IT WILL BE A GOOD WHILE YET before we see green like this, nevertheless, the Church returns to the Green Time now that the Feasts of Christmas, Holy Family, Epiphany and the Lord's Baptism are passed. Green is the symbol of freshness. We can all understand that - we see the sixteen wheeler with "Delivering Farm Fresh Produce" proclaimed on the side. Each school semester invites a fresh start. A couple setting out together after a time of hurt understands fresh start as well.
A problem for religion is when its rituals, vocabulary and theology becomes stale or even dead - when the culture hasn't got a clue what the religion is talking about because the religion has lost its freshness. Say the word Nativity to too many Americans under the age of sixty and it's clear they have no idea what's being referenced. Believe it!
Kathleen Norris addresses this in her book, Amazing Grace, where she re-articulates the meanings of many dozens of spiritual-religious words that have become alienating of spirit-deadening jargon. One of those words is salvation. What's that? Just that I'll go to heaven (what's that?) if I'm good, obedient and have claimed "Jesus Christ as my personal Lord and Savior" (more jargon!)
For the Christian, green is the color of hope for salvation. Hope is a noun but it is also a verb - it's an action word meaning to trust that God will act - will act for my salvation. Kathleen Norris reminds us that the Hebrew origin of salvation means to make wide: that I can find myself in scary, tight places where I'm in inner danger, where I can't be productive, where I'm devolving or inhibited, silenced by fears, compromised..... Salvation is coming to the wider place where I am able to be more fully human and alive, as God made me to be.
A boy who had done very bad things and who lived in a very dark place tapped his forehead in front of me once and said, "Father, this is my neighborhood and it's a bad neighborhood to go in to." If he said that with a sense of having to get out of that narrow, dangerous inner neighborhood, then salvation has started in him.
I need to get out of this angry mindset.
I need to get away from this dangerous company.
I need to avoid that troublesome person.
I need to get free of this life and joy-stealing addiction.
I need to unburden myself of this energy-wasting resentment.
I need help with this depression.
I need advice with this nagging problem.
I need to find a happier path.
I need to observe the speed limit.
I need to listen more carefully ~ make time for my children.
I need to lose some weight.
I need to get honest.
So this Sunday, if you go to a church that features liturgical colors and you see the green - consider the meaning of salvation - finding the wider way.
P.S. Jesus' injunction to enter through the narrow gate is another conversation.