Holy Week upon us

We have been taking attending a church which does not practice the church calendar, except for the highest of holy days such as Easter, so that we neither had an Ash Wednesday service, nor is Lent on our radar. I think that’s a loss myself, though I appreciate the church, just the same.

Now Holy Week is upon us, beginning tomorrow with what is traditionally known as Palm Sunday. We remember the Passion, meaning Suffering of our Lord, the way to the cross which was coming to its culmination, followed by the resurrection.

For me it is the most special week of the year. Christmas is just as special in its own way, as we remember the incarnation and birth of our Lord. And actually the entire year is important with reference to the church calendar, just as all in the gospels is important, our Lord’s life and teachings complementing and fulfilling God’s call to Israel as the light of the world. So in a sense there are no non-holy days. And yet there are special times when we remember certain key events that took place, like the Passover followed by the crossing of the children of Israel across the Red Sea.

So today for me will be a preparation for tomorrow, the beginning of Holy Week. We intend to go to a Good Friday service within the tradition we are now a part of. I do miss the traditional liturgy and regular partaking of the Lord’s body and blood. I appreciate the strengths of the church we now attend, but miss the ceremonial aspect of things. And yet, by faith we can enter into a kind of watching and listening, as we meditate from the text of scripture, from the gospel accounts on our Lord’s suffering. And as we pray for ourselves and for those around us, for the world, that we might know this great grace from God in and through Jesus, our Savior and Lord.

a Thanksgiving meditation

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Colossians 3

Some days ought to be different. In a way we want every day to be the same, even as we want to be the same ourselves in and through Jesus, and God’s grace in him. But it’s good to have certain days set as days of special celebration or reflection. We see this in the feast days of Israel of old (called the Feast Days of God) in the First/Old Testament. And in days even here in America in which we either honor or celebrate what is important to the nation. And on the Christian calendar, there are periods of time, and special days, not meant to enslave anyone, but to help us. Thanksgiving Day is kind of a combination of both a religious and national day here in the United States. It is a day set apart to enjoy the blessings of God, and give thanks for those blessings.

The passage above (Colossians 3), insofar as it’s lived out among Christians today, is a good reminder of what we should be remembering and celebrating. As well as where our minds and tongues probably shouldn’t be, unless it’s in simple prayer to God.

Some of us may have had extra difficult lives, or may be going through a trial right now. But none of us can say that there isn’t much to  be thankful for, first to God, from whom all blessings flow, and through whom every good and perfect gift comes. As well as to others, thanking God for them, as well as thanking them for the good they do out of the love and grace that comes from God.

God is love, and in that love has poured out bountiful blessings on the earth, to be shared by all. Let us mark this day, and make it, by God’s grace, a day of giving thanks to him. And simply be with each other, especially practicing that giving of thanks for the little ones to see so that they can come to emulate that themselves.

And above all, may we see this day as a day to pause and reflect, as well as celebrate for ourselves, God’s goodness to us and to the world. In creation and in new creation, in and through Jesus.

Halloween and All Saints Day

I wish I knew the connection better, but like other pagan festival days, the Christians would make holy days (from which we get the word holidays) for the faithful and for a witness. In the case of what we now call Halloween, it was thought to be the night when the dead would visit the homes in which they had lived. And in some cases propitiation to appease any anger was sought from the dead by offerings for blessing as opposed to cursing. Of course contact with the dead in the form of séances is strictly forbidden by scripture. Ouija boards and the like play into this and are not something to be treated lightly, indeed we should avoid all such. There is a power behind it which may show up, and the power is at its core quite ugly and awful.

Christians made the night the eve of “All Saints Day,” a day to honor all of God’s holy people who have been recognized by the church as such. Of course in Christ all are actually saints, or holy and set apart to God. That day is followed by All Souls Day which acknowledges the faith of all the baptized. Christians wanted to make it clear that they did not share in the fear of that night which they called in our words, All Saints Eve (called All Hallows’ Eve by a certain time, cf: “Hallowed be your name” in “The Lord’s/our Father prayer”, see above link). Instead Christians honored the dead in Christ and celebrated their faith through the one who by his death abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

In their witness and in our ongoing witness of Jesus today, we want to make it clear that we have no fear of the dark powers which indeed can be active especially around these specific days. While we respect both the power they have and don’t think for a moment that we ourselves are any match for that, we know that we have the victory over all such through Christ, and through the power of his death and resurrection. We need not tread in fear of such, even as we look forward to the day when all such evil will forever be vanquished and destroyed.

Of course in our enlightened Modernist culture or the ongoing entrenchment of such in what may be a developing Postmodernism, we know better. But in many cultures in the world the reality and powers of such are only too well known. As C. S. Lewis pointed out such powers and especially the Satan behind such are only too happy for people to either see them everywhere or nowhere at all. Instead we need to be aware of their presence and diabolical, deceptive works and of our victory over them in and through the cross of our resurrected Lord and King, Jesus.