Saturday, April 19, 2014

Easter Sunday

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24   •   Jeremiah 31:1-6   •   Colossians 3:1-4   •   John 20:1-18

 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciples . . .  and said to them, ‘they have taken the Lord out of the tomb and we do not know where they have laid him.’”  For Mary Magdalene the day begins in darkness, confusion, sorrow, fear, suspicion and flight. The other two disciples confirm her story and then simply return home. But Mary Magdalene stays by the empty tomb weeping. There in that empty, barren place of death she is met by Jesus . . . not resuscitated to his former life but raised to new life, and he speaks to her words of reassurance, words of new life.

As citizens living in a world of technological marvels that make time and distance trifles to be overcome, we are uncertain what to make of Mary Magdalene’s experience. We are uncertain what, if any, place this narrative can have in our own life of faith.

It is a narrative of new life overcoming places of death, and it is a summons to each of us to take part in it here and now. All around us are places of darkness and death, of fear and confusion. All around us are places where hunger, sickness, homelessness, violence, prejudice, and neglect entomb us in darkness. Just as for Mary Magdalene, as disciples we are called to do more than weep helplessly.  This Easter morning and every morning is our invitation to bring God’s healing, empowering life into every dark corner of death. The Alleluias we sing today are our promise to accept that vocation, to become disciples, to help God’s light and life overcome the darkness of our world. Alleluia, Christ, the light of the world, is risen.

 — The Rev. Paula Kettlewell

Holy Saturday

Psalm 31      Job 14:1-14      1 Peter 4:1-8      John 19:38-42

The celebration of Palm Sunday is long gone.  The bittersweet sharing in breaking of bread and drinking of wine has passed. The intimacy of foot washing has faded. The agony of the Garden and the desolation of betrayal linger in memory. The last breath is no more. The torturous death on Golgotha is over. The weight of dying has been released. The lifeless body lies in the tomb. Quiet descends with the sun.   

In the stillness God is, but God is not still. God has descended to the grave, trampling down death by death. As day dawns, the quiet breaks, first with a few sounds, then crescendoing as the sun rises into yet another day. But it is not any other day. It is Sabbath, a day of being, a day of being holy on the holy day. It is a day to be centered in the mystery of God’s holiness even in the face of death. And God in God’s holiness is not still. Out of human sight, from Sabbath sunset to sunset, on this particular Sabbath, God who is love and life continues to love and live not overcome by death. God stirs in the depths and heights of existence, and this is particularly true on Holy Saturday.

Unlike the original disciples long ago, for those of us who live after Christ’s resurrection from the dead, Holy Saturday has its unique arc. It is a day that begins in the quiet wake of the crucifixion but becomes increasingly marked by a growing restlessness for the proclamation of the good news of resurrection at the Easter Vigil and on Easter Day. This day is a “time between”—between the intensification of events that led to Christ’s atoning death on Good Friday and the exuberant celebration that will erupt over his resurrection. On this day, in this “time between,” we would do well to take a deep breath and embrace the words of Psalm 31:  “let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord.”               


― The Rev. Heather Warren

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Good Friday

Psalm 22   •   Isaiah 52:13 – 53:12   •   Hebrews 10:16-25   •   John 18:1 – 19:42

Good Fridays

Ukraine barricades, smoldering, stinking, flaming
            Men in green helmets, old uniforms
            Snipers in black, kill with a snap
            The dead dragged bleeding
Drones over Pakistan
            Men with a mouse, kill with a click
Drug cartels, gangs, Border wars
            Crips, Bloods, shivs, guns
Bitcoins collapse, who even knew what they are?
            Greed with a click
Olympic Bitcoin gold
            Putin’s happy Olympics
The homeless man asleep on the doorstep
            He survives the night, layers of clothes stinking
Good Friday surrounds, abounds
The Cross officially unceasing

“Why were you searching for me? Did you not know I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

— The Rev. Jim Richardson

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Maundy Thursday

Psalm 116:1, 12-19      Exodus 12:1-4, (5-10), 11-14     
1 Corinthians 11:23-26      John 13:1-17, 31b-35

Remember Steve Martin, the comic, before he was “Father of the Bride,” before he was in countless movies; he was the “Wild and crazy guy.”  Well, this could also be God’s subtitle, God: “A wild and crazy god.” Here, in this moment, we are prepared to enter the Triduum of Maundy Thursday through Easter Vigil. We remember today this wild and crazy God who became human in the form of a baby in an occupied land, vulnerable and weak in many ways, but through vulnerability and weakness, God, in Christ shows us that even our lives can be healed, redeemed, saved, blessed.  
Today, on Maundy Thursday, we remember; we remember in the sense that we look back to this night when Jesus was with friends, and when he did this wild and crazy thing of likening the bread they were eating to his very body and the wine they were drinking to his very blood. What a wild and crazy thing to do. For his followers who were well-aware of the sacrificial theology and praxis of the Temple, these words of flesh and blood surely reminded them of the lambs and birds put up for sacrifice. Here, Jesus offers himself, as a full and sufficient sacrifice.
We remember that night on this night,  and we also re-member, that is, we re-create, or re-form, God’s gift to us as we celebrate the Holy Communion, when we offer thanksgiving in the Eucharisto—the Eucharist.  In this moment we embrace the full and abundant way that God has removed our spiritual amnesia, and has instead filled us with anamnesis, that great and wonderful technical Greek word which means to reconstitute and remember the first Communion, the first “Last Supper,” not merely as a mind-trippy remembering, but actually that God is truly present within the bread and within the wine we are about to share together. Setting aside our spiritual forgetfulness and our amnesia, God has filled us with his wild and crazy and Amazing Grace as he offers to us this feast, injected with this deep and abiding sense of anamnesis and remembrance as we celebrate and share the real presence of God in our lives today, in this hour, in this place. Thank God that God is a wild and crazy and wonderfully amazing God!

The Rev. Peter Carey

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wednesday in Holy Week

Psalm 70       Isaiah 50:4-9a      Hebrews 12:1-3      John 13:21-32

I try to imagine the scene described in John 13:21-32, in which Jesus is gathered with his beloved disciples and announces that one who is present will betray him and thus, bring an end to his life and his teaching as they have known it. Jesus knows the heart of his beloved disciple, understands his weakness, predicts his betrayal, and yet feeds him bread, and dispatches him with love. I cannot imagine a more powerful, and transformative response to Evil. Because, Evil has a way of leading us down the dark corridor of forgetting our relationship with God, and of how radically we are held by Love, regardless of our weakness, fears, and perpetual missteps.

When I allow this story to resonate inside of my own life experience, I’m reminded that the greatest gift of becoming a parent is finding that my life is no longer my own, and I am thereby enriched in ways I could never have imagined. My life is enriched because I am called by Love, again and again, to serve Love, and I am pulled from that dark corridor of forgetting. My mother once said that the fact that my young child took me for granted indicated the goodness of my parenting. I would have preferred an ongoing display of adoration and appreciation for my efforts, but the point is that I have felt called to Love in the face of another’s humanity, even when it might be unpleasant, painful, or heartbreaking. In the face of his own death, Jesus offered this gift to his disciple. Though Judas fell out of relationship with his community and teacher, followed his fear and lost his way, in Jesus’ radically loving response, he was given a light by which to find his way back. Thanks be to God.

― Jenny Gladding

Monday, April 14, 2014

Tuesday in Holy Week

Psalm 71:1-14   •   Isaiah 49:1-7   •   1 Corinthians 1:18-31    •   John 12:20-36

The thing about the grain of wheat is that it doesn’t really die, not ultimately.  Just as we take refuge in the Lord in today’s Psalm, the grain takes refuge in the earth, which warms it, shelters it, and nourishes it, enabling it to transform from its nascent form into a tall, vibrant plant, providing sustenance for the world around it. In the same way, we appear, to the rest of the world, to die, to age, to diminish. Instead, however, we take refuge in the Lord, shedding the hard shell we wear to protect ourselves from the world, from our fears, from our sins. Strengthened and protected by God’s nourishing love, we “die” to our past selves, our incomplete selves, and become our new, best selves, the people God creates and calls us to be.

Beth Molmen

Monday in Holy Week

Psalm 36:5-11      Isaiah 42:1-9      Hebrews 9:11-15      John 12:1-11

The readings today led me to think of Judas. Jesus rebuked him for important reasons and often we dismiss him in this story to focus on Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and Jesus. Is it possible that we are sometimes like Judas? I’d like to ask you to think past the portrayal as thief and think of it as though his suggestion was to genuinely benefit the poor. His timing was lousy but imagine just for a moment that his motives were not to fill his own pockets.

I’m thinking of a fellow that could just be making an altruistic suggestion then walking away from the situation for someone else to work out the details. Maybe this fellow sounds like a colleague of yours, a friend, or a sibling. You know, that person loaded with one noble suggestion after another who doesn’t quite know or care about the underpinnings involved.

It is easier for me to make sense of Judas by taking him out of context than comprehending his heinous behavior during that moment in Mary and Jesus’ relationship. I can think of examples when I’ve been quick to suggest the high road when I may not be so good at following my own advice if the tables were turned.

It is here where our reading of today’s Psalm, the book of Isaiah, and the letter to the Hebrews may bring some solace. In closing, I offer a prayer using elements of today’s other readings.

Oh Lord, we open our hearts and minds to our eternal redemption and your glory. May our faith guide us to a consciousness purified by Jesus. May we find freedom in our hardships. May we open our eyes to love and our ears to your quiet voice. May we humbly discern your appeal for justice and righteousness through our fellowship with the Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

—  Darren Ball

Palm Sunday

Psalm 31:9-16  •   Isaiah 50:4-9a   •   Philippians 2:5-11   •   Matthew 26:14 – 27:66

Today’s readings portray two individuals wracked by guilt. Peter, ever passionate, declares that he will “not deny or disown” Jesus (Matthew 26:35). But when the moment comes and his safety is threatened, he fails—and again, and again. The cock crows, and Peter descends into bitter tears.

Shortly thereafter, Judas, overwhelmed by the enormity of “betraying innocent blood” (Matthew 27:4), returns his payoff of silver to the chief priests. They give him neither solace nor recourse: “What is that to us? See to that yourself.” He does so by hanging himself.

I transgress every day, in ways small and large. Faced with my iniquity, I join the psalmist in feeling like “a reproach . . . a dread . . . a broken vessel” (Psalm 31:11–12). My transgressions betray Christ, hurt people, and leave me subject to guilt—sometimes pinpricks of conscience, sometimes bitter tears. Then I want in vain to give back the silver, to turn back time.

What is to come of the likes of me? Thankfully, I am not left to “see to that myself.” Christ did not say, “What is that to me?" He “abased and humbled Himself” (Philippians 2:8) to meet me where I live, in the brutishness that so often marks human life—and all too often is of my own making. He submitted Himself even to the extreme of death on the cross, where His blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

I hope that Judas, like the repentant thief crucified beside Jesus, opened his heart even as he died hanging. Peter, of course, lived through his repeated failure. Having followed Jesus as best he could, having sat at Jesus’ last meal, he then sat with his guilt-ridden grief until he could move forward. He had failed, but he had also drunk from the cup of salvation, and he became a rock on which the church was built. I am no Peter, but the church is still getting built, and rocks―large and small―are still needed. Praise to you, Lord Christ!

— Tom Tiller