Focus on Easter: Submission to God as lord and king
Today, which, in our Church’s calendar is called Septuagesima, is when we begin to focus on Easter.
The term Septuagesima, derived from the Latin for “seventieth”, is taken to refer to seventy days to Easter. This is not exact but at least it serves to indicate a focus on Easter. Septuagesima is actually the ninth Sunday before Easter and the third before Lent. It is the first of the “Gesima” Sundays, which are the three pre-Lenten Sundays with which transition is made from the joy of Epiphany to the austerity of Lent.
Septuagesima traditionally marks the beginning of preparations for Lent. In fact, it was common for some early pious Christians to begin the Lenten fast immediately after Septuagesima Sunday in accordance with the words of the First Council of Orleans. This was mainly in order to make for the forty days that our Lord fasted. Just as Sundays are not days of fasting and so the Lenten fast starts 46 days before Easter; so also in the early Church, Saturdays and Thursdays were considered fast-free days and, therefore, the forty days fast had to start two weeks earlier than today. It was Popes Gregory and Gelasius, who, to make it uniform, arranged that all Christians should begin fasting on Ash Wednesday.
The Collect for Septuagesima affirms that “Jesus Christ is for all mankind the Way, The Truth, and the Life”, and so petitions that we be granted “to walk in His way, to rejoice in His truth, and to share in His risen life”. This is a clear index that we are required to totally surrender our will, ways, presumed knowledge/truths, life and enjoyment and yield to Christ’s. Christ is the King and should be seen as such. Every king demands submission from his subjects and wilful submission is the sure way to demonstrate hearty acceptance of a king’s reign.
In the Epistle for the day (1 Cor. 4:1-13), Paul used the metaphor of stewardship to describe the relationship between the minister and the Lord. A steward, entrusted with his master’s possession, needs to be faithful, loyal, honest and submissive to his master. The one whose judgment the steward really values or fears is that of his master. Even his own judgment of himself cannot be trusted as he might be unaware of his own failings. A minister, and indeed, every Christian should, like a steward, learn to trust God’s ways and judgment and live his life in total submission and allegiance to God.
Some Points to Note:
Our relationship with God is based on the type of covenant in which he dictates the terms (suzerainty). We do not worship God on our own terms or allow our personal orientations, individual judgments, cultural backgrounds and human rights ideology to determine how we worship God or what we do for Him. God has Sovereign right over us, and that right should be respected. It is what God says is good that is good.
God’s greatness and worthiness are not only to be seen in the great things He should do for us, but should also reflect in His authority over us and in our smallness and absolute submission to Him.
Obedience and submission to God is not optional for Christians but a demand of God. Failure to comply incurs God’s punishment. However, wilful compliance brings His reward and honour.
The only way to show that God is the King and that we are part of His kingdom is by living the kingdom life marked by total submission.
• Ven. (Dr.) Princewill O. Ireoba is Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre, Agbarha-Otor, Delta State. www.ibrucentre.org
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