Hi...thanks for visiting the Kailua United Methodist Church (KUMC) blog. I decided to start this blog on Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. In the Christian calendar, Lent is a special time of reflection, meditation, and focus. It is derived from the 40 days that Jesus fasted in the wilderness as he started his public ministry (see in the Bible the Gospel of Mark, chapter one; you can find it here: http://bible.crosswalk.com).
Usually, people give up something (in the old days, they gave up meat or even fasted during the week, which is why if you count the days from today until Easter (this year, it's April 8--in a later blog, I'll explain why the date for Easter changes from year to year), it adds up to more than 40 days. That's because Sundays were considered "feast" days, so people could eat (or eat more complete meals) in order to survive.
The day before, on what is called Shrove (penance) Tuesday, people who were going to give up meat for Lent ate up the meat left in their homes. This led to people gorging themselves on this day since they would be deprived of meat. Some had parties for this, called a "carnival." Notice that the first part of this word is the Latin word for meat, carne, as in carnivore. In French, the day came to be known as Mardi Gras.
Anyway, instead of having people give up meat, I am encouraging people to read the Gospel of Mark. This is the oldest book about Jesus in the Bible. All of the sermons during Lent at church will be based on this book. Our Bible studies will also be based on Mark.
If you can't make one of the studies, you might consider reading the blogs. If you are coming to the Bible studies, check the blogs for background material for the studies.
The Gospel of Mark was probably written during the period of the First Jewish-Roman War (A.D. 66-73...for more info go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Jewish-Roman_War). It was a time of great turmoil and led to the destruction of the Temple. That was a debilitating symbol. When planning the 9-11 attacks, Osama bin Laden targeted economic, military, and political symbols of American life: the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and the Capitol Building (which was spared when UA Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania). He knew that this would have a devastating effect on the American people.
The destruction of the Temple was probably even more devastating for the Jews. Not only was the very symbol of their life and culture destroyed, the symbol of their faith and hope was destroyed.
So Mark was written at a very important time. Most likely a follower of Peter, he wanted to give a word of hope and good news to a distraught community, devastated by these events (Peter himself was executed by Nero in A. D. 64; it is thought that Peter asked to be crucified upside down, because he felt unworthy to be crucified like Jesus).
Mark's book is called a "Gospel," which means a good story, or good news. It is, I hope you will discover or re-discover, the greatest news of all time. It even begins "The beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ."
I hope that it will be good news for you. Thanks for reading....