Tag Archives: Easter

Buddhist, Christian holiday fall on same day this year

By Contributor Pearce Fujiura

Pearce Fujiura

This April 8, while millions (dare I say billions) of Christians around the world celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, thousands (dare I say millions) of Buddhists will be celebrating the birth of Buddha.

In a somewhat infrequent confluence of holy events, Easter Sunday this year corresponds perfectly with the Japanese Buddhist holiday Hanamatsuri.

Hanamatsuri has been on April 8 every year since Japan converted to the Gregorian calendar in the late 19th century.  Hanamatsuri literally translates into ‘flower festival’ and is one of my favorite holidays.

Wikipedia

Hanamatsuri celebrates the folklore surrounding the story of the birth of Siddhartha Gautama. According to versions of the Buddha’s birth, Buddha could walk the moment he was born. He took seven steps with his right hand pointing towards the heavens and his left hand pointing to the earth said, “I alone am honored in heaven and on earth.” At which point sweet nectar rained from the heavens (or in some versions perfume was poured over the Buddha by two dragon kings). Because of this story Buddhists in Japan and other East Asian countries celebrate the birth of Buddha by pouring sweet tea or sprinkling water over statues of the Buddha and decorating alters with flowers.

I have always enjoyed Hanamatsuri, and have looked forward to the ama-cha (sweet tea) made that year. Regardless of whether you believe the story about the events that transpired during the birth of Buddha, I think anyone can enjoy the beauty behind the ceremony. For Buddhists it is a holiday with traditions stretching back centuries, and it still holds a lot of meaning.

This is a concept that I find refreshing, especially during this season in which many people paint and hide eggs for reasons that are largely unknown by the common practitioner. While the church pews fill and everyone begins the conversation about the transformative power of the resurrection of Christ, temples are also filling with practitioners bearing flowers and tea celebrating the gift of Buddha’s arrival on earth.

I like to celebrate Buddha’s entrance onto this planet and reflect on my own contributions towards greater understanding. I would like to imagine it is not mere coincidence both of these significant events happen to fall on this date in the calendar. It’s nice to think that this time of year is holy to all. As I watch all my Christian friends file out of church this coming Sunday, I’ll smile knowing we share a common reverence for those who came generations before us to give us the gifts that provide spirituality to their children even today.

The night we betray Jesus

By Contributor Eric Blauer

Pastor Eric Blauer

The Easter Holy Week is almost here and it’s often forgotten that one of the central themes of the Gospel story is our betrayal of Jesus.

Many Christians memorialize the last days of Jesus by practicing foot washing, celebrating the Eucharist and spending time singing hymns and praying together as a church community. Woven into all those moments of Jesus’s passion were narratives of human abandonment.
Jesus washed the feet of disciples who would betray, deny and desert him.
Jesus shared the bread and wine with the disciples who were about to betray, deny and desert him.
Yet, he washed and fed.

Photo from biblical-art.com

Many churches begin communion times by reciting 1 Corinthians 11:23, “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed.”

This passage offers us a deep and sacred place of human experience with the divine — the dark night.
Every person’s spiritual journey is made up of dark and light. It’s in the night time where Jesus dines and serves us, with the full knowledge of the blackness of our kisses and curses.
We can resist and reject this revelation like Peter did in his self-righteous moment at the last supper. We often offer up our grandiose narratives of personal fidelity. We are too dishonest about the brief span of our saintliness that is quickly drowned out with the mornings rooster cries.
We sing the songs of Sunday’s worship with the same mouths that kiss him amidst Monday’s mob of unbelievers.
We eat and drink at the table of our heart with angels and devils and yet are quick to recount the falleness of others — who doubt, desert and deny.
The holy night of betrayal is a path of confession for us all, a washing in the water of our own waywardness. A dip of bread in the wine of our own devilish possessions. A dark moment when we recognize our own adultery as we pass the holy kiss.
This Easter week, let’s take time reflecting in the mirror of the Passion and don’t forget what we have seen when the celebrations are all over.

When are your Holy Week services?

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Flickr photo by katybate

Many Christians will walk out of church on Sunday with a palm leaf folded into a small cross. The palm is a reminder of John 12:12-23, when a crowd used them to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem.

Later, many in that crowd urged for his execution.

Palm Sunday marks the beginning of Holy Week, which is the week leading to Easter.

Holy Week includes Maundy Thursday, when Christians remember Jesus’ last supper. And on Friday, Good Friday, Christians will reflect upon his crucifixion.

Many churches will hold Easter vigils on Saturday night (Holy Saturday) where the Easter, or Paschal, candle is lit.

Holy Week will conclude on Easter Sunday, April 8.

SpokaneFAVS will publish local Holy Week listings very soon. If you’d like your church included email services times to Tracy.Simmons@religionnews.com.

From your faith perspective, what does Lent meant to you? What are you giving up?

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

Lent begins this week, which means Christians are entering a sacred season. Many Protestants and Catholics (not all) recognize this time by giving up something for 40 days as a way to remember the 40 days Jesus fasted in the desert. The season begins with Ash Wednesday and concludes with Easter.

You can view local Shrove Tuesday, Ash Wednesday and Lent listings here.

We asked our panelists what Lent means to them.

From your faith lens, what’s the significance of Lent? What will you be giving up and why?

Sr. Teresa Jackson

Our life should be a continuous Lent.  Is that a scary thought?  I have to admit the idea tends to give me the heebie jeebies.  Lent often seems to be overlaid with a lot of artificial asceticism and guilt and these are not characteristics I want to characterize my life.  But I am a Benedictine sister and in the Benedictine Rule which we follow Benedict said the life of a monk should be a continuous Lent.  Fortunately the idea isn’t quite as off-putting as it first sounds.

In the 6th century St. Benedict of Nursia wrote a guidebook for people wanting to live a life focused on God.  This guidebook, “The Rule of Benedict,” was intended for monks living together in community and is still the guidebook followed by monks and nuns today, but also by people living outside traditional monasteries who are finding it a source of deep wisdom.

He devotes one entire chapter to the observance of Lent.  And while he does strongly urge giving up something for Lent, he also says something very interesting about why we should do this.  The purpose is to, “look forward to Easter with joy and holy longing”  (RB 49:7).  Now there’s an interesting concept, Lent is about joy and holy longing, and not guilt.  Frankly that’s a relief because giving up things often just leads to failure and guilt.  Instead, Benedict implies that the extra disciplines are simply designed to sharpen my sense of anticipation, of deep longing to experience the transformative power of God in my life.  Lent is like anticipating a big event by marking off days on a calendar knowing that something wonderful is coming.

The practices of Lent are reminders that Easter is not simply a given, it is not something we can take for granted or be complacent about.  By setting aside Lent as a sacred, anticipatory time we will experience Easter as the always new, always unmerited, always transforming gift of God’s grace in our lives.  So perhaps whether or not I even try to give up something this Lent the practice and the anticipation will be about joy and longing.

Sr. Teresa Jackson

Lace Williams-Tinajero

On the corner of Hayden and Maple in Hayden Lake, Idaho, in a little log cabin in a grassy field, my first memories of Lent were formed. Years passed and things changed at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church. A paved parking lot replaced the grassy field where we kids once ran and played. A contemporary gray structure, large enough for sharing the space with a Presbyterian church, was built around the brown cabin, which is the fellowship hall today.

What never changed was the ritual of Lent. It began every year on Ash Wednesday. “From dust you came, to dust you shall return,” the pastor would say while marking each forehead with the sign of the cross in ashes. During the season of Lent, the time between Ash Wednesday and Holy Week, worshipers gathered inside the cozy cabin every Wednesday evening for the Lenten soup supper and service. Lent was a time for reflection and repentance. We sang only somber hymns like “Were You There” and “Ah Holy Jesus.” I was well acquainted with the communal aspect of Lent in gathering every Wednesday evening.

Fasting was another matter, a private one that no one talked about. Not until I left home and entered Bible College in my 20s did I start fasting during Lent. Each year since then I give up something that requires self-control, effort, or sacrifice. Sweets, junk food, gossiping are among the top contenders. Some years I take something on, whether it be daily exercise or reading Scripture or prayer. Certain insights in the form of questions arise for me only during the season of Lent. To what extent does guilt factor into my choice to fast? How does piety differ from being self-focused? Do my theological reasons to fast match my experience of it? To participate in Lent is to journey with Jesus to the cross, to embrace vulnerability by giving up something, by letting go.

Lace Williams-Tinajero

Ernesto Tinajero

“So, what are you giving for Lent?,” Norm asked one Sunday after Ash Wednesday. I have known Norm, an old-time religion type of guy, since we joining the church.

“I gave up chocolate,” I answered and then took a bite of my chocolate cake. Of course, he looked at me with an aghast expression, as if I had told him how the movie “Bambi” had made me want to be hunter.

I explained that I follow the older form of Lenten fast. On Sundays, Christians are allowed to have what they have given up. Sundays are the mini Easters that we remember Jesus has given us new lives. That is why Lent last 46 days and not 40. It’s 40 days of fasting and six days of celebrating the gifts that God gave us. Norm did not like this answer. He thought somehow I was cheating. Giving up chocolate for Lent should mean giving it up the whole season.

Lent is a season of repentance, which usually means for us to feel bad for our wayward ways, how mean we have been to others and that we should take stock of our own failings. From this perspective my enjoying chocolate seemed like I was cheating the system. I was having my cake and eating it too, so to speak. The problem is that view is mistaken on the nature of repentance. To repent means  turning to God, not evaluating our shortcomings. True, turning to God will remind us how unworthy we are to approach God, but this a result of turning to God and not the purpose. The true purpose is to draw closer to God. In Lent, we are asked to give up something we enjoy to feel in a very tiny way what God gave up to be with us. The relationship that God makes with us in Jesus cost the cross.

Many times Lent is used as an expression for us to display our self-control and give up a bad habit like smoking or fried food. Such goals, while admirable, miss the point of Lenten fast of drawing close to God. Repenting means not feeling bad but preparing for God’s new life in Easter. Each Sunday is not an excuse for me to eat enough chocolate to carry me through to next Sunday, but to understand how much God has given me and how much it has cost God. During the week, when I see chocolate, it reminds me of Jesus. Throughout my Lenten fast, I find that my thoughts turn more and more toward the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. In a Lenten fast, I learn not that I am strong, but that  I am weak and he is strong.

This year, I am giving red meat. Anyone who knows me knows that I love beef. This love of beef will remind me, in a small way, how much love God has for me. I will turn to God and encounter him in a deeper way. Here lies the wisdom of the Lenten fast.

– Ernesto Tinajero

Pastor Eric Blauer

“But since they don’t have deep roots, they don’t last long” ~ Jesus, Mark 4:17

I’ve been a follower of Jesus since I was 15 years old. I am 41 now and during all that time as a church member in Evangelical and Charismatic churches, I was never introduced to the historic practices of Christian liturgy. Most of my understanding of words like Lent, Ash Wednesday, Advent or Liturgy were usually associated with other words like liberal, ritual, formalism, legalism which always meant ‘dead or dying’ religion.

As a Protestant, it seems we have always been protesting something and that posture often ends up isolating many sincere and impressionable people from their brothers and sisters in other families with the Christian faith. In attempts to fence out heretics and their heresies we’ve forgotten how to build gates that open between homes. We’ve become Christian gated communities and only those with the ‘keys and codes’ are able to enter or in some cases even welcome. The 20,000 plus denominational/sect branches off the Jesus tree have begun to choke out the fruitfulness of the ancient planting of the Lord (Matt. 13:32). It’s probably time to prune the tree and clear out the feeders that suck the sap from the healthier limbs that have born much fruit. As a church planter, or church ‘splinterer,’ I can testify to the challenges and weaknesses of this path. Dead formalism is a real problem in the church. There are many churches that have a form of godliness but deny the power (2 Tim. 3:5) but we must be careful to not cut down the tree, without giving the gift and grace of time (Luke 13:7). Stereotypes often have seeds of truth within them and I have walked with people as they have sought to pry off the barnacles of fossilized faith that hardened over their souls in many different mainline traditions. But I have also experienced and witnessed the ache of ‘rootless’ faith in all the break off churches as well. There’s a thinness to much of our Evangelical religious life and more and more seekers are longing for a faith that has it’s roots in a more tested and ancient past then in the latest generational or cultural phase.

Instead of formalism many long for deeper Christian spiritual formation. Not the pop spirituality, quasi-Christian versions that leave the soul feeling desperately anemic. The fluff and flurry of many modern churches leave many longing for a robust and rich spirituality that seems hard to grasp among the tired theatrics, soulless technology and market driven protectionism that plagues many Evangelical circles.

As a 6-year-old church in a neighborhood where business turnover is almost a monthly experience and a renter culture is dominant, the need for a greater sense of presence and permanence lay under the surface of all the instability of our community. Homes and families are broken up by noncommittal relationships and pleasure-driven hookups.  Single parenthood is the norm and high mobility leaves most relationships painfully shallow.

As a church we face the same temptations Jesus faced in the desert. There is always the desire to craft what we think is needed for the moment. It’s a missional malaise that drives consumerism in our ‘never enough’ culture. The new is always in danger of the newest and the same sickness is at work in our faith communities. The desire to climb to the pinnacles of visibility and popularity lurk in the shadows of church leaders hearts and minds. The pressure to bow to this present darkness and grant our worship to another who offers all that this world values, is a very real battle going on in the church.

All of these themes are historically mediated upon in Lent and as a church that is growing and struggling to form our own sense of tradition, we find the need to be grafted into the stock of the church more and more. Instead of trying to say something new and improved we are longing to echo what has been true from ages past. This Easter season, I hope that we will be able to reintroduce and introduce Christians in our circles to the thinking and practices of the greater historic church, not as kitsch but as an attempt to honor, recollect, celebrate and worship.

So for many of us, this means we will participate in an Ash Wednesday service for the very first time this Lent. I look forward to stepping back into a stream of practice that has flowed for thousands of years and lead others in these small steps of returning.

So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter (2 Thess. 2:15).

Eric Blauer

Rev. Jim CastroLang

We are broken from our natural state which is an interactive connectedness to all creation.  We are descendents of the Big Bang, formed from the stardust of the universe — meant to live growing into this intimate connection with this love creation.  Lent is a time to remember where we came from and who we are.  In this remembering, we acknowledge our brokenness, reorienting our intention to live as we were made.  We seek restoration that can only come from dying to our individualistic and disconnected ways.  In Easter, we celebration in Christ a resurrection in which we can share and have the fullness of life on the earth and beyond.

Giving something up for Lent can be a disciple-like fasting that reminds us that our habits and impulses can drive us away from God and the fullness of life.  I don’t always do this but when I do, it is a discipline of awareness.  One year I tried to give up sarcasm and with my kids monitoring me, I learned that I was being sarcastic even when I thought I wasn’t.  To the extent that we use “giving up” as a means for more conscious living —  it can be a good thing.

When are your Ash Wednesday services?

By Tracy Simmons
SpokaneFAVS.com

The Lenten season is already upon us!

Tracy Simmons

Perhaps that means next week your church is having a Shrove Tuesday dinner, followed by Ash Wednesday services on Feb. 22.

SpokaneFAVS wants to know about those events! We also want to know about any special Lent services your organization has planned. And while you’re at it, send me your Easter services time as well.

We’ll publish these listings so the Spokane community can know where upcoming services are being held.

Send your listings to tracy.simmons@religionnews.com