Lent

Transfiguration is pointing to the...

While a few days late on this post in terms of the liturgical calendar, a couple of weeks ago Mark 9:2-8 came up in the worship service in the church calendar.

It is worth noting that the transfiguration story is often understood as a precursor to the resurrection. But let us be clear, in the original ending of the Gospel of Mark, there is no resurrection story. So how could the transfiguration be a precursor to a story that does not exist?

Perhaps the transfiguration is not a story that points toward resurrection at all. Perhaps Mark's telling of the transfiguration points to the crucifixion.

Take a look at these similar connections:

  • The transfiguration took place six days later while the  crucifixion took place over the course of six hours.
  • Three men witnessed the transfiguration but three women witnessed the  crucifixion .
  • Moses and Elijah appeared in one story while the other had two unnamed thieves with Jesus.
  • Jesus has white clothes but at the  crucifixion his clothes are gambled for and he is naked.
  • Peter wants to build three tents on the mountain but when Jesus dies the Jerusalem temple tent is torn.
  • God declares Jesus as the "Son of God" at the transfiguration, but it was a roman centurion who make this same statement at the  crucifixion . 
This is just what I came up with while looking at the texts side by side and no exegetical work. 

While I quickly want to jump to the resurrection and all the hope that comes with that, perhaps I am missing the point int he gospel of Mark for whom seems to be pointing to the crucifixion as the apex of the gospel. 

Breaking Lenten Fasts

I love that people are willing to give something up for Lent.  This post is not about the reasons we give things up for Lent or even if it is something we ought to do.  Rather this post is about how we respond to the Sunday's in Lent.

Many people know, but in case you are unaware of it, Lent is traditionally understood as being 40 days long.  The truth is that the season of Lent is 46 days long.  There are 6 Sundays in Lent which are not counted in the "40 days".  The reason for not counting Sundays in Lent is that every Sunday is a "little Easter", regardless of the season.  As a "little Easter" it is not in the tradition of the Church that Christians fast or obtain on Sunday.  And so, in Lent Christians are encouraged to fast for 40 days in Lent, but we do not teach people that Sundays are days where we break the fast and partake in what we are giving up.

Many people I have encountered this Lent season tell me they are giving up things from chocolate to junk food to alcohol.  When I see some of these people on Sunday I ask how the fast is going.  Usually everyone is doing well.  Then I ask if they have broken the fast on Sunday as we do not fast on Easter or the little Easters each year in remembrance/celebration of Resurrection.  To which I hear an odd responses.

"Oh, I know I should break my fast but if I did then I am not sure I would be able to begin the fast again on Monday."  Or "It is just easer to stay with the fast than to break it in Sundays."  Or "Yea, I know, but I am also giving up chocolate for Lent for God but also to loose weight."

I want to raise the question that if we are unwilling to break the fast out of fear we would not be strong enough to begin again, or out of convenience or out of a personal desire then are we fasting in Lent for ourselves of for God?

The practice of Lent - learning from spiders

A couple of days ago, a friend from Seminary came into town for a job he had in Addison. In the short time he was at AHUMC with Robin Stout (the new youth minister) and I, he shared with me a metaphor that I am holding onto for Lent.

A spider weaves a web. The web comes forth from the spider and is an extension of the spider herself. She moves back and forth working to create a web structure and it is beautiful. It is not enough to just create the web but she goes back over the web a second time, strengthening and augmenting the original web. At the end of this work, she has created an incredibly strong web that has the potential to be life giving for her. But in the moment, just after completion, it is not life giving. Creating the web is exhausting, but it is all she can do.

With the web completed, the only thing left for her to do is to wait. She does not ring bells or flash lights. There is no sign or banner. The only thing the spider can do, ever after all this exhausting work, is to wait and hope. She waits on that which gives her life and hopes it comes her way.

This is the spiders life.

And for the lent season, I will try to embody the posture of the spider. Create something out of my soul, an extension of my own self until exhausted.

And then I will wait on God.