Very early on in Christianity the new believers began meeting every Saturday night or Sunday morning to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus. They thought the Resurrection was such a world changing event, they celebrated its anniversary every single week. Contrary to popular belief, they did not believe Jesus created a new Sabbath on Sundays. They just were so appreciative of the reality of the resurrection, a resurrection that guarantees our own resurrections, that they threw a dinner party for it once a week and invited anybody who wanted to come join them!
For that reason, when they eventually began the season of Lent, they allowed those fasting to break their fasts on Sundays, a practice which continues to today. The thinking was that if Lent is suffering with Christ, we should not suffer on the weekly anniversary of the Resurrection.
With that said, I have never celebrated the feast days until this year. I figured the practice was a little trite and some part of me felt guilty for breaking my fast for the Feast days. I am not sure what changed in me but this year I decided I should celebrate the Feast days just to see what happened. Spoiler alert: I found the practice quite meaningful.
Not only did the feast days better accentuate Sundays as the miniature celebrate of Easter that they are, but it also made the weekly fasting more meaningful.
The very first Sunday of Lent, I had just finished my very painful detox of caffeine. I was so miserable at that point, that the very thought of giving my body that which it had been craving, only to take it away again seemed cruel. And if I hadn’t decided to celebrate the feast days before that moment, I would have gone without coffee that day and probably all 45 days of Lent.
But I always do what I set out do, so that first Sunday I brewed some coffee. After pouring it into my mug, I took a moment to smell the glorious aroma. I then sipped, very slowly and very cautiously the bold, black substance on my walk to church. The very next day I was suffering with Jesus again with headaches, chills, spasms and lethargy.
Now it has been five weeks and the preoccupation with caffeine is almost entirely out of my body, if not yet out of my soul. I am not lethargic. I am not shaky. I feel just as energized as I did with coffee and I certainly don’t get any withdrawal symptoms on Mondays. But Sundays certainly have a new enthusiasm and energy as the caffeine provides double the energy it formerly did!
But the feast days have not been about the renewed energy. They have been about that first smell of coffee, that wonderful aroma drifting up into my nose. Smell, after all, is the least appreciated sense. I heard once that aromas are locked into our memories long after sounds and tastes and sights are gone. The very waft of a smell can bring back a flood of nostalgia or hatred. A smell can alter our mood quicker than any of the other senses can. And on the weekdays without coffee, I miss the smell the most. So on Sundays when I first hover over the mug, the smell reminds me that as dour and dark as this world may be, there is a newer, brighter day coming when our bodies shall be raised from the dead. Those who are dead in Christ shall be made alive! We are new creations! Jesus is making all things new! I long for Easter that much more and for the better world that Jesus’ second return will bring.
This morning I talked to my congregation about the necessity of not losing hope. I argued that when we lose hope we crucify Jesus all over again. When we escape our strongholds of hope, we become enslaved again by fear and rage and death.
And sometimes all we need to remain in the safety of hope is the smell of dark coffee on a Sunday morning.
Tune back tomorrow for some Holy Week reflections.