I always wondered if one was born on February 29 if they only are actually one fourth as old as the rest of us? I always always wondered if they get a birthday every year or if they only get one every four years? I guess it is how you look at it. If one is a literalist about most things, then I suppose you would have to say that anyone whose birthday is on February 29 does not actually have a birthday but once every four years. If I were that lucky then to have been born on February 29, then I would turn 15 today. Yea for me! I may feel 15 but I do not look anything like others who are 15 years old. 15 was not my favorite age either so being 15 for 4 years sounds like something that a Hollywood producer may think up for a good teen movie. (If any Hollywood producers are reading this, remember that is my idea...so pay up!)
We call this day "Leap Day" because the other three years we just leap by it and do not even know it is there but every four years suddenly it is on the calendar and we have to live that day just like any other day on the calendar. Leap Day is a good day to reflect on life and think about what your life means to you, about how you live your life and what you may want to do differently. It is a little like an additional New Years Day thrown in for good measure. It is a day that does not come around much so it should make us pay attention and think more deeply than usual.
Last week those of us in religious circles celebrated "Ash Wednesday" which was another "Wake Up Call" to all of us. It made us think about what it means to wear the name "Christian" and how we live out that name in daily life. There are a lot of people who are trying to interject religious issues into our thinking these days. Many of them are politicians but when they speak they also get religious leaders of one kind or another to comment on what they said. Some of these voices want all of us to live in their prescribed way of living and they even want to be able to dictate for us what we can and cannot do in our private lives. They use religious issues to bring attention to themselves and lift themselves up as pious persons who could serve as our role models if we would only adopt their way of thinking.
Is that the "wake up call" we want to hear on Ash Wednesday or Leap Day or any day in fact? I think that if those very pious persons would stop long enough to look into the Gospel of Matthew, the reading that we often read on Ash Wednesday, they would see that piety in itself is not recommended by the Jesus they love to make claim of. Jesus tells his listeners in the Sermon on the Mount that they should not pray aloud in public lest others see them and give them praise; they should not let anyone know they are fasting lest anyone should think they are holy by doing it; they should not judge others, so that they will not be judged. (See Matthew 5-7 for all the verses.) Jesus was not in favor of religiosity but was in favor of people treating others as they would want to be treated.
Americans tend to be very independent people. The vast majority of Americans would not want to live in a theocracy, where religion and religious practices are dictated by the government in charge. Most Americans I know are in favor of separation of church and state because it allows all of us to be involved with religion as much or as little as we desire without anyone interfering in our lives. I am a pastor and I would love to have every member of my church present for worship every Sunday of the year. I am a realist, though, and know that all people do not feel the same way as I do about it so I have to let them be the way they are and hope that they will allow the church to be involved in their lives at some point and be there to help them if they ask for my help. My church members would not like for me to quiz them about why they did not come to church on any given Sunday but only to care for them and pray that God would help them to live as God would desire for them to live.
So, take a leap today....think about your own life and what it means to you. Think about God and what you perceive God to be and do. Think about your neighbors and what they mean to you and how you may be able to be helpful to them. Then give thanks that you have the many blessings that you have as you look forward to the future and all it can bring.