Quinquagesima

Not everyone who says to me, “Lord, Lord”, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, “Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.”

Brothers and sisters, we are about to begin our annual climb up to the high point of the year.

Don’t tell me about Oscar night. Don’t tell me about Super Bowl Sunday. Don’t tell me about Memorial Day, or the Fourth, or Halloween, or even Thanksgiving.

These annual days are enjoyable, sure enough. I am not begrudging anyone their March Madness.

But most of our special occasions come and go. We could wipe them off the calendar and replace them with something else. In Korea, they fly kites when the first full moon of the year appears, and they dance at the eighth full moon. Maybe we would call that odd, but they probably think it’s a little weird to fill out NCAA tournament brackets religiously at the vernal equinox.

My point is: the yearly things come and go. But there is one day of the year which towers over all the others like Mt. McKinley over the Alaskan tundra. There is one day that makes all the rest of the days worth living. It is the Jerusalem of days. All time marches up to it. Every year on earth has 365 days, or 366. But heaven has just this one day. It is precisely seven weeks from today. With me? (Easter, you numbskulls.)

Here is a question: How do we get to heaven? Big question. You want the short answer? There is a short answer. We get to heaven by way of Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ is the way to heaven. But if we were listening to the gospel reading carefully, we realize that we have to be a little more precise. We heard the Lord predict, “Many will say to me, ‘Did we not prophesy in your name?’ And I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you.’”

So we have to be a little more precise. The way to heaven is the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ. Without the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ, we can forget it. We can fill out our brackets, pop our firecrackers, and cook our turkeys every year until the cows come home, but it will all end in only thing: Death. We won’t fly any kites or dance with the Koreans any more.

So what is the solid rock on which we can build our spiritual houses? When the winds of time blow and the flood of death comes, what will keep us from collapse? The Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ.

Okay. Sounds good. But, my God, how do I do that? How do I build my soul on the foundation of Easter Sunday? I don’t have the foggiest idea how to do that.

Friends, do not worry. It has already been done. I have a Cadbury Crème Egg right here for the person who can tell me how it is that our souls are built on the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ.

Yes! Holy Baptism. We have been baptized into Christ’s crucifixion. We have been cleansed of sin and reborn as saints. When our parents carried us to church, they carried us to Jerusalem; they carried us to the eternal Easter Sunday.

So maybe this is a way we can look at Lent. Our Holy Baptism into the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ is the decisive fact of our lives. I might be tall; you might be short. You might be a good cook; I might be a bad one. You might have an American car; I might have a Japanese car. All that is immaterial compared to the fundamental fact that we are baptized into the Passover of Christ.

The Holy Day of Easter is the day when we renew our baptismal promises. We renounce Satan and choose the triune God. The Lord gives us the forty days of Lent to prepare ourselves to do this.

He Himself took forty days in the desert to go down to the foundations of His soul, where everything rested on the infinite love of the Father.

He gives us forty days to go down to the basements of our souls and check the foundations. They were settled on the Passion, death, and Resurrection of Christ back when we were babes in the font. But with time, we may have allowed some erosion to occur. I think I may have sandbagged the foundations of my soul with comforts that do not come from heaven.

If I am going to stand up on Easter Sunday and solemnly declare before God and man that I reject Satan and choose the Holy Trinity—if I am going to renew my promises to God honestly and in truth—then I am going to have to spend some time alone down in the dark basement of my soul these next seven weeks. The time has come to shore up the foundation.

2 thoughts on “Quinquagesima

  1. I recognized Mt. McKinley before I clicked on it; and I recognize the day (Der Tag), as the day of the year (just as a Jewish lad recognizes “why is this night different from all other nights” at Passover). Yet, as we aspire to Easter, we also make our way (as Pilgrims) along a way marked by other Guideposts.

    Today, Quinquagesima Sunday, is one such, the herald of Lent (fifty days), just as our Baptism (to which you refer) is the herald (announce: foreshadow or presage) of our Pilgrimage as Christians. I never appreciated how important a herald it might be until I heard a fundamentalist pastor (on TV this morning) spend 50 minutes downplaying the importance of baptism relative to being “saved”. So much so, that he added “.. and to all that believe in me ..” to Matthew 28:19.

    Today is also, in my mind, the day of BOTH. Yes, you need to be Baptised; but you also need that sense of a personal relationship with Christ (to be born again, to humbly say the sinner’s prayer over and over). And, yes, you need to have faith, which will spill over into works, that spring cheerfully from the joyful heart of those who love HIM. You need always to be impressed with the fact that you’re choosing between a Blessing and a Curse; and you need to consistently choose the Blessing. You are, indeed, saved by GRACE; but to truly have the sense of that grace instilled in your GUT, you need to constantly renew it with signs and sacraments, public attestations, and private. It is the great “BOTH / AND.”

  2. I appreciate your message. Thank you for your referencing the Cadbury Egg. I have to give those up this year. With God’s strength I can do it. Thank you for pointing out my failure in this area. With the leading of the Spirit, I’ll know what else He wants me to do. God is so good. He loves each of us the same.

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