Several months ago my friend, Scott Holmes, invited me to join him for two weeks on a trip to Russia. Scott and his wife Kara (along with their two children) were missionaries in Siberia for several years beginning in 1993 (not long after the “Iron Curtain” had fallen). Since then, he returns for a short-term trip on an annual basis, usually bringing someone with him. On this particular trip we were preparing to speak at a pastor’s conference (among other things).
Prior to this trip, my knowledge about Russia was (and probably still is) embarrassingly lacking.
I knew the names of two cities: Moscow and St. Petersburg. I was familiar with the names of several of their communist leaders from the 20th Century (Lenin, Stalin, Kruschev, & Gorbachev). I had heard stories about the KGB. I also knew a bit about the historical prominence of the Russian Orthodox Church.
(Note: A few months ago I began an in-depth study of the Gospel of Mark. For the next several blog posts, I plan to share some of my ongoing reflections on a chapter-by-chapter basis. Nothing fancy. But I hope you can gain something in each entry. For space reasons, I will only include a small portion of my actual notes & reflections. Unless otherwise noted, I will be using the New Revised Standard Version. For theo-nerds like me, my primary commentary sources are Ben Witherington and N.T. Wright).
Almost all churches and believers observe at least a tiny section of the Christian calendar (Christmas & Easter). While observing these “holy days” (i.e. holidays) is obviously not any kind of requirement, the purpose of observing certain sacred holidays is to latch on to a form of yearly rhythm, as well as to unite oneself to the larger body of Christ. Much like the Jewish feasts and holidays that Jesus himself embraced, much of the global body of Christ across a spectrum of denominations and churches have learned the value of embracing a rhythm of common calendar observance.
Today is Ascension Day. Forty days after Easter Sunday.