Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Lent: the math, the master and the meaning

I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth. Jesus - John 17:14-19

Note on the ecclesiastical calendar:

Is today really the 28th day in Lent? The answer is both yes and no. If you do the math, you've probably figured out by now that we're going to be well beyond "40-Days" by the time Easter pops up on the calendar.

How can that be? Well, the "40-days" does not count Sundays. The first day of Lent is Ash Wednesday; then Thursday, Friday and Saturday make the first four. Sundays, however, don't count. They're "The First Sunday in Lent", "The Second Sunday in Lent", etc. That makes the first Monday day five - and so the method of counting continues. Therefore, the six and a half weeks of Lent comprise (6X6=36) plus the last four days (Wed,Th,Fr,Sat) = 40 days

We don't belong to the world:

In today's scripture, Jesus is praying for his followers. He uses the phrase "They do not belong to the world" more than once. Christ's thinking on this is a key concept for this particular part of our journey.

It's not that this world is not our home; it is. In fact, we were created specifically for this place. But, this world is not the beginning nor the end of our identity. The values and the priorities that define a way of life that routinely excludes God often stand at odds with what it means to be a Jesus-follower.

Jesus calls us to a counter-cultural way of being. Because of this, Jesus concludes, his friends are often going to be misunderstood, resented, and reviled.

Obviously, Jesus was talking about the Roman occupying force and the local religious status-quo. However, Jesus was praying specifically for us, too, and in today's post-Christian culture, living as Christ-followers often means living outside of the mainstream. Our call is to be counter-cultural; not for the sake of being different, but because following Jesus is seldom interchangeable with blending in with the crowd.

But I don't want us to confuse following Jesus with a kind of souped-up religiosity. Christ's call is the call to live without reservation. I believe the practice of following Jesus leads to more fun, more joy, more peace, more kindness, more goodness etc. etc. People should be able to tell who Followers of The Way are by our enthusiasm for life, not our judgement or our severity or our lack of passion.

So this week, when I was picking up supplies for the latest installment of my ongoing "Gourmet Initiative", I smiled at the fun of applying spiritual principles to my shopping; while I was cooking I experienced the savory aromas as a kind of incense, a call to worship; and when Rebekah and I enjoyed the fruits of my ongoing gift, we were sharing communion together, the Lord himself as much a part of the table and the conversation as the two of us.

Christ, "The silent/unseen guest"? Not this time; not in this house; certainly not on day 28 (24, plus four Sundays!) of Lent 2010.

Love and blessings - DEREK

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