Archives for posts with tag: Holy Week

 

Mobile, AL: Springhill Ave Mobile Al.

I grew up in Mobile, Alabama where Mardi Gras was a part of life. Although the celebrations in New Orleans are more well-known, Mardi Gras has its origin in my home town.

 

Mardi Gras arrived in North America as a French Catholic tradition in the 17th Century. King Louis XIV sent Pierre Le Moyne d’Iberville and Jean-Baptiste Le Moyne de Bienville to defend territory that included parts of what is now Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and eastern Texas.

Mobile, AL: Conde Charlotte Museum house 1822 Mobile, Alabama

The settlement of Mobile was founded in 1702 as the first capital of French Louisiana by Bienville. In 1703, fifteen years before New Orleans was founded, French settlers in Mobile established the first organized Mardi Gras celebration tradition in what was to become the United States. By 1720, the French capitol had been moved to Biloxi, Mississippi. In 1723, the capital of Louisiana was moved to New Orleans. It was not until 1837 that the first Mardi Gras parade was held in New Orleans.

Mardi Gras Poster

The festival of Mardi Gras that began in Mobile as a French Catholic tradition evolved into a mainstream multi-week celebration across the spectrum of cultures in Mobile (as well as New Orleans). The last couple of days became school holidays  regardless of religious affiliation.

As a boy growing up in Mobile I looked forward to Mardi Gras but I had no understanding of its religious significance marking the beginning of Lent the day after the last parade and Carnival ball. I have come to understand that “Mardi Gras Day” was also known as Fat Tuesday, a day to feast and celebrate before Ash Wednesday which was the start of 40 days of fasting and introspection for devout Catholics and many other Christians.

Mobile had a strong community of Roman Catholics and a variety of other expressions of Christianity. Unlike them, the religious environment in which I grew up did not give much emphasis to the Christian Year and accompanying traditions and liturgy. We celebrated the High Holy Days of Christmas and Easter and acknowledged the events of Palm Sunday. However the liturgical seasons of Advent and Lent were not a part of our tradition or practice.

Lent Concept Watercolor Theme

I have learned to value those periods of time that the Church has observed that have nurtured and enhanced the lives of Jesus’ followers.

A lit candle and the text holy week

The six weeks of Lent are about over. Holy Week began last Sunday with Palm/Passion Sunday when we remembered the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem but with the realization that the week would end sadly.

Today is Holy (Maundy) Thursday when we recall the last meal Jesus had with his disciples just before he would be arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Tomorrow is Good Friday commemorating the day that Jesus was crucified. How could such a tragic event be “good?” Jesus sacrificed himself to show the world the extent of his love for each person. He said, “When I am lifted up from the earth I will draw all people to me.” This “disaster” was transformed a couple of days later when Jesus arose from the dead.

My celebration of the Resurrection this Easter Sunday will have added meaning because of the period of introspection and the emphasis of sacrifice during Lent. I have consciously reflected on God’s love for humankind that was demonstrated in Jesus. I have the remembered the severity of his sacrifice. I have examined my life as I have prayed, read, and meditated.

Today I feel a tinge of pain thinking about the extent of Jesus’ suffering. The sadness I feel because of the abuse Jesus endured is mixed with a deep sense of gratitude for his extraordinary love for me and all people of the world.

Today I am taking a deep breath allowing the Holy Spirit to enliven me and lead me to a life of devotion to the Suffering Servant. You are invited to do the same.

 

Advertisements

Disappointment 3

Everyone has experienced disappointment. You order that special dessert at your favorite restaurant and the waiter tells you they do not have any more. You buy a ticket for a much hyped blockbuster movie but when the credits roll at the end you wonder why it was so highly acclaimed. Or your team makes it to the finals but lose big in the championship game.

Alexander Pope said, “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”  However, the reality is that life has a way of presenting you with “the feeling of sadness or displeasure caused by the nonfulfillment of one’s hopes or expectations.” There are many occasions when our expectations are not met and we feel let down.

Disappointmemt 1

But have you ever been really disappointed?

Major League Baseball’s regular season began last Monday. Spring training had ended and teams had settled on their 25 player opening day rosters. Then overnight things changed for our hometown Atlanta Braves. On Sunday night the Braves surprised everybody by trading away Craig Kimbrel, one of the most highly regarded pitchers in the game, along with Melvin Upton, Jr., a player that had failed to live up to expectations and was still owed $48 million.

In return for Kimbrel and Upton, the Braves got two outfielders, Cameron Maybin and Carlos Quinten, and a couple of other prospects. Maybin was told to catch a flight from San Diego to be on hand for the Braves season opener in Miami on Monday. Quinten was told that was necessary for him. Have you ever had that level of disappointment? It is speculated that the Braves will probably just pay him the $8 salary but have no intention of playing him. I suppose that would help to offset the disappointment.

But there is another wrinkle to this situation. On Sunday night Braves coach Fredi Gonzales called Pedro Ciriano into his office to tell him he had made the opening day big league roster “unless something crazy happens”. Ciriano has been around professional baseball for several years but has spent almost all of that time in the minor leagues. When Gonzales gave him the good news, he wept tears of joy.

Pedro Ciriaco

Well, the Kimbrell trade was “something crazy” and just twelve hours after the good news Gonzales had to break the bad news to Ciriano. He would not be on the roster because they had to make room for Maybin who came as a part of the deal. Talk about disappointment! Ciriano could benefit from the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau who counseled, “If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.”

Disappointment 8
Last week was Holy Week in the Christian Church. One of the stories that we remember during those eventful few days is the sad account of Judas’ betrayal of Jesus and his subsequent suicide. The sequel to that story is told in the first chapter of the Book of the Acts in the Bible. The 11 remaining inner circle of Jesus’ followers selected a successor to Judas. They narrowed the field to two, Matthias and Justus, and then selected Matthias. I imagine Justus was very disappointed to miss out on this wonderful opportunity to be on the “inside” with these men who would make such a difference in the world.

Countless examples of disappointing situations could be provided. Everyone who reads this could probably offer several personal experiences of disappointment. Such experiences are a normal part of life. Eliza Tabor Stephenson suggests that

“Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, intensifies, but never destroys it.”

Disappointment 5

Someone has said that disappointments are often God’s appointments. Lord, help us to learn from the times that our expectations are not met and grow stronger because of them.

Jamie Jenkins

I have just returned from a trip to Israel. It is not my first time to visit the place that is, for a third of humanity, literally holy land. Israel is the crossroads for three great religions. Consequently the Holy Land has been coveted and fought over for centuries.

My first visit to Israel was in 1981 and some people cautioned me that it was an unsafe destination. I spoke with one man who had journeyed to the region every year for the previous 22 years. He told me, “Every time I am getting ready to go someone tells me I am crazy and will get myself killed.”

Since that conversation 34 years ago I have heard the same thing each of the more than two dozen times I have made the pilgrimage to the land of the Bible. I am sure I will hear the same thing next year when I return. But I have never felt uncomfortable or at risk and hundreds (maybe thousands) of others have told me the same.

Travel guru, Rick Steves said, “If you just read the headlines, a visit to Israel can be scary. For 1500 years Christians, Jews and Muslims have struggled over the Holy Land. The presence of barbed wire and armed soldiers is really nothing new. Invasions and political turmoil have been the norm now for 4000 years. In our generation, terrorists have left their ugly mark. But tourists or popular tourist centers have never been targeted. While there are still problems to be worked out, no angry group is angry at tourists.”

To be sure there is tension in the Middle East, not just in Israel, but many thousands of people visit the Holy Land (Israel, Jordan, Egypt) every year. While you hear a lot from the news media about violence in Israel, you never hear of tourists being the target.

Perception is reality but sometimes it is a false reality. While the media paints a picture of horror and hostility between the peoples of Israel, I have witnessed ordinary people- Palestians and Israelis, Muslims, Christians, and Jews- living together in a frustrating qaundry. And the request from persons of various ethnic and religious backgrounds is the same, “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.”

An acquaintance recently went with his wife and four children to Israel and Jordan over the Christmas holidays. His reflections on the experience included the following: “The politicians and fanatics, like in most cases, scream the loudest, but yet again, the silent majority needs to be heard more. We are all just about the same people-wanting to eat, drink, have shelter and be protected and ensure our children have a better life than we did.”

One of my fellow travelers from the most recent visit to Israel said, ” Everything we did brought me back to my strong Christian heritage and upbringing and has rekindled fires within me that, over the years, had dwindled somewhat.” Another called it “a trip of a lifetime.” Comments like these cause me to want to return to the Holy Land and take others with me.

Today is Holy Thursday, observed by Christians on the fifth day of the week leading up to Easter. It commemorates the Last Supper of Jesus Christ and his disciples. Tomorrow is Good Friday when we remember the death of Jesus who we call the Messiah. Then on Sunday Christians all over the world will celebrate the victory of life over death as we remember the Resurrection of Jesus.

One of those who just returned from the Holy Land said, “Easter will be even more incredible after our experience.” Yes, it will!

Jamie Jenkins