Sunday, April 30, 2017

Meeting the Stranger, Meeting Jesus: Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter, Year A

Jesus and the disciples on the Road to Emmaus. Artist unknown.
Readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41Psalm 116:1-3, 10-171 Peter 1:17-23; Luke 24:13-35

In our gospel story, two disciples—possibly Cleopas and his wife—are walking on the road from Jerusalem to Emmaus on Resurrection Day. Their hearts are filled with a mixture of heaviness and hope, for they have heard strange tales, this third day after Jesus’s crucifixion, about Jesus being risen from the dead. But they dare not believe it.

Then suddenly, a stranger starts walking alongside them. The stranger asks what they are discussing, and they pass along the story that they have heard about Jesus and the empty tomb. They obviously are completely bewildered if not a whole lot doubtful about the story they have been told. They believe that their hopes in Jesus have been dashed, regardless of the empty tomb. Possibly they heard the rumors spread by the authorities that Jesus’s body had been stolen away.

This stranger, after asking what they are talking about, then does a curious thing: he begins interpreting all that Jesus had done on earth to prove that he was the One whom scripture had foretold. You would think that, as small as the community of followers was, these two would wonder where a stranger would get so much information about Jesus.

Being hospitable and intrigued, they invite the stranger to stay with them as they have their evening meal. It is at the point that the stranger breaks the bread that suddenly, “their eyes are opened” to the truth—the one who has been walking and talking with them is doing what he has done countless times before. Jesus is breaking the bread—which to our Christian understanding echoes with Eucharistic meaning—and suddenly they know who he is. Just when that happens, though, he disappears once more. As the experience they have had begins to sink in, they realize that only Jesus could have made their “hearts burn within them.” It is when Jesus takes, breaks, blesses and gives the bread to them that he is fully known. It can be the same way with us.

Now, some of us respond to this story, and some of the other early resurrection stories, with wondering HOW the disciples could fail to recognize Jesus when they see him, especially given their natural longing as the word begins to get out that his body is no longer in the tomb.

How well do we know any other person, really? We are all mysteries to each other, no matter how much we are bound by common interests or memberships in groups, or language, or socio-economic class, or race, or vows, or birth, or anything else. And with Jesus, this mystery can be intensified—remember all the times throughout scripture that even Jesus’s closest friends fail to understand exactly who he is or what he is doing.

But there a few things we have to remember. The risen Jesus has been changed by the events of his Passion and Resurrection. He has come more fully into unity with God the Father, and his earthly life is changing--coming to an end as he has been known, becoming different. Jesus has been lifted up on the cross as a light for the whole world—not just for his disciples and friends. The scriptures we heard today said that “their eyes were kept from recognizing him.” We have the very same issue, as we were also reminded in the story last week about Thomas. We too hunger to know Jesus, but we are not sure what exactly we are looking for.

There is an important point here: these disciples got to meet Jesus when they welcomed the stranger, and insisted that this stranger stay with them and enter into fellowship with them. THIS is one of the other tangible ways we can meet Jesus. We can meet Jesus in the face not just of our friends, but when we look into the face of the stranger.

Once again this story reminds us that life according to the gospel is one of radical hospitality, and that flies in the face of almost everything we are often told about how we are supposed to react to strangers in our midst. We too easily fall into habits of trying to separate “us” from “them.” Whoever “them” ends up being, we are told to fear “them,” judge “them,” isolate “them.” We certainly are not taught to look for the face of Christ in the stranger. Yet that is where, over and over again throughout the witness of scripture, we end up encountering and finding God.

Each of may have our own Emmaus moment. As many of you may know, I am not a cradle Episcopalian. I was born and christened a United Methodist, then, when our pastor was moved when I was four, my mother began a decade-long journey through the nooks and crannies of Evangelical American Christendom, and we three kids bobbed along and followed in her wake like baby ducks following Mama Duck. It wasn’t until I was 12 that I first entered an Episcopal Church.

My teacher’s husband was being confirmed, and she invited me to come. Now, I had never been to any church like this in my life. Unfamiliar with the liturgical tradition of the Episcopal Church, I sat there in my dress, fake pearls, and hat (my mother mistakenly thought lady’s headgear was required). I fought off her attempt to put me in little lace gloves only with great tomboy vigor, but it was a struggle.

I sat at my friend’s confirmation and tried to take it all in without looking too stunned.
There was a bulletin, and it told you everything that was going to happen.
The people leading the service were dressed in special clothes, not three-piece suits.
There was one guy wearing a piece of pointy headgear that I knew from my chess set meant he was a bishop.

There were candles and a real pipe organ.
The sermon was filled with joy, and the only mention of hell was preceded by a “what the…” at the announcements.
Women were allowed to read the lessons.

In the middle there was a thing called “the peace,” in which I was hugged and kissed on the cheek and complimented on my hat by several older ladies who thought I was being knowingly retro in my garb rather than dressed to match a scene in The Quiet Man.

But the thing that really got me was when we knelt and heard the words that recounted God’s saving deeds throughout history. Invocations were said over the bread and wine, and then they were broken and offered to all of us. Now for the past 8 years, I had been raised in churches that rarely, if ever, celebrated communion. But here, we gathered around the altar, kneeling side by side. Unlike at other churches’ Lord’ Supper” remembrances which I had attended, even as a stranger I was welcomed.

And that’s where I really met Jesus. I met him in the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the cup.  
“Body of Christ; Bread of Heaven.”
“Blood of Christ; Cup of Salvation.”

That’s when my savior was made known to me in the bread, in the cup, in the blessing, in the fellowship of all those gathered together worshipping. This is when I learned what a sacrament truly can be—as Mother Pamela reminded us last week, “an outward and visible sign” – and the most miraculous, transformative part—“of an inward and spiritual grace.”

It was grace that opened the disciples’ hearts to hear Jesus interpret his significance throughout the history and scriptures of Israel. Their hearts had been stirred as he spoke, and we should be familiar with that. Our own worship service every Sunday begins with the liturgy of the Word, and then moves to the liturgy of the table.

It was grace that opened their eyes to who he really was then in the blessing, breaking, and sharing of the Eucharist. Every week we come here, hungry for the living Word, hoping to encounter Christ and to be equipped by that encounter for our own daily ministry as disciples. 

I would argue that we can know Jesus fully in the breaking of the bread. But that’s not all. Jesus seeks to work transformation in us, and the Eucharist is one of the ways that he does it. In the story, the moment Jesus breaks the bread, two things happen simultaneously: the two disciples become aware of who Jesus IS--NOT just who he was. Then he vanishes, so that they may know that he is not what he once was—he is MORE. Like them, we get to know the risen, living Christ in the breaking of the bread, and gain a new understanding that he is our living savior, who has brought us into himself, and by doing so, has united us also with each other, with all creation—and with God.

I am convinced that when we gather around this altar together, that’s when we fully come together, which in itself is a great mystery. Jesus is the bridge that brings us together and helps us to remember that we may not fully know each other, but through the love of God we can love each other and welcome each other—no exceptions.

It’s here that we are all reminded that we are one body, as well, and not just ANY body, but also the Body of Christ. It’s here we are reminded that we can all be signs to each other of God’s grace and mercy. And then we can embody that grace to the entire world, as each of us remembers that by our baptism we are all ministers in a Church that is called to minister to the world, the dark places as well as the light, as Christ’s own.

As a result of meeting the stranger on the road to Emmaus, we are called to live into who we are called to be: Body of Christ; Bread of Heaven. Bread for the World, Bread for ALL the world. As the Body of Christ, we are called to embody the Good News of God’s grace and love to a world that is hungry for it. Come, taste and see that the Lord is good. Let us gather around the table, where none are outcast, and all are fed and led to meet Jesus in both friend and stranger, and then, together, let us carry his love out into the world.

Preached at the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Town and Country, MO, on April 30, 2017.

Prayer 1556: The Third Sunday of Easter

There are no strangers- only friends we have not met. This gentleman wanted us to slow down and enjoy the scent of bay leaves in the gardens at Parc Guell in Barcelona.

Most Merciful God, we thank You for bringing us to this day, that we may worship and praise You in every moment.
Holy One, let us make our lives an offering to You.
Bless and keep your servants as we seek to serve You with all that we have and all that we are.

As we gather around your altars, let our hearts be joined in love and faith, and let us know you in the breaking of bread.
Open our eyes to see the face of Christ in the friend and the stranger, to see your holy light shining from every person.
Walk beside us, Blessed Savior, and guide us into deeper knowledge of you, that our hearts may burn with your truth.

By the power of the Holy Spirit, shield the joyous, and grant your comfort and peace to all whose put their hope in You.


Saturday, April 29, 2017

Prayer 1555: for God's presence

Resting butterfly, Buttefly House, St. Louis.

Be among us, Lord Jesus,
as we make our prayers to You.
Be among us, O Almighty One,
as we meditate upon your Word
and remember your saving help.
Be among us, O Spirit of Truth,
to guide our hearts, minds, and souls
and make them holy offerings to our God.
Be among us, O God,
as storms rage without and within,
and lead us to safety and reconciliation.

May peace, justice, compassion, and love
reign in our lives today, O Merciful One.
May we embody God's grace in our words and deeds,
and testify always to your mercy and care as we pray.


Friday, April 28, 2017

Prayer, day 1554: God's abundant grace

Dogwood blossoms represent the cross and wounds of Christ.

Almighty God, from the sleeping ground
You bring forth blooming life in Spring:
bring forth also new life in our hearts.
You fed the multitudes with bread in the desert:
feed our spirits with your abundant Word.

Let us be renewed in our fellowship,
and inspired by our time in prayer with You,
that we may be united in Truth and Love.

May we treasure our blessings,
obey your will,
and pray for the healing of our faults,
which only comes through your grace.

Look with favor upon your servants, we pray,
who rest within your steadfast Love.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Prayer 1553: led by the light of love

In times of anxiety, every breath can be a prayer of thanksgiving.

Most Merciful God, who has watched over us through the depths of night, lead us now into the light of your love. By your tender mercy, may we be drawn closer to you, Lord Jesus, and inspired by your truth. O Holy One, You have gathered us within your embrace: may we worship You in humility and loving-kindness. Keep us from all scorn or arrogance, O God, and make us gentle and true in all our ways, our spirits a haven for healing. Lord Christ, abide within us today, and fill the hearts of the weary with hope as we pray.


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Prayer 1552: in pathways of hope and healing

Morphos in motion at the Butterfly House: the beauty of God's creation!

Most Merciful God, we offer you our hearts,
filled with thanks and praise for your saving help.
Happy are those who walk in the Way of Love,
upheld by grace and gratitude!
Keep us, O Lord, as the apple of your eye,
and lead us in the ways of justice and peace.
Purify us that we may be one with Christ,
and unified in love with all creation, we humbly pray.
Hide us under the shadow of your wings
when we need respite,
and strengthen us to bear witness to your truth in our lives.
Remembering your forgiveness and lovingkindness,
may we deal compassionately with others,
loving each other as ourselves.
O Bright Morningstar,
lead us into pathways of hope and healing,
and shine your light upon those we now remember.


Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Prayer 1551: for perseverence in times of trial (Ecclesiasticus 2:1-11)

Detail from a window in the McCarthy room, Eden Theological Seminary,
from which I will, with God's help, soon be graduating, thanks be to God.

Blessed is the Holy One, who bears our joys and sorrows,
and holds us as in a mother's tender care: thanks be to God.
Lord, we wait for your mercy like watchmen for the morning:
our hope is in your grace and steadfast love.

Make us faithful companions in Christ,
bearers of his saving help throughout the world,
we humbly pray.
Strengthen us in hope and faith
as we walk the path of discipleship, O God,
and help us to persevere in times of trial.
Send forth your Spirit to fill us with wisdom,
with generous hearts to support each other in love, as we pray.


Monday, April 24, 2017

Prayer 1550: in humble discipleship

Spring blooms gladden the heart.

Eternal God: Earth-maker, Pain-Bearer, Life-giver,
we rise to make our prayer before You, grateful for your care. 
Strengthen our obedience and devotion to your Law of Love and your Way of Mercy, that we may serve You in all things.

Strip out all arrogance and contempt, O Holy One,
and lead us from using each other to loving each other.
Let us walk gently and peaceably with each other, discerning the face of Christ in all persons we encounter.

Lord, guide the hands and hearts of all healers, care-givers, doctors, and nurses, who tend to the sick and suffering.
Tune our hearts to the song of your grace, O God, and bless and keep those whom we lift before You.


Sunday, April 23, 2017

Prayer 1549: Second Sunday of Easter

A wildflower spotted along a walk in the woods.

Everlasting One, Prince of Peace,
we lift our hearts before your altars
to give you thanks and praise!

Let us join in the song of all the saints,
robed in glory,
as we worship you
and bear your witness into the world.
Let us walk in the name of a living faith,
steadfast enough to question and to hope.

Secure in your loving embrace, O Christ,
may we enter more deeply
into amazement and wonder before your throne.
May we shed all certainties
but the saving power of your love,
for You, O Holy One,
are our portion and our cup.

Bend the arc of your mercy
over all who call upon You, O God,
and gather within your presence all for whom we pray.


Saturday, April 22, 2017

Prayer 1548: For Earth Day

View of Falls, Yosemite National Park

Creator of the Universe,
who is making Heaven and Earth,
let all that lives tell out your glory.

Waterfalls and rapid, Yosemite Valley.

Rocks and hills,
ocean depths and craggy peaks,
the wind that caresses them,
all join to sing out your Holy Name.
You planted your holy song, O Lord,
in laughing brook and rambling river
fed by rain before time.

Autmn grasses, Creve Coeur Lake.

Murmuring grass and field of wheat
whisper "Alleluia!"
as the beauty of the Lord passes by.
Thunder and rain, summer sun and shadow
work together with soil and seed
to prepare a table in the wilderness by your will.

Sunset, St. Lucia.

The works of your Hand, O Mighty One,
testify to your steadfast kindness and mercy:
You crown all you see as good.

Sunset, Du Bois, Illinois.

Forgive us for our trespasses against each other,
and against the Earth, our mother,
for seeking to hoard her riches
and denying her integrity.

Franciscan brothers in Mui Forest, Marin County.

May we walk gently upon this Earth,
that bears us like a chariot through space,
upheld by your wondrous Love.
May we care for all creation,
being dedicated and blessed by You,
called to serve its renewal and guard its unity.

Dancing on the beach, St. Lucia.

By the power of the Holy Spirit,
that moved over the waters of creation,
renew and recreate in us
a reverence for the Earth and all her inhabitants.
Lord Christ, center us in your wisdom,
and pour out your healing
over all we remember before You.


Friday, April 21, 2017

Prayer 1547: Easter Friday

Dawn's light moves across the cross, Holy Saturday, 2016, Church of the Good Shepherd, Town and Country, MO.
Lord Jesus Christ, your mercy endures forever.
Like a mighty oak you hold your arms wide
and seek to draw the world to yourself:
we find a home within your branches.
Your wisdom and love sustains and refreshes our souls:
God is our dayspring and our help.

May we seek You and bear witness to your glory
in each face we see, in each hand we take.
Make us bearers of your grace and mercy
as we support each other in following your Way.

Holy Spirit, be our steadfast companion;
let us walk the holy path of compassion and hope.
Lord Christ, you poured yourself out for us:
may we welcome You with a shout of joy into our hearts.

Give us your blessing as we serve You, O God,
and grant your comfort and blessing to those we now name.


Thursday, April 20, 2017

Prayer 1546: Easter Thursday

The clematis are getting ready to bloom in my yard!

O God, your holiness bounds the Earth in beauty;
your creation, O Holy One, tells out your praise!
The slumbering Earth has risen with a shout of joy:
tell out, O my soul, the glory of God!
Arise, O heart, and give thanks to our Savior
who has blessed us and guarded us even as we slept.
Lead us, O Christ, into pathways of peace,
that we may be joyful witnesses to your saving help.
Let us love one another as Christ loves us,
and devote ourselves to the cause of justice and mercy.
Lord, you have clothed us in your mercy:
press the kiss of your blessing upon those we now name.


Wednesday, April 19, 2017

So That You May Believe: Speaking to the Soul, April 19, 2017

Thomas touches Jesus's hands. From the public domain.

The gospel for the second Sunday of Easter centers on the story of Thomas the Twin, who, logically enough to most of us, wants to see proof that Jesus has been raised from the dead. Every year, this is the gospel we get on this Sunday, and a lot of people just dismiss Thomas as someone whose key characteristic is his doubt, rather than his faith. And that seems pretty hypocritical, to be honest. Thomas is more a skeptic in this story than a person with no faith. A faithless person would have left the apostles’ fellowship and gone his own way. And that makes Thomas a comforting figure to so many people who try to take their faith seriously enough to hold it up to scrutiny.

We ourselves live in a time that is supposedly “post-factual,” in which we are told that there are “alternative truths.” Just a couple of weeks ago, we heard Pilate carelessly toss off an all-too-modern, sarcastic question: “What is truth?”

Yet it’s Thomas who gets the denunciatory moniker. Which of us wouldn’t have felt cheated, like Thomas did, for having missed seeing the real Jesus standing among the other disciples, and instead hearing this incredible story second-hand? Those other apostles expected Thomas to believe when they themselves had the comfort of witnessing their risen Lord in the flesh. Thomas may have doubt- but he has hope as well, or he wouldn’t express his skepticism in the first place.

The word “believe” is repeated over and over again in this coming Sunday’s gospel, we are told that the apostles are being allowed to see these things “so that you may come to believe.” This is a phrase that John’s gospel uses often, actually—Jesus says it at the raising of Lazarus, at the betrayal by Judas, and here it is repeated again by the gospel writer.

Being a Christian 2000 years later means believing without seeing with our eyes, but instead with our hearts.

It means being willing to sit – even companionably at times—with our own doubts. It means being willing to confront the same kind of protests that Thomas is brave enough to speak aloud. There are all kinds of contradiction here. The disciples have been told that the thing that should bring them the most joy in the world has actually happened, but they respond by locking their doors for fear in the first verse of the gospel that we hear today. They should be shouting alleluias all over Jerusalem. Instead they themselves are cowering behind locked doors. That fearful barricading behind doors is certainly an expression of their own doubts, even after they themselves have seen Jesus in the flesh. And yet, Thomas down through history takes the rap for his boldness in speaking aloud his need for proof. Thomas’s challenges echo even as the alleluias have just been brought out of storage by us. How can alleluia and doubt exist side-by-side?

The real question might be, how could they NOT? The alleluias we will sing for the rest of Easter and ordinary time are themselves actually acts of rebellion that fly in the face of too much in our everyday experience that closes our hearts to the mystery and miracle of God’s love in our lives. If Thomas can be forgiven and loved despite his questions and doubt, so can we all. Jesus patiently acknowledges and satisfies Thomas’s, and our own, human tendency to want proof. Yet even in that demand for proof, Thomas demonstrates a willingness to have himself be opened to new possibilities. And that’s a lesson for us as well. And maybe the alleluias will help carry us until we get to that place where we can hold our own doubt and skepticism up to the light, and still continue on, despite all opposing forces to walk the path of discipleship. Alleluia!

(This was first published on the Episcopal Cafe's Speaking to the Soul for April 19, 2017.)

Prayer 1545: Easter Wednesday

Wild ginger.

Alleluia! Let us look to the Lord, beloveds,
and with all that is within us praise and bless God.
Most Merciful One, pour forth your grace
that it may fill the crevices of our hearts with joy and compassion.
Inscribe your love in our sinews and bones,
and strengthen us for the mission you give us.
Nourished by your gospel,
let us bear good fruit
for the life of the world.
Let our lives be testimony
to the glory and power of Love in all creation.
Gather us within your embrace, Lord Christ,
especially those for whom we pray.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Prayer 1544: Easter Tuesday

Delicate beauty hugs the ground at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

Lord Jesus, we kneel before You in humility,
and offer our hearts and hopes to You in peace.
As night tells its final tale to the day,
we rise to sit in silence before you in wonder and joy.
Joining our voices with the morning birds' song,
we sing alleluia, alleluia, alleluia! 

Awaken us to your truth, O God, as the world awakens;
create in us clean hearts, as creation bursts forth all around us.
Mercy and peace have kissed;
a new day dawns with your light of love to guide us.

May we take up our songs of praise
and join the melody of creation in praising You, O Creator.
May justice and hope rise like the sun
and inspire us anew to walk the way of peace.
Awaken us to your truth, O God, as the world awakens;
create in us clean hearts, as creation bursts forth all around us.

Send your healing Spirit, O Holy One, over the entire Earth,
especially on those we remember before You as we pray.


Monday, April 17, 2017

Prayer 1543: Easter Monday

Mother Pamela preaches on Resurrection Sunday.

Christ our Passover is risen indeed!
Risen Lord, rise in our hearts,
that we may testify to the wonders of your Love.
Risen Lord, rise in our minds
 that we may know your truth and perceive your wisdom.
Risen Lord, rise in our spirits,
that we may shout praise to God with abundant joy!

Tell out, my soul,
the glory of God throughout creation!
God's mercy and lovingkindness are everlasting:
may the radiant light of Your countenance
fill us with peace.
Blessed Jesus,
our hope and our salvation,
hear the prayers of our hearts
as we lift them to you.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Prayer, day 1542: Easter Sunday

The Lord is risen!

Almighty God, the peoples of the nations shout "Alleluia!" to welcome the dawn of a new creation! Alleluia! Let us worship and sing praises, with the sun and the moon, saints and apostles, earth and sky! Alleluia! Let us keep the feast with the bread of truth and life. Alleluia! We who were in darkness are now in Light through our risen Lord, Jesus Christ. Alleluia! The stone in our hearts has been rolled away, and we spring forth into new life through our Savior. Let us place our hearts before our Savior, and our prayers before his altar.


Saturday, April 15, 2017

Riding Eastward: Sermon for Easter Vigil, 2017

Jesus riding a donkey; detail from a window at St. Stephen's.

One of the disciplines that is highlighted during Lent is the discipline of self-examination and confession. For any of you who came to our book group on Wednesday nights, you will remember how much we discussed this each week as we made our way through Rowan Williams’s book Being Disciples.

True confession is not possible without self-examination, as Williams pointed out. Self-knowledge is only possible if we cultivate honesty, as well as stillness. From these two gifts we learn and grow, even when what we learn about ourselves surprises us. And often, when we DO that examination, we are taken aback. Even St. Paul acknowledged this when he once confessed, “I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.”

The poet John Donne spoke of much the same thing in his poem entitled
“Good Friday, 1613. Riding Westward:”

Let man’s Soul be a Sphere, and then, in this,
The intelligence that moves, devotion is,
And as the other Spheres, by being grown
Subject to foreign motion, lose their own,
And being by others hurried every day,
Scarce in a year their natural form obey:
Pleasure or business, so, our Souls admit
For their first mover, and are whirl’d by it.
Hence is't, that I am carried towards the West
This day, when my Soul’s form bends toward the East.

Donne describes our souls as spheres, like planets. Each of us has a course that we intend to run. But something has to set us into motion. For Donne, the primary mover of our lives as Christians should be devotion to Christ. Yet if we are honest, we acknowledge other forces, what Donne calls “foreign motions,” that attract and pull us, adjusting our course, possibly from the one we had originally envisioned. If we are living the examined life, we realize how turned around we can get. Rather than evincing devotion as our primary impulse, we get wrapped up in our own cares and concerns. And too often, they are not the things that bring us love, or community, or peace.

That westward movement is the way of human authority, the sin of Adam and Eve that led humans to test their freedom through disobedience that still stalks us today. Yet the events of this night remind us that God’s love, the power of life itself, cannot be held behind the sealed stone of any tomb. That power, the power of Love, is what calls us here tonight. Thanks be to God, we are reminded here tonight that no matter how much we have gone astray, nothing is impossible through Christ.

Our gospel from Matthew tonight shows us clearly the two directions that contend to reign in our lives. The guards that are there at the tomb are there because of the arrogance of human authority, an authority that believes it has the final say of life and death to those it considers an enemy.

East light, La Sagrada Familia.
Yet there is no guard that can prevent Love from destroying the chains of death itself. We are called tonight to stand with the two Marys, to see, and what we see changes us forever, urging us once again to turn from the Westward to the East, toward the light of impossible hope and unconquerable Love, Love that calls us to reconciliation with God and one another. The Resurrected One calls us to resurrection, too, which is scary and thrilling and incredible all at once. One who has been resurrected with Christ will be changed down to the very center of their being. One who has been resurrected has been turned, and turned hard, from death to life, from sorrow to joy, from West to East. And that’s good news, indeed.

In turning toward reconciliation and resurrection, we called to shake off who we have been, and turn instead to embody who we are called to be. It’s not enough for us to see the glory of resurrection and what promises it holds for ourselves. We are called to witness to that resurrection and how it continues to work in a world that desperately needs to see it and be transformed, too. And that resurrection must be seen through us, as we rise too into new life, now, choosing to set our faces and hearts toward Christ.

As we heard in the Exsultet, sung a few minutes ago, “This is the night.”

This is the night of liberation— for deliverance from death and sin is indeed liberation, that frees us all to pull ourselves from the orbits that force some into oppression and entices some into the role of oppressor. This is the night when instead of being plunged into the waters up to our neck, we have laid before us instead the dry land of deliverance for the life of the world. And we shout Alleluia to God.

This is the night we are delivered like a newborn, from sin to grace. This is the night we remember our baptism, and that that baptism was itself a resurrection for us from the shadow life we once lived into the life in Christ that fulfills the humanity God has consecrated and perfected in Jesus which we are all called to model by living for each other. And we shout Alleluia to God.

This is the night when Love’s call transforms darkness into light, and that light beckons us to turn again to our proper course, our proper orbit around the one who is our All-in-All, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Shepherd. This is the night when Love repeatedly bids us not to be afraid, for through fear we close our hearts to keep prisoner the little we have, rather than open them to receive the abundance offered to us by a Savior who holds nothing back, not even himself, that we may have life by loving and serving the world. And we shout Alleluia to God.

This is the night when Christ breaks open the grave, not just for himself, but for us all, “when Earth and heaven are joined, and man is reconciled to God.” For the Resurrection changes the world, and our orientation in it, forever. Resurrection is not something we must wait for in the future, no, but rather is a resurrection we are called, as the Body of Christ in the world, to embody today, right now. Earth and heaven are joined here, right now. The powers of death and hell are defeated, right here, right now, wherever we are gathered together, renewed in our commitment to be a priestly people offering ourselves for the whole world.

Jesus Christ is risen, not just once, long ago, to disappear, but Jesus is risen and alive, right now, here among us, we who are called to turn our faces Eastward toward Christ, our Passover sacrificed for us. We are called to embody the Love that drives away the darkness and gloom of sin, a resurrection freely given by the one who intercedes for us, and gives himself for us continually, yesterday and today and tomorrow. As 19th century Episcopal priest and poet Phillips Brooks proclaimed:

Tomb, Thou shalt not hold him longer:
Death is strong, but life is stronger;
Stronger than the dark, the light;
Stronger than the wrong, the right;
Faith and hope triumphant say,
“Christ will rise on Easter Day!”

Yes, even though we have rung the bells, and brought the alleluias back, the resurrection of Jesus is not a singular event in time. Jesus continues to rise again, continually, and we are called to witness to that resurrection with joy and gladness, and most of all, love that binds us and makes us one.

What does Christ’s resurrection mean for us today? It means that we live in Christ, and Christ lives in us, this moment and throughout our lives and beyond. Christ will never desert us. We only have to turn and embrace that love, trust in that love, for that is the way not just of devotion but of life, of self-giving, itself.

Christ seeks to rise in our hearts right now, turning us to the East, toward resurrection within us and for the world. We are called to tell and embody the story of Love that will not die, Love that in binding us sets us free from all fear, sin, and death. Love that makes us holy as Christ is holy, by making us fully human as Christ reveals to us what full humanity can be: not just a mirror reflecting Christ’s Easter light back into the world, but making ourselves windows through which Christ’s love shines through us against the forces of darkness and death. Jesus has and is vanquishing the powers of fear, hatred, death, and destruction that pull us from our intended orbit. Jesus, in rising from the grave, has given us everything, and in doing so, calls us to share in that holy work by being true disciples witnessing and being the resurrected Christ in and for each other and all creation. Alleluia!

Prayer 1542: Holy Saturday

Cross, Osage Forest of Peace, Sand Springs, Oklahoma.

Most Merciful God,
in the silence before dawn
as the world pauses and turns in sleep:
hear our prayer.
Hold open the gate into our hearts, O Christ,
and bid us to enter with You into life eternal.
We are prone to wander far astray,
even from ourselves:
but You, Lord Jesus, are the Truth and the Way.
Let us abide with You this day,
keeping silent watch
in a garden far away.
Let our spirits rise on the wings of angels,
as we wait, and watch, and weep.
Dry the tears of those who suffer or mourn,
and let your healing pour over all in your embrace, O God.
We join the prayer of all creation,
carried aloft by our soul's longing:
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

Lord, hear our prayer.


Friday, April 14, 2017

Prayer 1541: Good Friday

From the Museum of the Middle Ages, Paris.

Blessed Savior,
whose body is broken for us,
may we be united in our witness and love
to your sacrifice, O Christ.

We confess our sinfulness,
our resistance to your call to unity,
our tendency to violence and enmity
instead of love.

Lord, let us stay awake
and watch with you for just one hour.
Lord, let us be still.
We pray for the ground beneath our feet,
that cradled your precious steps toward Calvary.
We pray for all whose faith
is broken, lost, or known to you alone.
We pray for all who suffer or grieve
in body, mind, or spirit;
we pray for all whose fellowship
is shattered by treachery, betrayal, or jealousy.

In the silence at the foot of the cross,
we make our prayer to you,
O Eternal One,
whose love remains even in darkness.
Your arms stretched wide to encompass the whole world,
we make our prayer to you, Lord Christ.


Thursday, April 13, 2017

Prayer 1540: Maundy Thursday

Harvest field. Baruch atah Adonai, Elohainu Melech Ha-Olam.

Beloved Savior,
you gather us
and give us a final command:
"Love one another,
as I have and still love you,"
even as darkness draws near.

You show us in word and act
that the heart of love is service,
humble and tender:
may we ever do likewise,
remade, restored, renewed.
From this good earth
and the work of human hands
you feed us-
drawn around one table,
one bread,
one cup:
Blessed are You, Lord God.
May we also be broken open,
and used to bless the world,
O Adonai, King of the Universe.

Let us make our prayer to you
to be faithful witnesses,
into the darkening night
which you have shared with us.

May we be brought anew
before the light of your countenance,
and reflect that light
into the darkest corners of our hearts.

Lord Jesus,
our companion,
our brother,
our king,
bless us and heal us,
we humbly pray.