40 in the Bible: a selective survey
This week we begin the season of Lent, the 40-day period leading up to Easter.
Why 40? This week's readings offer an opportunity to explore that question together. The number 40 is frequently featured in the Bible as symbolizing fullness or completion -- in the words of one writer, 40 signifies "a span of time sufficient to accomplish what needs to take place." Over and over again throughout the Bible, a period of 40 days or 40 years comes to a close, and God says: "Enough!"
That's especially important as we think about approaching Lent as a time of intentionally focused formation -- paying attention to the ways in which we are being formed as persons and as community. The work of formation is not limited to these 40 days, of course, but the 40-day period offers a bounded time with a clear destination: Easter, when we celebrate the new life that comes not because of our work but as God's gift in Jesus' resurrection and the promise of our own.
I offer you here a "selective survey" of occurrences of the number 40 throughout the Bible. "Selective:" this list does not include every single time the number 40 is mentioned in the Bible! -- but perhaps it offers enough different instances to deepen our Lenten imagination as we read and reflect on them.
Four ideas for how you might take up this week's reading:
1) You might find it helpful to read the passages out loud, as a way of slowing down and lingering with the texts. (You don't have to read all of them at one sitting! Take your time.)
2) You might find it helpful to return to the passages (or at least some of them) more than once this week, noticing how they resonate in different ways at different times.
3) As long as you're reading out loud (and maybe more than once), why not read with someone else (or in a group) at least one of those times? The simple act of reading out loud with another or others, perhaps stopping to discuss (or even simply to repeat before going on) when something is especially striking to one of you, can be a powerful opportunity to begin experiencing formation in a communal way.
4) If you are reading this in conjunction with the Lenten Chapel series "Formation matters for community" at Trinity Christian College, you might find it helpful to also include a reading of Trinity's Commitment to Campus Unity, which is structured around four postures that characterize our life together: we seek to be responsive to God, formational, hospitable, and connected. That document is here: http://trnty.edu/campusunity.html
Here's the selective survey:
I Samuel 4:18
I Samuel 17:16
II Samuel 5:4
I Kings 11:42
I Kings 19:1-8