Dave Brisbin 4.11.21

We’ve made a big deal about counting to 40 during Lent—forty being the biblically symbolic number of preparation into rebirth, preparing for the new life Easter represents. Lent ended last Sunday with Easter, but even then we were already a week into another count, this time to 49. Jews, ancient and modern, begin counting each day from the second day of Passover through seven weeks of seven, 49 days, with the fiftieth day marking another major festival, the Feast of Weeks. These two festivals, Passover and Weeks mark first the physical liberation of the people from the slavery of Egypt and then the spiritual liberation of the people as they were given the Law that established a new government, culture, and relationship with God. There is a necessary gap, a period of adjustment that occurs between the two liberations—a gradual graduation from the comforting but limiting reliance on physical connection to limitless expanse of pure spirit.

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The New Testament overlays on this structure, and after counting to 49, the following day, the fiftieth day, is Pentecost, the day that Jesus’ first followers were freed from the comfort and mental certainty of their physical relationship with Jesus to the full realization of the power of their relationship with unseen God. Just as Jesus told Nicodemus, that we all must be born of both flesh and spirit in order to see the Kingdom of God, the two births, the two liberations are separated by a gap, a period of adjusting to a new, non-physical, non-rational relationship with a God who can’t be named. Jesus says it’s like the wind, which we can’t see or know where it’s coming from or going to, but its effects change everything about everything. In the church, we begin counting our seven weeks of seven on Easter Sunday, and seven being the number of spiritual perfection, seven times seven is that spiritual perfection squared. It’s another time of preparation for our graduation from the comfort and seeming certainty of our physical logic and rational thought to the limitless freedom of a direct relationship with the unseen wind of Pentecost, the spirit of our unseen God.

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