Easter Sunday

The Sunday of the Resurrection

On the first day of the week, at early dawn, the women who had come with Jesus from Galilee came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they went in, they did not find the body. While they were perplexed about this, suddenly two men in dazzling clothes stood beside them. The women were terrified and bowed their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galilee, that the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.” Then they remembered his words, and returning from the tomb, they told all this to the eleven and to all the rest. Now it was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women with them who told this to the apostles. But these words seemed to them an idle tale, and they did not believe them. But Peter got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened. Luke 24:1-12

We have arrived at the day for which we have been preparing for the last 40 days. It is Easter Day, the day of Resurrection, the day when we remember and celebrate the fact that the women went to the tomb and found it empty. And yet, despite the season of preparation, despite our disciplined efforts to make room for God in our lives, despite the fact that we have been looking forward to this celebration for weeks, we may still feel unready. We may still feel unprepared for this celebration, because the Resurrection challenges our assumptions and transforms the way we look at the world. Even as we celebrate the fact that Christ has been raised from the dead, we may have lingering doubts. After all, people do not rise from the dead in our experience. In spite of all our preparation, we may feel unready to proclaim that Christ is risen.

We are not the first people to have these doubts. Continue reading Easter Sunday

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April 20, 2019

Holy Saturday

The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments. On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment. Luke 23:55-56

In the Jewish practice of Sabbath – the day of rest God has commanded us to take – there’s quite a bit of work required before one can truly rest. Before the Sabbath begins, individuals must cook their meals and conduct their business so that no money is exchanged and no machinery is operated on the Sabbath day. In Luke’s gospel account of Jesus’ death, it seems important that we know that the women adhered to the law of preparation ending before sundown so that Sabbath could begin. Although Jesus’ death did indeed fall on the Day of Preparation, we might imagine this as a metaphor for something bigger. These faithful followers of Jesus were doing the difficult and emotional work of preparation: adorning Jesus’ body with scented oils, that he might have a holy and blessed rest. I have blessed many a head – including that of my own parent – with sacred oil as I prayed them on their journey from this life to the next, and it never ceases to be a humbling and beautiful experience. Continue reading April 20, 2019

April 19, 2019

Good Friday

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God. This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. Luke 23:50-54

Luke describes Joseph of Arimathea as a righteous man, who had not agreed to the council’s plan and action concerning Jesus’ arrest, accusation, and crucifixion. We can almost imagine Joseph’s quiet dissent, and then his compassionate heart breaking at the news of Jesus’s death. He may have been so moved that he came to Jesus even after his death to offer him some type of justice, since his voice was not heard loudly enough beforehand. So he came and like a servant, he tended to Jesus’ body. It may have been the least he could do. Continue reading April 19, 2019

April 18, 2019

Maundy Thursday

And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things. Luke 23:48-49

Where was everyone? Hiding? Behind locked doors in the upper room? It seems like it was just yesterday that we celebrated with Hosannas in the Highest Heaven as Jesus, our Lord, made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. And yet, how short our memory is as we were the same ones yelling Crucify Him! Crucify Him! What happened? Maybe we should blame the temple leaders who were actively whipping the crowd into a frenzied mob. My first rector would always say, “Sheep.” We can always count on them to be sheep. Like a reed blowing in the wind, we sheep can be worked up into a frenzy pretty easily while yelling “Hosanna in the highest” one minute and “Crucify him” the next. When we are gathered looking for a spectacle rather than standing on principle, we are easily manipulated by the foxes and wolves of this world. Sheep! What are we going to do when our passions are based on the latest headlines rather than long held convictions? Sheep.

Continue reading April 18, 2019

April 17, 2019

Wednesday in Holy Week

Then Jesus, saying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, and said, “Certainly this man was innocent!” Luke 23: 46-47

One has to wonder how many crucifixions this centurion has witnessed. As a commander of a hundred men, this centurion must have seen many men die. To rise to this office, centurions fought alongside the men whom they commanded. They usually led from the front, occupying a position at the front right of the formation. Thus, in the field they were quite vulnerable to suffering heavy casualties in battle. Death, particularly death that was violent and gruesome, was not a stranger to them. Their training, experience and discipline all contributed their being impervious to suffering and death.

If the centurion has stood at the foot of this cross for the entire three hours of Jesus’ crucifixion, he has had an intimate experience of this man and his death. He looked on as Jesus bore physical pain and suffering, insults to his person and character, taunting and reviling him. All this Jesus bore in silence. He never responded to the taunts, but he did speak to one of the thieves crucified with him and promised paradise to him He gave over his life to his Father. Most astounding is that he spoke first of forgiveness to those who did not know what they did. Continue reading April 17, 2019

April 16, 2019

Tuesday in Holy Week

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Luke 23.44-45

It was noon or close to it. It was the time of day when the sun was supposed to be at the highest point in the sky, the time that was supposed to be the brightest. It was the time when one would have sought the cover of shade or a sip of water from a vessel that had been filled earlier that morning. At noon, if at all possible, the day slows, even if only for a moment. There is no hiding at high noon.

It was at noon, when Jesus hung on the cross, that cruel instrument of death used by the Romans to maintain order by the power of fear. There was no hiding from the sun. But the sun’s light failed, Luke reports. Perhaps even the sun could not bear what was transpiring beneath it. The women, however stood by. They had followed him from Galilee. They were the ones keeping watch. They were there whether there was sun or not. Waiting and watching for whatever words they might be able to hear. Waiting and watching for that last breath and the deliverance of Jesus from the agony of the cross. Three hours they waited and watched. Three hours while the sun’s light had failed. Three hours from the words offered to the thief that was hanging next to Jesus. Time hadn’t just slowed; time seemed to stand still.

Perhaps you have been the one who has waited and watched at the bedside of a loved one who had no words left to say but the breathing continued. Waiting and watching, the pain and anticipation are great. Wondering when the last breath will come. Wondering if God is present or absent. Continue reading April 16, 2019

April 15, 2019

Monday in Holy Week

Then he said, “ Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “ Truly, I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Luke 23:42-43

The hauntingly beautiful and reassuring Taize chant captures this passage so perfectly when you sing it quietly by yourself or in a crowd with thousands. The simple refrain, sung in a round, sung in parts, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

Our faith continues to conflate past, present, and future, reminding us that being in God’s presence is history, is the immediate now, and is simultaneously a hope for the future. The hope for the future underscores the gnawing doubt that we have not yet been accepted by Jesus into the kingdom, the fear that God could somehow forget us: ridiculous, and yet such a powerful anxiety.

With all of the people in the universe, why would God remember me? Who am I that I would even be a blip on God’s radar screen, let alone a cherished memory, a loved friend who will be welcomed back home to the family table? Continue reading April 15, 2019