Friday the 13th
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ produces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for Friday, March 13th: Exodus 16:9-21; Psalm 95; and Ephesians 2:11-22. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
The current pandemic is serious. A lot of people are worried. Uncertainty can be frightening. Not knowing who to trust for information can be debilitating. It can also be dangerous. There are immoral and deceitful people who are using the pandemic for illicit gain, and others who are sowing disinformation only for the sick fun of it all.
Someone told me the other day that advice was offered on the internet advising that a person could protect themselves from catching Covid 19 by drinking bleach. If bleach can kill the germs on surfaces, then it can kill the germs on the interior surfaces of our bodies, or so these illegitimate sites assert. Obviously, drinking bleach is the opposite of a Covid 19 remedy. It could be lethal.
I bring this up because of another unsubstantiated hoax. Today is Friday the 13th. We don’t even know why this date is associated with the superstitious. It can’t only be the number 13 because Saturday the 13th doesn’t raise any eyebrows. Some people think it has to do with Jesus’ Passion. There were 13 present at the Last Supper, the twelve disciples and Jesus. The Last Supper sets in motion the final events of Jesus’ life that culminate with His crucifixion on Good Friday. Maybe this association of 13 and Friday are the basis of the superstition behind Friday the 13th. Whatever the origin of the superstition, that’s all that it is. It’s a hoax. It’s baseless.
We need to be responsible for what we choose to believe. If we choose to believe, for example, the hate-filled propaganda of white supremacists, then that choice has consequences. It’s a choice that fantasizes about apartheid, prejudice, lynchings, Gestapo, and other horrible outcomes. Racial superiority is as much an unsubstantiated hoax as Friday the 13th, but to choose to believe the hoax has extremely real consequences.
So think about what we believe as follower of Jesus. Ponder the beauty and promise that is offered in today’s passage from Ephesians. The earliest church experienced the tension between two groups. One group of Christians wanted to maintain their faith in Jesus and also in the laws and ordinances of the Jewish people. Other Christians professed all that was needed was Jesus. This divide was a serious threat to Christian unity and proclamation.
Ephesians points to Jesus and especially His death upon the cross. Jesus followed all of the Jewish traditions and Jesus also preached, ministered, died and resurrected for all people. The writer of this epistle is poetic in his theology: “[Jesus] is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us … he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” We choose to believe in a Saviour and a message of reconciliation, of a faith that strives to bring people together no matter their differences, and of a hope for peace.
What we choose to believe matters. Choosing to believe in Jesus, and during Lent a crucified Jesus, is holy and wholesome. It offers a way forward. It makes us better people. Lent is blessing in that we have the time to come closer to the one who “is our peace.”
Faith, love and chitchat.
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