Sunday, April 8, 2012

Psalm 148Exodus 12:1-14John 1:1-18

Things don’t look any different today.

There’s the expected bustle of Easter Sunday, of course—making sure everyone’s in their finest spring outfits; phoning ahead for brunch reservations; perhaps looking after company. There’s an excitement, though, an undeniable energy often lacking in our routines…and yet. And yet someone still needs to make sure everybody’s loaded into the car; to make sure that you leave with enough time to get a good seat; to keep everyone happy. There are mental lists to run through, tasks to be dutifully checked off, pressing concerns at work that you can’t quite push to the back of your mind. No, things don’t look any different—our lives go on just as they did yesterday, and the day before. The scenery slides by our car windows, the clock on the desk ticks away the minutes, our many and varied toys distract us just as much as we need.

And yet. And yet here, today, we hear a word that stands out in vivid color against a dull background: Christ is risen.

Risen, indeed—but risen into our world; the world where we go on relatively unchanged, with our plans, our work, our worries. Risen into our world, almost without our noticing, like the tune you can’t get out of your head, quietly playing in the background of everything you do. Risen into our world, inescapably, like a trumpet blast sounding out of nowhere, just behind you. Meeting us unexpectedly on the road to Emmaus, listening to us babble senselessly on, and opening up our eyes to the world around us. Meeting us in the guilt and shame we carry with us; after all, Christ still had scars on Easter morning. Triumphantly he calls to us, letting us know that we are risen with him—even if we haven’t noticed yet. Yes, Christ is risen into our world, but slowly, very slowly, he’s making it his own. Bringing life where there was death; making peace where there was war; charging even our blandest hours with a hope for something more.

Christ is Risen.


— Joe Lenow

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday

Psalm 27Lamentations 3:37-58Hebrews 4:1-16

He descended into hell. The third day he rose again from the dead. . .
Apostles’ Creed, Rite I

+ + +

When I was a small child in church I got chills whenever we would recite the part of the Creed that proclaimed Jesus went to Hell. I wanted to crawl under the pew when I heard that line in a creed. Did the adults know what they were saying? Stop and listen to those words of the Apostles’ Creed: “He descended into hell. . . .”

What on earth did they mean by that?

It was not until the fifth decade of my life that I began to understand the line. And when I did it was for me an amazing moment of clarity.

The event called Holy Saturday is the fulcrum between Jesus’ death and his resurrection. On Holy Saturday, the second day of the Easter Triduum, Jesus smashes open the gates of Hell to let everyone out. On Holy Saturday, Jesus has suffered with us, gone to Hell, and robbed it of its power. Death is the enemy, and death is vanquished. The great mystery of Easter—the mystery of the Christian faith— requires Holy Saturday to get there. Holy Saturday connects the crucifixion of Good Friday to the resurrection of Easter. By grasping the reality of Holy Saturday, we can catch a glimmer of new life by passing first through death, whether it is the physical death at the end of our mortal life on earth, or in all of the little deaths we suffer on the journey of life.

The death of Jesus Christ on the Cross does not have much to do with us without Holy Saturday; without Holy Saturday, it is the unjust death of a good and holy man. With Holy Saturday, Jesus not only dies for us; Jesus dies with us and Jesus dies like us—he shows himself as the God-become-human savior to show us a different way to live. Easter becomes not just about the One, but about all of us.

— Jim Richardson

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday

Psalm 40:1-17Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-331 Peter 1:10-20 • John 13:36-38

“O God, come to my assistance. O Lord, make haste to help me” (Psalm 40:13)

With these words the sisters at Our Lady of the Angles Monastery in Crozet intone the office of Compline, the last worship service of the day before bed time. On Good Friday we can be especially attentive to the way God answered this prayer sounded through the ages not only on the lips of monks and nuns but in the hearts of all who find themselves in conflict with other people, within themselves, and with God. These two plaintive statements point to the deeper reality of the human condition that Jesus’ death on the cross lays bare: the fundamental rupture in human existence that alienates people from each other and God can only be repaired by God himself.

Indeed, on Good Friday as Jesus hung dying on the cross, God came to our assistance. He suffered the deepest depths of alienation, taking onto himself the sin of the world: all of the shame, powerlessness, helplessness, contempt, scorn, abandonment, greed, fear, and hate that rightfully belonged to generations past, present, and yet to come. Uncoerced, he freed us from the accretions of sin that obscured His image in each one of us, a feat no human could accomplish. Ironically, by taking on our ugliness and relieving us of its estranging burdens, he made it possible for us to see and be enlivened by the beauty of His love and the image of His beauty in one another—a beauty of centripetal, reconciling force that draws us closer to Him and each other.

On this day we can proclaim with the psalmist, “may those who love your salvation say continually, ‘Great is the Lord!’” (40:16b). Let us also offer our thanksgiving of praise: “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be; world without end, Amen.”

— Heather A. Warren

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Maundy Thursday

Psalm 102Lamentations 2:10-18 • 1 Corinthians 10:14-17, 11:27-32Mark 14:12-25

The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (1 Corinthians 10-16)

The day’s old light is dying now, bleeding in through the windows cut into the walls of the upper room where we have gathered. Orange squares stretch out across the mat on which the elements of the Pesach Seder are carefully arranged – bitter herbs, cups of wine, matza bread, and the lamb. In the dark, following the sun’s burial behind the Judean hills, Mary lights the lamps to mark the beginning of the first day of Pesach – Passover. And as we eat, we recall with wistful words the story of our ancestors’ liberation from bondage in Egypt, and how – on this night – the angel of death passed over the houses that bore on their lintels the blood of the lamb.

During the meal, the wine and food carry us away from the anxieties of the past days. However, as Jesus takes into his hands the afikomen – the last piece of matza – something in his countenance quiets our raucous banter. He speaks, and his words waft through the warm air weighed heavy with the smell of roasted lamb: “This is my body.”

 Holding a piece of the blessed and broken matza, our senses reject the Lord’s words – this looks, feels, smells, tastes like bread. Still in the silence after he speaks, his words begin to transubstantiate us, first our hearts and then our souls and bodies – Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it (Ezekiel 3:1-3). So we eat . . . and are consumed.

What sense can our senses make when they are not consumed by desire for the Word of truth? What more can our words be but webs of power and weapons for the Pharaohs and Emperors of every age by which others are kept enslaved unless our words are liberated by the Word of God? What nourishment can bread and wine bring to a world under the dominion of death unless it is the flesh and blood of the Lamb?

— Nicholas Forti

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Wednesday of Holy Week

Psalm 55Lamentations 2:1-9, 14-172 Corinthians 1:23-2:11Mark 12:1-11

In each of today’s readings, misfortune, abuse, hostility, and even betrayal abound. In Psalm 70, physical abuse and misfortune are the plight for which protection from God is requested (and “hurry, please!”). Insults, being spat upon, and beard being yanked are described in Isaiah 50: 4-9a. Hebrews 12: 1-3 reminds us of the hostility and suffering that Jesus endured. And John 13: 21-32 provides the setting in which Jesus identifies the man who will betray him.

Pain, abuse, ridicule, and suffering could be viewed as the major focus of these readings, and they certainly were clearly depicted in the texts. But to focus on them and the negative emotions they conjure may divert us from understanding what actions we contemporary Christians should undertake based upon today’s lessons.

What might those actions be? Perhaps the first is an attitude check rather than a specific action. Isaiah says it clearly: “The Lord God helps me. . . . Who will declare me guilty? Stand against the attacks. Do not hide your face. Who are my adversaries? Let them confront me.”

Isaiah also offers insight into the second action to take—to have the “tongue of a teacher” and to sustain the weary with a word. How will the Truth be carried forward into the next thousand years if today’s believers do not sustain the weary with the words describing the teachings of Jesus?

The third action, also suggested in Isaiah, is to have “the ear of a listener.” Listen to the word, and listen to the needs of those around you. Eyes to see, ears to hear, mouth to speak, and hands to work.

— Diane Wakat

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Tuesday of Holy Week

Psalm 6Lamentations 1:17-222 Corinthians 1:8-22 Mark 11:27-33

A few years ago at Shrinemont the program leader used poetry to direct our reflections and discussions. This poem by Mary Oliver engaged me powerfully:

By Mary Oliver

Look, the trees
are turning
their own bodies
into pillars

of light,
are giving off the rich
fragrance of cinnamon
and fulfillment,

the long tapers
of cattails
are bursting and floating away over
the blue shoulders

of the ponds,
and every pond
no matter what its

name is, is

nameless now.
Every year
I have ever learned

in my lifetime
leads back to this: the fires
and the black river of loss
whose other side

is salvation,
whose meaning
none of us will ever know.
To live in this world

you must be able
to do three things:
to love what is mortal;
to hold it

against your bones knowing
your own life depends on it;
and, when the time comes to let it

to let it go.

— Betty Kerner

Monday, April 2, 2012

Monday of Holy Week

Psalm 51:1-20Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-122 Corinthians 1:1-7Mark 11:12-25

Based on John 12: 1-11

I am learning to “be in the moment” to be fully present. In her book Loving-Kindness, Sharon Salzberg writes, “The simple act of being completely present to another person is truly an act of love.”

In today’s Gospel lesson we find Jesus having a meal at the home of Mary, Martha and Lazarus. The preceding verses tell us that Jesus is being pursued. People have been ordered to be on the look-out for him and to report his whereabouts to the chief priests and Pharisees. They plan to have him arrested. Ultimately, secretly, they plan to kill him.

 I wonder about the mood at this particular meal. I can imagine a scene where everyone around the table is filled with anxiety and worry; one where the mood hangs heavy as a shroud. Perhaps it is in her heaviness —grief —that Mary leaves the table and returns with the jar of perfume. I wonder at the emotions she experienced as she cleaned Jesus’ feet with it. What did she feel and think as she used her own hair to dry them? It seems to me that Mary knew something about being in the moment—about being fully present.

What cues can we take from Mary? From Jesus? He also knew something about being fully present, didn’t he? What shape might life take—might the world take—if we turned fully towards one another in a mindset of loving compassion?

It has been my practice to give up things I enjoy during Lent. As I write this, I’m still thinking about whether or not I will keep to this tradition this year. One thing I know I will do is to continue to work on honoring each moment of each day.

— Christie Thomas

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Palm Sunday: The First Day of Holy Week

Psalm 24Zechariah 9:9-121 Timothy 6:12-16Luke 19:41-48

One of the most profound truths in any psalm is the verse that begins the 24th Psalm:
“The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”

Man’s relationship to God and to God’s creation is starkly and beautifully put in this humbling, respectful and poetic way.

Man isn’t mentioned. Neither are butterflies, smolts or scorpions—or any other specific pieces of the fabric that knits all life in the world together.

People who inhabit the earth are here as a part of the Lord’s creation, and he founded it “on the seas and established it on the waters,” a biological truth taught by science and scripture.

Ownership is not man’s for we are but stewards of the Lord’s creation. We are in it and of it —not above it.

The Lord is above it, and, the psalm asks and answers “who may ascend the mountain of the Lord?”

Those with clean hands, a pure heart and who worship no idols or false god, a tall order.

Most of us will be imagining God. Most will be praying, unknowing and unseeing.

We should lift up our heads and our gates and doors that the Lord may come in.

We are a part of God's creation and should look up.

We are but knots in the fabric that clothes creation.

We are a flash on the runway of life.

— Bob Gibson