Welcome to the third week of Easter, when the potted lilies lose their blooms, and we hope each April snowfall is our last. My childhood memory of Easter was a single-day celebration- no Lenten preparation; no Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Sad Saturday; no counting the days between Easter and Pentecost- just one day when we hoped the sun would shine enough to wear our Easter dresses without teeth chattering.
So I have enjoyed an adult introduction to expanded holidays of Advent and Lent, of savoring holy seasons and their balance with ordinary time.
Usually, as Ash Wednesday approaches, I have a clear sense of what I will add or subtract from my next 40 days. I anticipate Lent like a gift, different each year. Once adding a daily yoga practice to the words of the Shema, or giving up anger at my spouse’s sense of time, or translating one Psalm a day from Italian to English. But this year I had no idea or flash of insight. Perhaps I would have no Lenten practice?
About a week in, I realized I had traded the company of cooking and house shows for listening to podcasts in the kitchen. Aha! Turns out, I had given up TV for Lent.
But I didn’t realize I would be taking up a new practice after Easter. Of counting the days until Pentecost. Not a Christian counting, but a Jewish one. Because the fifty in “pent”ecost comes from the counting of harvest days between Passover and Shavuot, when the disciples (all Jewish) were assembled to celebrate as prescribed in the Torah.
You must count off seven weeks starting with the day after the Sabbath, the day you bring the bundle for the uplifted offering; these must be complete. You will count off fifty days until the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you must present a new grain offering to the Lord. From wherever you live, you will bring two loaves of bread as an uplifted offering…. On that very same day you must make a proclamation; it will be a holy occasion for you. You must not do any job-related work. This is a permanent rule wherever you live throughout your future generations. Leviticus 23:15-17,21 (CEB)
Awhile back, I picked up Omer: A Counting, but hadn’t gotten farther than the intriguing introduction. About a week after Passover, I was a little late in my observance, but I began reading the short daily meditations by Rabbi Karyn D. Kedar. And savoring them. How this wisdom interweaves with my daily reading of scripture and conversations with friends. They are short. Designed originally as daily emails to her community of Reform Jews in Deerfield, IL. For busy people in everyday lives to pause and reflect.
Perhaps you are still celebrating the season of Easter. Or maybe your time is feeling quite ordinary. Or you are intrigued by a new practice of counting days. Whatever your sense of time, I encourage you to pause each day for a practice, however short, that returns your attention to God. We need different things at different times. The God of the universe has created us to live within time- with seasons and observances to turn our hearts, our minds, our bodies, and our spirits back to the source of life.
This morning, I opened Rabbi Karyn’s book to a snippet of Psalm 27, which we studied last night at our leadership team meeting. As it just so happened.
Raise me upon a rock…
lead me on a level path…
that I might enjoy the goodness of God,
In the land of the living.
Reminding me that this is the path upon which I am led today, to more fully enjoy the goodness of God, here in the land of the living. May you also experience this hope and presence as you count this day.