Holidays in Power Season
In the SYNC annual cycle, holidays all fit into the big picture of the biblical story, and they follow the Genesis to Revelation sequence from January through December. This makes all our current celebrations more meaningful, and, even more importantly, it gives us some great reasons for additional annual parties.
SYNC calls us to at least one annual party for each season--Life, Roots, Freedom, etc. Some seasons include more than one holiday event, giving us multiple opportunities.
Each SYNC holiday party is a celebration of the biblical event that gives us that seasonal gift. For example, on the New Year's Day holiday, we celebrate the event of God's creation of the world, which gives us life.
SYNC holidays use the traditional Christian, Jewish, or secular name for the holiday and they often are tied to its traditional meaning. The few exceptions will become obvious as we go through the year.
Ascension Day, May 18, 2023
Ascension Day is a great day to be getting the power of Jesus on your mind. It is the day Jesus ascended to take power on the throne of the universe. Rejected as Messiah by a planet of sinners, Jesus is nevertheless enthroned as Messiah by God the Father.
His enthronement happened on the 40th day after Easter, the opening day of the longest season in the SYNC annual cycle, the Season of Power. For most of us, however, the holiday passes unnoticed because very few English-speaking countries still celebrate it. In France, Germany, the Nordic countries and several others, it is still a public holiday.
The New Testament emphasizes the ascension and enthronement much more than we do. The Old Testament verse most quoted in the New Testament is an enthronement text, “The LORD said to my lord, ‘Sit down at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool!’” (Ps. 110:1) It was the clinching text Jesus used to silence the Jewish leaders, the clinching text in Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, the clinching portion of Stephen’s speech to the Sanhedrin, and the clinching point in the Hebrews passage about Jesus’ superiority to angels. (Mt. 22:44, Mk. 12:36, Lk. 20:42-43, Acts 2:34-35, Acts 7:49, Heb. 1:13)
Jesus had obviously never been enthroned on earth. The High Priest never anointed him as other high priests had anointed the previous kings of Israel. He was “anointed” on one occasion but it was totally unofficial, done by the “wrong” person at the “wrong” time in the “wrong” place. His friend Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus, anointed him in a private house in Bethany, a few miles from Jerusalem and a few days before the Passover. (Jn. 12:1-3)
It was done by an ordinary person acting on her own initiative, using extremely expensive perfumed oil. It was done as an act of extravagant honor for a guest. In other words, it was a way of welcoming Jesus. In this act Mary spectacularly shows us how to do the best and most important thing we humans can do—welcome and honor Jesus, totally carried away in admiration of him as our Messiah.
And this, it seems, is what he really wanted. Not the endorsement of the establishment. Not keeping protocol. Not seeking office. Not “taking power.” All he wanted was an authentic welcome, and anybody of any rank could do it. Mary welcomed him on earth. The Father welcomed him to heaven. And we echo it. King Jesus, let your kingdom come! Let your reign begin!
A welcome prayer for Ascension Day
Jesus, Anointed One, we welcome you like Mary did, honoring you with whatever we have that is precious. You are King of Heaven and Earth, and we love it!
An affirmation for Ascension Day
Jesus the Messiah is on his throne, installed by God the Father. Some welcome it, some resist it, some deny it, but none can change it. It is done!
Pentecost Day, May 28, 2023
Jesus came to earth to start something, and the first thing he did when he returned to heaven was to expand it. Before he left, he had told his followers, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, . . .” (Mt. 28:18-19) But he had also told them not to try it on their own.
“You are witnesses of all these things. And now I will send the Holy Spirit, just as my Father promised. But stay here in the city until the Holy Spirit comes and fills you with power from heaven.” (Lk. 24:48-49) This gag order may seem odd to us. Jesus’s followers knew about the cross and the resurrection as well as all his earlier teaching and miracles. They were eyewitnesses with amazing stories. Why not get straight to work letting the world know while their memory was fresh?
He did not want them telling what they knew until they could back it up with his power. Otherwise they would give people the wrong impression about him, the impression that he was a memory. They would be mere reporters and teachers.
The book in the Bible that follows the gospels is emphatically not “The Reports of the Apostles” or “The Teaching of the Apostles.” It is “The Acts of the Apostles,” and the acts proved what words alone could not—the presence of a living Jesus. Though invisible as the wind, he was just as obviously present by his actions and their effects. It is the wind, not someone’s memory of the wind, that shakes the leaves on the trees.
The Messiah’s first act from the throne, ten days after his ascension, was to pour out his power through the Holy Spirit, the wind or breath of God. Through the Holy Spirit he extends his reign or sphere of control and distributes the power that points the world back to him.
We are empowered followers of a powerful Messiah. In the name of King Jesus we are fighting worldly power with spiritual power, and worldly power does not have a chance. The rest of the Season of Power will show us why.
A welcome prayer for Pentecost Day
Welcome, Holy Spirit, first and best gift of the Ascended One. We welcome him back through you. Anoint us with his presence. Shake us like leaves so everyone knows the wind is still blowing.
An affirmation for Pentecost Day
Under the rule of the risen and reigning Messiah, there are no power shortages. We only need to stay connected to Jesus's power through his Spirit in us.
The Feast of the Transfiguration, August 6, 2023
The Feast of the Transfiguration (August 6) is by far the least known of the Christian and Jewish holidays I have reconfigured to create the SYNC annual cycle of seasons, but what a fitting climax it makes to the Season of Power. On that day Peter, James, and John got to see the powerful side of Jesus, the dazzling side that was usually invisible to human eyes.
He usually looked like an ordinary person, but they got to see him looking like the Messiah in all his glory. His face and even his clothes seemed to radiate it. Then Moses and Elijah appeared. Peter could easily have been thinking, “This is it! We are going down from this mountain to install Jesus as King of Israel and the world!”
Not so fast. Moses and Elijah were talking about Jesus’s “departure” from Jerusalem instead of his arrival. (Lk. 9:30-31) What on earth could that mean? Perhaps Peter’s befuddlement was what made him suggest that they make camp on the mountain. He may have wanted Moses and Elijah to stay long enough for him to clear up the confusion. But he did not get his wish or his explanation. Instead he got to hear the voice of God.
The voice brought Peter back to the same rock we need to go back to whenever we are confused about God's use of power. The voice said, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him.” (Lk. 9:35) That would have stung Peter, because right before this event he had not listened. He had contradicted Jesus to his face!
Jesus had predicted that he would be rejected and killed, and Peter had claimed this was preposterous. The Messiah with his awesome power would be overpowered by humans? God's power does not work that way!
The Transfiguration is the proof that Jesus really is the Messiah we think he is, even if later on the story of his power does not go the way we think it has to go. If we get that settled in our minds and hearts, we sign off on the right to decide or even to know how the messianic power and glory will arrive. We sign on to be part of the group that listens to him and welcomes him.
Voila! His messianic reign begins in us, the listeners. Like Peter, James, and John, we get the Messiah we need even though we don’t get the explanation we want, and to our surprise we find ourselves totally satisfied. Every time he opens his mouth, he crackles with power, and we are listening.
Happy Feast of Transfiguration!
A welcome prayer for the Transfigured Messiah
Awesome Messiah, radiant with power and glory, we welcome you with undivided attention. We are all ears for whatever you want to tell us. We are fine with whatever you do not.
An affirmation for the Feast of Transfiguration
A lot of our wishes for explanations don’t need to come true if we hear the voice of God saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen One. Listen to him."