Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Lent day 19

This rather unusual greetings card arrived in the post this morning sent to us by a Romanian friend
Martie is the Romanian word for the month of March. This is a special greeting card for the start of Spring. The painted butterfly is made from chalk. The white and red threads intertwined represent the inter-twining of feminine and masculine energies in generating new life, a fertility symbol, for the beginning of the new agrarian year. 

It's a traditional custom in Romania to hang it for a while on a branch of the first tree that blossoms, before bringing it indoors, bringing with it a little of the blessing of new life, hoping that this new life is contagious. The custom goes back two millennia and evidently has pagan origins. It's a small sociable way of expressing the joy and beauty that is being renewed as the days get warmer and longer.

There are only a few passing references to seasons in scripture. They are regarded as a gift of God in creation following on from the first divine Word "Let there be light".

"And God said, “Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate the day from the night. And let them be for signs and for seasons, and for days and years." (Genesis 1:14)

The love poetry of the Song of Songs delights in the re-awakening of the earth.
"Behold, the winter is past; the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth, the time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land." (Song of Songs 2:11-12) 

Spring rains ended a period of winter barrenness. God should be asked to send them.

"Ask the LORD for rain in the springtime; it is the LORD who sends the thunderstorms. He gives showers of rain to all people, and plants of the field to everyone." (Zech 10:1)

The Exodus from Egypt was a spring-time event, and the Passover is celebrated in the first month of the Jewish lunar calendar new year. It can fall in March or April

"You shall keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread. As I commanded you, you shall eat unleavened bread for seven days at the appointed time in the month of Abib, for in it you came out of Egypt. None shall appear before me empty-handed." (Exodus 23:15)

The month was renamed Nisan after the Exile (meaning 'their flight). Sheep were usually sheared in Spring, and a lamb was slaughtered and cooked for the Passover supper. The saving death of Jesus is likened to the sacrificing of this lamb. The song of the suffering servant speaks of how God's anointed One resisted persecution.

"As a sheep before its shearers is dumb" (Isaiah 53:7)

St John the Baptist proclaimed Jesus publicly saying "Behold the Lamb of God." St Paul also makes explicit the metaphorical connection between Messiah Jesus and the sacrificial lamb when he says..

"Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us"  (1 Cor 5:7)

The Exodus meant a new life in a new land for the people of Israel, something they never forgot to celebrate. The death and resurrection of Jesus in the Exodus season of Spring means a new life for all who acknowledge what God did through him, and acclaim him as Lord and Saviour of the world.

"If you declare with your mouth, "Jesus is Lord," and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved." (Romans 10:9)

The return of Spring is forever associated with the renewal of faith in God through Him. So even ancient pagan custom can serve as a hint of greater glory and blessings to come.

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