Well there are some non sequiturs - well maybe not
Throughout the year, the Southern New England Conference of the United Church of Christ reproduces the Daily Lectionary for use by churches. These are the suggested readings for March 25th: Psalm 130; Ezekiel 36:8-15; and Luke 24:44-53. I would encourage you to read these short selections as part of your Lenten practice.
Today is nine months until Christmas. This would be the putative day the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she would bear a child. Well, this sure seems to be a non sequitur for a Lenten Blog. But what about today’s Gospel selection. It’s an Easter story. This seems equally out of place. I was speaking with a friend at one of the Lenten Discussions. He told me of working on a commission that consisted of an ecumenical array of members. Part of the commission was made up of Quakers.
Quakers emphasize the holiness of each day. As such, they do not observe a liturgical calendar as we do. They do not divide the year into seasons such as the one we are now in – Lent. They do not express heightened solemnity on any given Christmas or Easter, for example. All days are holy days. If I understand this correctly, and I can’t guarantee that I do, since Jesus resurrected there is no need to recall in a liturgical setting events such as Christmas or Good Friday. Those belong to the past. The resurrection makes Jesus a forever dweller in the present. In this sense, it is not strange to talk about Christmas or Easter during Lent because they are of the past. They are all a received part of our shared present with Jesus.
This is true. The actual Christmas and the actual Easter are a part of the past, but these historical events are also mysteries that transcend time. I believe that it serves us well as believers to proceed again and again with Jesus through His life story. This does not repeat those events so much as it reaffirms them. Religion is not only an intellectual exercise. It is an emotional one, as well. The changing church seasons take us through the changing emotions of how we interact with Jesus through the different aspects of His life and ministry.
So Christmas and Easter are in one sense non sequiturs for a Lenten blog, but in another sense this mixed bag of emotions reminds us of the timelessness of Christ. Jesus once was born and once did die on the cross, but Jesus now lives among and within us. We cannot be witnesses to those historical events, but in today’s Gospel passage about Jesus’ appearance to His disciples, it is the resurrected Jesus who is speaking. The resurrected Jesus is just as real to them as Jesus is to any of us today. When Jesus says, “‘You are witnesses,’” in a very important sense He is speaking about the historical witness of the unique generation of eye-witnesses, but this is not to make it impossible for Jesus to say to each and every one of us as well that we are witnesses to the resurrection because the resurrected Jesus does not belong to 2,000 years ago. The resurrected Jesus is forever present.
Tomorrow we will gather for the Fifth Sunday of Lent worship Service. I hope that our worship lifts our souls, that it is of personal worth. However, let us not ignore the fact that our attendance gives witness in a very public way to Jesus in the present. It is one of the most effective ways of sharing Jesus with others. It conveys in no uncertain terms that something of spiritual value takes place at worship. I invite you to share in our Sunday worship Service tomorrow. As I said, I hope it is meaningful to you, but also may it serve as an effective witness for the Jesus among and within us still in the present.
If you’d like, here is the link to the Southern New England Conference’s daily reading schedule: www.sneucc.org/lectionary.
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