Interim Pastor’s Letter
Grace, mercy and peace to you.
Ash Wednesday was February 14, the day which has become more secular than Christian centered. Ash Wednesday beckons us to remove the veneer in that being “religious” allows Christians to dress up in ritual and outward show. “Saint” Valentines Day was “christianized” by the church, trying to cover over the darker aspects of a pagan festival which in its origin was a fertility festival. If we were to use our viewer rating system, the day would have received an “R” rated designation at best, and an “X” rating at worst. Romans celebrated the feast of Lupercalia. You can look up the details if you wish. There were two Valentines martyred at different times by Emperor Claudius. The church marked the 14 as a day to remember the martyr for the faith. Pope Gelasius the First muddled things up a bit in the 5th century combining St. Valentine's Day with Lupercalia in an effort to cleanse the pagan rituals. By the 5th century the festival was more of a theatrical interpretation of what it had once been. It did not end the day being about fertility and love. Christianity merely put clothes back on the day.
“Christianizing” anything becomes more like window dressing when the emphasis is placed on outward show of piety. Christians can simply become actors on the stage. The word “actor” in Greek is related to “hypocrite”. Lent is a journey to remove the masks, to stand before God “just as I am without one plea”, as the hymn goes, believing that being clothed with Christ in baptism, is the only clothing I need.
The Festival of the Resurrection of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be celebrated on April 1st. That’s right, another recognized secular day, named April Fools. Leave it to the Brits and the French to not begin but to perpetuate the day. April Fools’ Day dates back to 1582, when France switched from the Julian calendar to the Gregorian calendar, as called for by the Council of Trent in 1563. People who were slow to get the news or failed to recognize that the start of the new year had moved to January 1 and continued to celebrate it during the last week of March through April 1 became the butt of jokes and hoaxes. These included having paper fish placed on their backs and being referred to as “poisson d’avril” (April fish), said to symbolize a young, easily caught fish and a gullible person. On this day in 1700, English pranksters begin popularizing the annual tradition of April Fools’ Day by playing practical jokes on each other.
To be sure, The Day of Resurrection is still thought to be an April “fish” story, a fools day.
Let’s face it – the most popular day for Christians is Christmas. I always wondered why. Perhaps it is because dealing with a baby is easy. They are huggable, lovable, giggling, burping, laughing. We know what to do with a baby.
But Easter – dealing with a risen dead man?
Christ is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! We say responsively three times as a greeting Easter morning. Yet each time we say it, we join those who preceded us in the journey of faith in fear, wonder and awe, and trying to figure out, “What does it mean to say, Christ is risen?” How do you get your arms around a risen dead man? Well, you don’t. Our whole life, as followers of Jesus Christ, is a call to wrap our lives up in the one who lived, who died and now lives; and like Thomas, while desiring to touch him, but fearing it is true. If Jesus is risen that means the world will change – I will change. To touch him is to touch the future which God is bringing.
That is being April fools. We get to celebrate the future NOW knowing our plea has been heard.