Updated: Jan 29
(Note: This bus stop has given up internal pictures for Lent.)
Nobody has to do this now, here at the bus stop, but when you get a moment, take out a pad of paper and write down how you would explain Lent to someone who does not know what it is.
Such a person might call him or herself Christian, so it does not mean only non-Christians and atheists might ask you, “What does Lent mean?”
According to Wikipedia, “This event, along with its pious customs, is observed by Christians in the Anglican, Calvinist, Lutheran, Methodist, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions. Today, some Anabaptist and evangelical churches also observe the Lenten season.”
I know in my life, being raised in an Assemblies of God church, I was never taught what Mardi Gras was, nor Ash Wednesday, nor Lent. Those were all foreign terms to me. I heard the terms, but never understood the meanings or reasons some people celebrated, while others did not.
Because I have asked the question, “What do they mean?” I have been led to look a lot of things up that are Catholic-based customs.
Frankly, I have been left wanting something more to be the explanation. Wikipedia explains, “[Lent’s] institutional purpose is heightened in the annual commemoration of Holy Week, marking the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the tradition and events of the New Testament beginning on Friday of Sorrows, further climaxing on Jesus’ crucifixion on Good Friday, which ultimately culminates in the joyful celebration on Easter Sunday of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.”
Is that what everyone here at the bus stop would have written down on your pad of paper? It tells some of the what I want to know (leaving out Maundy Thursday), while leaving out most of the why.
Why do we follow the Church calendar period of the Epiphany with forty days of fasting (Lent), to then suddenly be kneeling at the cross of a broken and unjustly executed man?
What happened to Jesus’ three years of ministry in-between?
The season of Pentecost reflects that ministry, as well as our own ministries, like Jesus’; but why do we interrupt the flow of Jesus’ life for Easter?
If the Advent-Christmas season marks the beginning of Jesus’ life, then shouldn’t logic mean that Easter would immediately precede that season, so that death leads to rebirth?
That would mean Easter would logically be in November, if Christmas is really supposed to be on December 25th each year.
The reality is that all the Catholic-based holidays were the result of placing greater importance on pleasing pagans (new would-be church members), while neglecting the Old Testament – the First Covenant – and focusing totally on the New Testament.
Lent leading into Easter acts as a pagan connection between a Roman fishing festival and the celebration of spring, when the Vernal Equinox occurs.
Swept aside is the law that the Israelites were eternally bound to recognize, which included three festivals each and every year: Passover (8 days then), Shavuot (2 days), and Sukkot (2 days). Passover is dependent on a Hebrew calendar (lunar-based), and falls somewhere between late March and early May [on Gregorian or Julian calendars]. Shavuot is seven weeks later, around May to June (loosely associated with what we call Pentecost). Sukkot is at harvest time, around September or October.
While Christians vaguely recognize Passover (calling it Holy Week, with Palm Sunday leading to Good Friday, the Passion, and the Resurrection on Easter Sunday), the fact is that Christian Easter and Jewish Passover rarely occur at the same time. That disregards all the dedication of the Jews who have maintained the laws AND believed Jesus of Nazareth was their Messiah. As Jews, they are sworn to maintain the First Covenant, while absorbing Christian ceremony into that. After all, Christian ceremony came from that. The Last Supper was a Passover Seder. Jesus was crucified during a Jewish Passover Week.
Recognizing that Christian shortfall, the lessons for this second Sunday in Lent then shine a light on how Lent is a time to strengthen one’s faith and righteousness, through letting the Mind of Christ expose those shortcomings. It is time to become aware of what truth one denies. Without being able to see one’s self as a descendant of Abraham, one does not number as one of the stars in the heavens.
It is important to see this value of Lent so that the destruction Paul wrote of to the Philippians does not become one’s fate. There were many more Jews than Christians then, Jews who would not find a reward for time served on earth because they rejected Jesus. Still, that same failure applies to Christians who deny a need to maintain an agreement as Abram’s righteous descendants.
Every Sunday the lectionary demands some reading come from the Old Testament. This is because Christians are expected to have the laws of Moses written on their hearts, which means a true Christians is a priest of God, just like an Israelite was intended to be.
Today, we read from the fifteenth chapter of Genesis, when God made His covenant with Abram – that his descendants would be more numerous than the stars in the heavens. A Christian MUST be one of those lights in the darkness; so, a Christian MUST be a descendant of Abram.
Much has been said about the three world religions most religions as descendants of Abraham: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Christianity deserves that genetic connection because of the first Christians being Jews. The inclusion of Gentiles made waywardness and backsliding a potential, thus the epistles were written to guide the hearts of those filled with the Holy Spirit to maintain THAT new covenant.
BUT, the stars in space are not comparisons to the genetic vastness stemming from everyone of Abraham’s biological descendants. Instead, they represent reflections of a spiritual nature, expressed in a physical manner. Gravity holds us on earth, thus the sky and outer space appears to be elevated from our terrestrial view. We aspire to reach such heights, as seems Heaven. Still, each light in space – each twinkling star – is situated amid a much greater vastness of darkness.
The light of truth shines in a three-dimensional, 360-degree circumference’s projection of rays; BUT the darkness cannot understand the light. (John 1) It remains always black and void.
Therefore, Jews who reject Jesus, Muslims who reject Jesus, AND Christians who reject Jesus – by pretending to understand Lent, while knowing nothing about the commanded Holy Week of Passover – all are not points of God’s light. They are the void that surrounds those lights.
In this way, each star represents the light of Jesus having been reborn in each and every descendant of Abram.
The non-Christians represent the darkness, which Abram experienced, “As the sun was going down,[when] a deep sleep fell upon [him], and a deep and terrifying darkness descended upon him.” Without Christ in one’s core being, one is without the sun, dreaming that this worldly realm is Heaven, while we live in a terrifying realm of darkness.
Welcome to the wilderness of Lent.
As I said last week, Lent is about entering a wilderness of faith – that dark place where the light is not captured or understood. Lent is our testing, as God seeing shine amid darkness. Lent is a test to see if we can find those orbs that will turn and face the light given to us by Christ, so others can receive the Spirit and also become a light of Christ.
The temptations of Satan are part of that test.
In the covenant God made with Abram, three mammals were requested for sacrifice, with those three cut in halves and each half laid against the other. The symbolism of being cut in half is the symbolism of the duality of light: the presence of light and the absence of light; white and black; light and darkness; and/or shining star and cold, black space.
Abram placed those carcasses on an altar, one he built. Altars are not like barbecue pits or grills in the backyard. Altars are instruments used by priests and Abram was a high priest.
Once the priest prepared the sacrifices and placed them on the altar, God then moved a fire pot of flames, with a flaming torch, between all the pieces. That happened after the sun had gone down and it was dark. The heifer, the female goat and the ram had given up their lives on earth to become stars in the expanse of space. They were ignited to become lights in darkness. We could even call them Taurus, Capricorn and Aries.
We too are expected to be sacrifices, laid upon the alter of Abram, so we can understand how “the Lord reckoned [Abram’s descendants to be] as righteous.” Following the Epiphany of being baptized with the Holy Spirit, Lent reflects the testing of one’s mettle. Is one Christian? Or, is one non-Christian?
In that vein of thought, Paul advised the Christians of Philippi to “Join together in imitating” Jesus, as were Paul and the other Apostles. Paul certainly was not asking anyone to be like Paul. He was asking all to be like Jesus.
Still, he warned that “many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.” The “cross of Christ” is the cutting into two pieces of the old self, setting one piece against the other, so the fire pot and flaming torch can ignite another true Christian. Many refuse to make that sacrifice of self before the Lord, becoming enemies of that cross to bear.
Those who are enemies to that sacrifice are not the stars of the heavens. They are darkness; and they, too, are places of vacuum more numerous than one can count. It requires no effort to be a void in space.
For a true star of God’s light, one’s “citizenship is in heaven, and it is from there that [one] is expecting a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The flaming torch “will transform the body of [one’s] humiliation that it may be conformed to the body of his glory, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself.” Burn star, burn!
Lent is all about setting fire to an earthbound carcass, so that it passes the test and shines brightly in Christ.
Now, in the Gospel reading today, Luke 13 is speaking of Jesus’ Passover trip to Jerusalem that would begin his third year of ministry. Some of the Pharisees there warned Jesus to leave, because Herod Antipas – the ruler of Galilee and Perea – wanted to kill Jesus.
Thirty-one verses earlier, at the beginning of Luke’s chapter 13, Jesus heard how Pilate – the Governor of Judea – had mixed the blood of Galileans with the sacrifices made for Jews. That was in Galilee, but in Jerusalem the talk turned to Herod, as an opposite fear.
When Jesus said to them, “Go and tell that fox for me,” a fox is the equivalent to a bird of prey, as it scavenges the flesh of the dead. Jesus then acted as the guard of the sacrifices, keeping the predators away, just as Abram had done.
Jesus said he would be openly present in Jerusalem for three days – a sign of the Passover festival period – preaching, healing, and casting out demons. Jesus would hold the fire pot and flaming torch between the pieces of the Israelites, setting more and more on fire, making them be lights in the heavens, descended of Abraham.
When Jesus said, “How often have I desired to gather your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wing, and you were not willing!” he spoke of the darkness that cannot understand the light as it passes through the void on its true course. Jesus spoke of the fear that would overcome the Jews when the sun of God’s favor would set.
Lent is about understanding and heeding the light of truth, facing the light and receiving the Spirit – to not let that light be blocked by Satan’s tempting.
“Get thee behind me Satan,” says to the world, “Stop trying to block the light of God.”
Jesus then said, “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it.” Jerusalem was in the land promised to the descendants of Abram, as part of the land between the Nile and the Euphrates.
Jesus then said, “See, your house is left to you.”
Lent is when one sees the land from which descendants come as like a mother’s womb. The prophets who were sent were born of the Lord and Spirit. Once born to prophesy, they penetrated those walls of Jerusalem and became destroyed … because that womb was old, dry, and no longer fertile. It had become a barren wilderness that blocked the light of truth.
Those who have already been born of Israelite descent, having since been reborn as prophets sent to revitalize a barren wilderness and turn it green again with faith, they always die physically in vain. Abram and Sarai thought they were beyond a return to being like the Fertile Crescent, where new births are commonplace. The barren womb of Sarai would bring forth one who would come so all rejoice, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Jerusalem is the womb that no longer produces priests for the Lord. Israel is a land that represents a uterus no longer producing the “eggs” that can become prophets and priests to Christ.
Instead, it sacrifices those like Jesus and his Apostles, cutting them in two like sacrificial cows, goats, and sheep. They delight in the choice portions, to which they give reverent lip-service; but they sacrifice little of themselves in return.
The physical world is the place of Lent, as it tests one’s determination to be righteous. Jesus Christ protects our souls from all evil predators, so we can be lit afire by God’s glory.
Lent is when one knows there is a job that must be done and nothing can stop one from fulfilling that work. Lent is when we become Jesus reborn, and when we rejoice, “Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord.”
Write that down in you notepads. Tell it to anyone who asks, “What does Lent mean?”
“Show me your way, O Lord; lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Deliver me not into the hands of my adversaries, for false witnesses have risen up against me, and also those who speak malice.”
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