whose life inspired it, then it had to become more than just another three-day weekend.

Image

In 1994, Sen. Harris Wofford of Pennsylvania and Congressman John Lewis of Georgia authored the King Holiday and Service Act, with the intention of transforming the King holiday from a vacation day into a day of civic participation and volunteerism; from what had been a “day off” to a “day on.” President Bill Clinton signed the legislation into law on Aug. 23, 1994.

The Greater Philadelphia King Day of Service has often been cited as the nation’s largest King Day event: (website). There is no doubt Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King left his mark on Philadelphia. His journeys to this city are noted and marked and his wife Coretta authorized the only chapter of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Association for Nonviolence in Philadelphia.

More

PBS Studios: [link]

Here is a recent article that gives some perspective on King’s reputation [link]

What do we do with this?

Pray through the Deuteronomy passage, whether you are “rich” or “poor.” What is God saying to you?

Get involved in one of the many service projects being planned!

Epiphany — January 6

Bible connection

Read Matthew 2:1-12Matthew 3:11-4:4 .

“The Journey of the Magi” (1894) by James Jacques Joseph Tissot

When they saw the star, they were overjoyed. On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him….

epiphany at the baptism

At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”

All about this day

Epiphany is a Greek word that means “manifestation,” a “revelation.”  The holiday celebrates two manifestations of God:

  1. The magi rejoice when they see the star and worship Jesus to whom the star leads. They present gifts to God, who is revealed, born in the baby. God is with us in our bodies. 
  2. When Jesus is baptized and John the Baptist reports hearing the voice of God naming Jesus as his own Son. Jesus is public revealed as God with us. God is with us in our sin.

In the history of the church, the holy day called Epiphany went two routes. As the church became  separated during the turbulent time after the fall of the western Roman Empire in the late 400’s, the churches in the eastern and western parts of the Mediterranean developed separate identities. You can trace them through the Eastern “Orthodox” churches and the Roman “Catholic” church. In the Roman Catholic Church, Epiphany is usually celebrated on the Sunday between January 2-8. If you want to follow the traditional twelve days of Christmas, you celebrate it on January 6. The orthodox Churches have the same idea but on different days.

The different days came about like this. In the late 1500s Pope Gregory declared a new calendar to correct the inaccuracies in the old Julian calendar (which dated to Julius Caesar in 45BC). The Gregorian calendar added 12 days to the year and reset the functional spring equinox to March 21 so Easter could be properly observed. Most civil authorities eventually adopted the calendar, although it took 300 years for Greece to conform.

Some Orthodox Churches still date events according to a revised Julian calendar. It is part of their identity. So many, but not all, Orthodox Christians celebrate Christmas Day on or near what is January 7 in the Gregorian calendar. As of 2012, there is a difference of 13 days between the modern Gregorian calendar and the older Julian calendar. Those who continue to use the Julian calendar or the equivalents mark December 25 and January 6 on what, for the majority of the world, is January 7 and January 19. For this reason, many people in Ethiopia, Russia, Ukraine, the Republic of Macedonia, and the Republic of Moldova celebrate Christmas on what is, in the Gregorian calendar, January 7.

All this goes to show that being revealed is not that easy for God! Being born among humankind is subject to our politics and science. We might consider the date to celebrate  Epiphany to be more important than the reason for the celebration! We might divide up the church over an obvious change that needs to be made in the calendar just because we do not respect the person who suggested the change. It might take us a long time to get to the place we should have started: worshiping at the manger and hearing the voice of God at the baptism.

More

An article with a lot more: http://www.crivoice.org/cyepiph.html

Young man tells us to look for the “hidden” Jesus on Epiphany. [link]

A priest describes the manifestations, or “epiphanies” of the Lord we celebrate during the Epiphany season

Taylor Swift’s pandemic nurses/Guadalcanal soldiers song could easily have Jesus getting born and baptized into our mess. She often has wisps of faith in her music. “Soon You’ll Get Better” from the Lover album voices her feelings about her mother’s health crisis: “Desperate people find faith, so now I pray to Jesus too.” What do you think? 

What do we do with this?

Appreciate the epiphanies experienced by the wise men and John the Baptist. They happened a long time ago, but that history is yours, too. It happened to the whole human race when it happened the first time! We are invited into what God did in Jesus when we remember and allow ourselves to be part of the story.

Appreciate your own personal epiphanies. God has become known to you in many ways, large and small. The Spirit of God is revealed in creation, in the stories about how others know and serve her, in teaching and practical applications of the Bible, in the people of the church, and in our personal experiences with God spirit to Spirit. Maybe you could write an account of how you had an “Aha!” moment, how you came and worshiped or how you heard the voice of God.

Twelfth Night — January 5

“Adoration of the Shepherds” by Gerard van Honthorst (ca. 1622)

Bible connection

You are like light for the whole world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one lights a lamp and puts it under a bowl; instead he puts it on the lampstand, where it gives light for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine before people, so that they will see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. — Matthew 5: 14-16 (TEV)

All about Twelfth Night

The twelve days of Christmas traditionally end with the celebration of the eve of Epiphany on Twelfth Night, January 5th. The church generally begins its feasts on the eve of the day (like Christmas Eve or Hallowe’en). Epiphany is the celebration of the revelation of Jesus as the Savior of the whole world as first shown by the coming of the magi. Twelfth Night is the time to remove the festive decorations, leaving just the lights on the tree for one final evening to emphasize the Epiphany theme of Jesus as the Light of the World.

Sing this song with your family or roomies as you take down the decorations!

In England in the Middle Ages, Christmastide was a season of continuous feasting and merrymaking, which climaxed on Twelfth Night. Often a Lord of Misrule was chosen to lead the Christmas revels. In Tudor England, Twelfth Night was forever solidified in popular culture when William Shakespeare used it as the setting for one of his most famous stage plays.

On this last day of Christmastide, we finally get to the last verse of our song! On the 12th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Twelve drummers drumming.

According to the thought that this song has a secret meaning for Catholics to use in catechizing children and converts, the “twelve drummers” stand for the twelve points of doctrine in the Apostles’ Creed, which is a short summary of the points of faith a person should affirm before they are baptized.:

  1. I believe in God, the Father almighty, creator of heaven and earth.
  2. I believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord.
  3. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary.
  4. He suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried. He descended into hell [the grave].
  5. On the third day he rose again. He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
  6. He will come again to judge the living and the dead.
  7. I believe in the Holy Spirit,
  8. the holy catholic (universal) Church,
  9. the communion of saints
  10. the forgiveness of sins
  11. the resurrection of the body
  12. and life everlasting.

Kazimierz Sichulski, “The Homage of the Three Kings,” 1913
Kazimierz Sichulski, “The Homage of the Three Kings,” 1913

What do we do with this?

Pray: Fill me and my home with light. Make me and our church the light of the world this year.

Some people eat their Epiphany cake as part of the Twelfth Night celebration. Baked into the  cake are three hidden coins, nuts, or beans. Sometimes they give crowns to those who find the objects hidden in the cake, making them “kings” or “queens” for the evening. They can “rule” over the party. I’d ask them to grant crowns to everyone as one of their first acts. If you follow the Austrian custom of burning incense (an ancient symbol for prayer) to “welcome the three kings,” the “king” can lead a procession throughout the house as you ask God to bless your life this year in the various rooms. Take the procession outside, if you like, and bless the whole neighborhood!

We don’t need to perfectly know how to pray. But we do need to trust the Spirit to pray in ways that are deeper than we understand. We can surrender to the connection God is making with us and others as the light of Jesus floods the world with hope and goodness. The Quakers have specialized in that kind of silent, trusting prayer.  Like they often do, meditate through your acquaintances and spend a good amount of time lifting individuals and whole groups “into the light.” 

10th Day of Christmas — January 3

IHS monogram, with kneeling angels, atop the main altar, Church of the Gesù, Rome.

Bible connection

Therefore God also highly exalted him
and gave him the name
that is above every name,
so that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue should confess
that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.  — Philippians 2:9-11

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved. — Romans 10:13

If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it. — John 14:14

Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. — Acts 2:38

Paul became so annoyed that he turned around and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you to come out of her!’ At that moment the spirit left her.  — Acts 16:8

‘And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus. — Colossians 3:17

All about the name of Jesus

On the 10th day of Christmas, many Christians venerate the holy name of Jesus. Most denominations let this observance occur on one holy day a year, but in the early 1500’s some people devoted every day to the holy name and even built church buildings to emphasize it (as in the picture above). Devotion to and veneration of the IHS monogram, derived from the first three letters of the Greek word for Jesus, ΙΗΣΟΥΣ (and sometimes also interpreted as Iesus Hominum Salvator, Jesus savior of humankind) dates back to the early days of Christianity, where it was placed on altars and religious vestments, ornaments and other objects.

Here is an evangelical example of  praising the name of Jesus 

The literal name “Jesus” is not inherently powerful; it is powerful because of Jesus Christ, the person, God incarnate, who made a way for our salvation.

Jesus taught his disciples to pray in his name:

“And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (in John 14:13-14).

Some misapply this verse, thinking that saying “in Jesus’ name” at the end of a prayer results in God always granting what is asked for. This is essentially treating the words “in Jesus’ name” as a magic formula. If you have tried it, you know that is not so. We come to God in the name of Jesus like anyone approaches a person who might not be open to them if they did not have the proper connections: “Open up in the name of the law!” or “Joe sent me” or “Here are my references” are examples. Praying in the name of Jesus shows respect and acknowledges that we come into the presence of God by the work of Jesus. Coming in our own name or in the name of something else could be dangerous to our spiritual health!

Leaping Lords advertising a charity concert in England.

On the 10th day of Christmas my true love sent to me… Ten lords a-leaping

We have also been following the popular Christmas carol through Christmastide. Again, the history of the carol is somewhat murky. The earliest known version first appeared in a 1780 children’s book called Mirth With-out Mischief. (A first edition of that book sold for $23,750 at a Sotheby’s auction in 2014).

Some historians think the song could be French in origin, but most agree it was designed as a “memory and forfeits” game, in which singers tested their recall of the lyrics and had to award their opponents a “forfeit” — a kiss or a favor of some kind, if they made a mistake. Many variations of the lyrics have existed at different points. Some mention “bears a-baiting” or “ships a-sailing;” some name the singer’s mother as the gift giver instead of their true love.

The idea of the song having secret meanings to help suppressed Catholic children understand the catechism has been well debunked [Snopes got involved]. But we’ve been playing with that, anyway. The ten lords a-leaping could stand for the Ten Commandments:

  1. You shall have no other gods before me
  2. Do not make an idol
  3. Do not take God’s name in vain
  4. Remember the Sabbath Day
  5. Honor your father and mother
  6. Do not murder
  7. Do not commit adultery
  8. Do not steal
  9. Do not bear false witness
  10. Do not covet (Exodus 20:1-17)

Why shouldn’t you know the Ten Commandments, anyway?

What do we do with this?

Pray in the name of Jesus: I bow my knee before the name above all names. I repent of my past in your name, Jesus. I call upon your name for my future. Whatever I do, I seek to be worthy of your name.

If you have never memorized the ten commandments, here is your chance.

We are not an “honor” society, and we prize coming in our own name, according to the rights we have as free people whose ancestors have died to give us our freedom. That’s part of the American myth. So the subservient humility of today’s readings may be a bit lost on us. We may not receive the honor of coming in Jesus’ name and we may not give it by assuming we can come in any other name, as we choose. Consider what you do when you pray, especially.