Season of Lent

LENT - English word (stemming from an Anglo-Saxon word for “spring” and related to the English word “lengthen”) that refers to the penitential period preceding Easter. Early Christians felt that the magnitude of the Easter celebration called for special preparation. As early as the second century, many Christians observed several days of fasting as part of that preparation. Over the next few centuries, perhaps in remembrance of Jesus’ fasting for 40 days in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1–2), 40 days became the accepted length of the Lenten season. Since, from the earliest years of Christianity, it had been considered inappropriate to fast on the day of the resurrection, Sundays were not counted in the 40 days. Thus, the Wednesday 46 days before Easter came to be regarded as the beginning of Lent.

In the early centuries the season before Easter was also the usual period of intense training for new Christians. During this period, the catechumens (those learning what it meant to be Christians) went through the final stages of preparation for baptism, which usually occurred at dawn on Easter Sunday. As the practice of infant baptism increased, the emphasis on Lent as a training period decreased.

Fred A. Grissom, “Lent,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1025.

Read more
Season of Epiphany

Epiphany is on January 6th, which is twelve days after Christmas. That is where we get the "Twelve Days of Christmas". The celebration of the Feast of Epiphany occurred first in the Eastern Church. The Scripture focus was on the Baptism of Jesus. In the fourth century, the Catholic Church began celebrating Epiphany, and the Scripture focus was on the visit of the Magi. It was not until around the 2nd century that the early church began celebrating Christmas. The Armenian church celebrated Christmas on January 6th with the tradition of giving gifts as described in the Magi bring gifts. Some Armenian churches still celebrate Christmas on January 6th.

The word "Epiphany" in Greek means "manifestation." The story about the wise men paying homage to Jesus asserts the claim that Jesus is made manifest to the Magi, who were Gentiles. Therefore during the Season of Epiphany, some churches focus on Scripture where Jesus' identity is made visible to the world.

"They entered the house and saw the child with Mary, his mother. Falling to their knees, they honored him. Then they opened their treasure chests and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh." (Matthew 2:11, CEB) Church tradition claims that there were three Magi. But the story from Matthew never gives us a number. Three gifts were given, so it was assumed that there were three wise men. Out of the church tradition comes the Christmas Hymn "We Three Kings of Orient Are". There are two essential points to share in this story. First, when the Magi enter into the dwelling where Jesus and Mary are, they bow down to worship the young King. When we arrive in the presence of Jesus, our first posture should be one of worship and honor. Second, after honoring Jesus in worship, they offer Him their gifts. Finding ourselves in the presence of Jesus, we honor Him, and then we offer Him our gifts of service.

"Because they were warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back to their own country by another route." (Matthew 2:12, CEB) Being warned, the Magi head home taking a different route. So it is when we have been in the presence of Jesus, our lives will take a different path. We can no longer do the "same old, same old". The transformation can be gradual or rapid. But the change the "Jesus encounter" has on our lives will happen. We cannot travel the same path, Jesus will lead us on a new one.

We should be excited about the arrival of a New Year as we look forward to the new path that will be revealed to us. We have to remain open to listening and then faithful in obedience.

Blessings Pastor Mick

Read more
One Came Back

“On the way to Jerusalem, Jesus traveled along the border between Samaria and Galilee. As he entered a village, ten men with skin diseases approached him. Keeping their distance from him, they raised their voices and said, “Jesus, Master, show us mercy!” When Jesus saw them, he said, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.” As they left, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw that he had been healed, returned and praised God with a loud voice. He fell on his face at Jesus’ feet and thanked him. He was a Samaritan. Jesus replied, “Weren’t ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? No one returned to praise God except this foreigner?” Then Jesus said to him, “Get up and go. Your faith has healed you.”” (Luke 17:11–19, CEB)

In Jesus’ time the dreaded skin disease of leprosy caused those affected to be unclean and untouchable. They considered this skin disease contagious. Villages would setup a living space outside of the village where those infected had to live. No one entered the village of the sick and those ill were never let out.

However, in this story there was one who was unclean times two. The Samaritan was an unclean foreigner infected with leprosy. Jesus is traveling to Jerusalem along the border of Galilee and Samaria. The ten lepers get word that Jesus is traveling near them. Out of respect they approach Jesus but stay at a safe distance from Him. They call out that to him to show them mercy.

It was customary for a person who had leprosy to see a priest to have theirr disease confirmed or to be pronounced clean if the disease had gone away. Jesus does not say they are healed but sends them to see the priest knowing they will be healed when they arrive. The men notice, on the way to the priest, that they had been healed. No doubt they all felt the joy of being healed. Now they were in a hurry to see the priest so they could be pronounced clean. They could rejoin their families and engage in a normal life.

Except the Samaritan who was now clean was still a Samaritan. He was healed of the unclean disease but he was still unclean. The Samaritan turns around and goes back so he could thank Jesus. Jesus wonders why the other nine did not come back. But confirms that the Samaritan was healed through his faith. How do we know the Samaritan had faith? Because he came back to give thanks.

We should have gratitude that God sends people to us. In accepting them into our family they will be healed and so will we. Our nation needs moral healing so we can be proclaimed clean again.

Blessings Pastor Mick 

Read more
Measuring Faith

“The apostles said to the Lord, “Increase our faith!”” (Luke 17:5, CEB)

The disciple felt that doing "big" things would be evidence of their "big faith".

Doing something "big" would be the measure of "big" faith. They had been witnesses to Jesus doing big things. Surely if Jesus could give sight to a blind man, he could increase their faith. Fame and fortune would come to those who had "big faith".

Churches (and denominations) get caught up in wanting to do big things. The congregation has a desire to have an impact in their community. We look around and there are big, overwhelming problems to be solved. The issues are so enormous that we frozen in positions of doing nothing. However, in the gospels Jesus deals not with the big problems of oppression, injustice, and inequality. He relates to each person and their immediate needs.

“The Lord replied, “If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Luke 17:6, CEB)

I will share an act of faith with you. Our church leads a simple worship service at our local rehabilitation and nursing home on the 4th Sunday of every month. In a gathering area that has a piano along with some tables and chairs. At the designated time the attendants brings patients into that gathering space.

We share a Scripture reading; we sing hymns, our youth sings children's songs that everyone remembers from their youth, and we pray. When worship time is over we greet each patient, hold their hand, and tell them it is "good" to be with them. Even when they cannot speak their is a connection with something holy when we look into their eyes. There is love when, while holding their hand, you can feel their grip tighten on your hand not wanting this moment to pass away.

God is present. We we are singing hymns it is touching to observe a person who cannot sing but still keeps time with a finger or an exposed toe. They cannot verbalize the hymns through their mouth but they are singing in their heart.

Such a small simple thing giving up an hour and a half once a month. But to be part of the lifting of hearts and spirits is an act of faith that moves mountains and uproots mulberry trees. We give thanks for the faith that has already been given. We give thanks for acting on that faith and doing the little things that are the Kingdom of Heaven.

Blessings Pastor Mick  

Read more