Faith Works 4-12-14
Special services and Sundays
Christians who have given up things for Lent are in the last few days of their discipline: pray for them!
Whether it's stopping enjoying or indulging in some treat, or adding in some new extra practice, the forty days of Lent are a good time to test out ways to focus our spiritual skills. In prayer, in lifestyle, in actions, when you want to make a change, forty days is a good stretch of time to find out if it can work for you.
If you actually count out from Ash Wednesday, the start of Lent, to Easter, you find yourself with 46 days. That's because Sundays are not "fasting" days, but always feast days. Sunday is to be a celebration, an occasion of joy. Margaret Mead was given to reminding her fellow Lenten pilgrims "No feast, no fast!" By which she meant that the one accents and supports the other.
So if you give up something for Lent, you can enjoy it on the Sundays. Sorry to anyone who didn't know that earlier in Lent!
The point is that the Christian church made their day of assembly and worship the first day of the week, not the former Sabbath on the last day, the seventh day as marked in the story of Creation as God's day of rest. Rest and Sabbathkeeping is another subject, but our Sunday is really meant to be the weekly cause for rejoicing that (spoiler alert!) Christ is risen, he is risen indeed.
Just as the Christian year cycles from Advent & Christmas to Lent & Easter, so each week is meant to recapitulate the journey to good news. The women went to the tomb with their anointing oils and spices "on the first day" of the week, and the power & significance of the Resurrection in the early church is testified to, among other ways, by the dramatic and significant choice to shift the day of worship to what, in English, we call Sunday.
That's right, every Sunday is a little Easter. And then we have the rest of the week.
Holy Week, or Passion Week in some churches, begins tomorrow. Each day has a significance and commemoration of its own, even Tuesday. But it begins with the processional celebration of Palm Sunday, when Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph, and goes on through the more common observances of the night of Thursday this week, or "Maundy" Thursday, the crucifixion on Good Friday, and then Easter itself with many congregations having a sunrise celebration, that being when the Resurrection was first realized by Mary Magdalene and Peter and the others.
My congregation is gathering, at least those willing to set their alarms a bit early, at 6:30 am on Easter morning atop Horn's Hill. It's not an obligation, and some would even point out that the Bible never calls for such a service. You can say that about having a weeknight worship on Thursday or Friday noon.
What it's all about, in the end, is finding sustainable ways at different points of the year to keep on lifting up all of time, every day, as God's time. In the end, Revelation says at its best, all ground will be holy ground. We are not there yet, and we can't accomplish any of it by force of will or an excess of worship services, but step by step, where we're going is to let all time and space be holy. That's God's intention, and we start to feel very close to that intention during Holy Week.
May that understanding start to last beyond a day or a week or a season for us in our Easter season this year!
Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in Licking County; tell him where you find holy ground and sacred time at email@example.com or follow @Knapsack on Twitter.