May 14, 2018
Every family has its own birthday traditions. In my husband's family, you were allowed to eat sugary cereal and stay in your pajamas and play video games all day. In mine, we picked our favorite meal and cake and helped my mom cook them. Interestingly enough, the Church has her own birthday tradition. In it, her people wear red and eat bread and drink wine and celebrate baptisms. This tradition is called Pentecost, and it is our spiritual birthday.
The story of Pentecost is remarkable. The apostles and Jesus' followers are all gathered together to celebrate the Jewish feast of Shavuot, which celebrates Moses' descent from Mount Sinai with the Ten Commandments. Suddenly, the sound of a strong wind descends from heaven and they are each crowned with tongues of flame. Perhaps, having followed Jesus around and seen his miracles, this did not faze them too much. But then something happened that changed their lives–and ours–forever: they were filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Before that moment they were individual followers of Jesus, but when the Holy Spirit descended, the Church as we know her was born.
I don't know about you, but I still get excited when my birthday rolls around. I begin anticipating days beforehand, and it saddens me when a close friend or family member forgets it. It stands to reason then that I should get excited when I know Pentecost is coming. With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the church body grew from a small group of Israelites to an international force. On this feast day we at Resurrection join in celebration with our fellow body members all over the world and rejoice that God has given us his Spirit and in doing so united us as one Body. Now there's a true cause for celebration.
Remember to wear red or another bright “fire" color like orange or yellow on Pentecost.
March 14, 2018
Without Lent, Easter tends to catch us off guard. But after the forty-day pilgrimage in the wilderness, we are ready to keep the Easter feast, to exult with all our hearts that Jesus is alive. Inasmuch as Lent has been preparing us pilgrims for Easter, Easter has a way of preparing us for heaven. It does so by satisfying our hunger, strengthening our commitment, and restoring our soul. In short, Easter- including the “little Easters” of Sunday worship throughout the year- is a taste of heaven, made available now through the power of the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God is here. Come and see!
….Jesus has given us an open invitation to come to His house and be satisfied on Easter Sunday and beyond. That is why he referred to himself as the Bread of Life who satisfies our hunger and the Living Water who satisfies our thirst… Those who embrace the forty-day journey of Lent have done so because they trust Jesus is telling the truth about Himself: he is a feast for hungry people. And He was telling the truth about us: we are hungrier than we know. -from The Good of Giving Up, by Aaron Damiani
When I was in high school, my best friend and I spent a semester abroad. After our first few weeks of roaming starry-eyed through the streets of a new city, we noticed a distinct pattern to our walks. About 30 minutes in I would become hungry, and the walk would cease to be a lovely wandering and turn into a mission: find food. I quickly noticed that my friend did not seem to have the same pattern of hunger as myself. When I asked her about it, she laughed and told me that she rarely noticed hunger, and often missed meals because her body didn’t remind her it was hungry.
I was completely astounded, as hunger was almost an extension of my identity at the time. I could eat every few hours and still feel hungry for more food. As time has passed and my metabolism has slowed to a more regular pace, I have developed a better picture of how my friend could walk around with something other than the next pain au chocolat on her mind.
Every year, Lent gives me a chance to step back into my teenage relationship with hunger. This Lenten hunger is much deeper and broader than a simple desire for whatever I’m fasting from, though that is always the springboard. As I transform my daily routines through fasting, I find myself becoming aware of a whole ocean of hunger that lies just beneath the surface of my everyday distractions. The first few weeks of Lent, the hunger seems to be for more trivial things, like a change of pace or rest from an overloaded schedule. But as Lent progresses and Holy Week draws nearer, I begin to realize that the hunger is for something much more profound- it is for peace from sin and suffering. It is an unquenchable thirst for heaven and healing and wholeness; it is a hunger for nothing less than Jesus himself.
The problem, of course, is that my sinful nature wants to keep me from quenching that thirst. If I’m honest, the long weeks of Lent are not a triumphant exercise in replacing all of the things I’m fasting for with more Bible time and prayer. Instead, they are a long, agonizing reveal of how profound and deep-rooted my sins are, and how effectively those sins keep me from running to Jesus. I stumble along, wondering why I always struggle with depression this time of year and why these last few weeks of Lent inevitably find me wanting to escape to any location other than home and regular life. I’m parched and starving, stripped of my defense mechanisms through fasting, desperate for Living Water and the Bread of Life, and I still don’t have it within me to feast on Jesus.
This is why Easter will never fail to astound me. I find myself stumbling into Holy Week like a starved person, desperate for something I cannot buy for myself, and find a feast waiting for me. No matter how hungry I am, there is a fullness of joy waiting for me there that brings the satisfaction I could not find anywhere else. The truth of a Savior who knows my profound, helpless hunger and offers nothing less than Himself to satisfy it is the food I’ve been fasting for. I was indeed hungrier than I could ever know, and the taste of Heaven that is given at Easter is more satisfying than any meal I’ve ever had, even as a voracious teenager.
Prayerfully look over your Lent so far. As you’ve fasted, what hungers have been stirred in your soul?
Stop and bring those hungers before the Lord. What does he show you about their source?
If you are not feeling particularly hungry for Easter right now, what are some ways that you can finish your Lent by creating space for that hunger? Is there anything the Lord is asking you to give up in these final days of Lent?
Read the third post in our devotional series here.
Find more practical guidance as you walk through Lent in The Good of Giving Up: Discovering the Freedom of Lent, a new book by Fr. Aaron Damiani, the rector of our church plant, Immanuel Anglican in Chicago.