April 1, 2018

Easter Day

When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint Jesus. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.   Mark 16:1-8

 

Christianity is about the resurrection. The tomb is empty, and Jesus was seen alive. We are Christians because Jesus rose from the dead. Run and proclaim that Jesus Christ is risen!

Throughout history, we have attempted to become enlightened. However, the resurrection of Jesus Christ should terrify, humble, astound, and inspire. It turns our feeble pursuits at explanation upside down. Visualize Mary and Mary Magdalene standing at the empty tomb as they touch, hear and see. Witness their unfolding realization that Jesus IS risen. Behold the young man telling them to go and they will “see Him.” The women realize that this was not something that might have happened or an erroneous comforting story. This event eclipsed the premise of a warm spiritual feeling, a good story, or the hope that the cause would continue.

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary run in panic because Jesus Christ overcame death and the grave. They are filled with amazement, since we have a new life that is beyond comprehension. Easter is terrifying, in that we are no longer apart from God. We are in a relationship with God through the Son. We have life in Him and then, there is eternal life after life after death. It is a life that we have never seen or encountered before the resurrection of Jesus. It should render our lives transformed. The resurrection is shocking. In the words of Paul, we will appear with Him in all His glory (Col 3:1-4).

This truth should cause us to risk everything. I share this quote by Oswald Chambers: “When Our Lord rose from the dead, He rose to an absolutely new life, to a life He did not live before He was incarnate. He rose to a life that had never been before; and His resurrection means for us that we are raised to His risen life, not to our old life. One day we shall have a body like unto His glorious body, but we can know now the efficacy of His resurrection and walk in newness of life. I would know Him in ‘the power of His resurrection.’”

Have no fear, for Jesus Christ is not laying in the darkness; Jesus Christ is risen. It is real, is it visible, and we must go and follow Him.

 

The Rt. Rev. Daniel G. P. Gutierrez
XVI Bishop of the Diocese of Pennsylvania

 


O God our King, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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March 31, 2018

Holy Saturday

Then Joseph bought a linen cloth, and taking down the body, wrapped it in the linen cloth, and laid it in a tomb that had been hewn out of the rock. He then rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where the body was laid.   Mark 15:46-47

 

In his book The Good Funeral, the theologian and pastor Tom Long reflects on presiding at burials: “It’s not that ministry is fundamentally different at a funeral; it’s just that the urgency of it is more apparent. At a baptism there is almost always an uncle with a video cam, beaming and circling the font; at a wedding, some bridal coordinator is often in the wings, barking orders and directing the choreography. But at a grave, the grinning uncles and know-it-all wedding consultants have vanished. This is death, and no one knows exactly what to say or do.”

The death of Jesus took place in a context in which people had a sense of how to respond when someone died. Joseph of Arimathea’s actions are fairly typical of first century Jewish burial customs: the body of the deceased would be wrapped in a linen cloth, laid in a tomb, and eventually anointed with spices. Yet, while the disciples of Jesus knew essentially what to do when he died, they were almost certainly plagued by a sense of dislocation and fear. These ritual actions, prescribed by Law and tradition, were meant to shepherd them through a time of confusion and help them trust that God continues to be faithful in even the most desperate circumstances.

In the popular imagination, Christians go through life oblivious to the pain and suffering of the world. In fact, it is the wider society, in its desire to make sure that we are always comfortable, that tends to ignore, or at least contextualize suffering. When understood properly, our faith allows us to confront the harsh realities of the world honestly, because ultimately we are a people of hope. On Holy Saturday, we are called to remember the heart of Christianity: a radical trust that God remains faithful in even our darkest moments.

 


Help us, we pray, in the midst of things we cannot understand, to believe and trust in the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, and the resurrection to life everlasting. Amen.

 

The Rev. David F. Romanik
Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr

March 30, 2018

Good Friday

When evening had come, and since it was the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath, Joseph of Arimathea, a respected member of the council, who was also himself waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God, went boldly to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then Pilate wondered if he were already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him whether he had been dead for some time. When he learned from the centurion that he was dead, he granted the body to Joseph.   Mark 15.42-45

 

Jesus is dead. “Are you sure?” Pilate wants to know. “Yes,” the centurion of the guard assures him. “Dead as a doornail,” or perhaps the nail used for the crucifixion. A dead nail is a nail that has been bent at its end to create additional securing – and as such, a nail that will no longer have any other use. Pilate wants to know that this Jesus of Nazareth will never again cross his path, let alone challenge his beliefs.

Pilate wants no other information. I am sure that the centurion only offers what he has been asked. He is a centurion after all, disciplined in his duty and well aware of the consequences he faces for disobedience. But the death is not what the centurion will remember at all – for “…Truly this man was God’s Son….”

 


Most loving God, hanging on a cross to die our death, give us the hope of resurrection at that darkest hour and bring us into life again. In Jesus’ most precious name. Amen.

 

The Rev. Barry J. Harte
the Church of Saint Asaph, Bala Cynwyd

March 29, 2018

Maundy Thursday

There were also women looking on from a distance; among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James the younger and of Joses, and Salome. These used to follow him and provided for him when he was in Galilee; and there were many other women who had come up with him to Jerusalem.   Mark 15:40-41

 

Being on the outside looking in can be a very disheartening place to be. Today we meet a group of women, who had been close with Jesus. They had cared for him and provided for him, while he was alive. But now in the moment of Jesus’ death, they are labeled mere onlookers. They find themselves at a distance.

In our own lives of faith, this can be a recurring theme. We can go from being active and feeling as though our faith is burning within us, to feeling as though nothing makes sense. It is as though we have become like those at a distance. Lent has been a time of special devotion, with heightened attention given to our own spiritual lives. In this we have practiced our faith, building and strengthening the knowledge of doing and being that is at the core of faith.

On this Maundy Thursday, we remember Jesus giving to the Church a memorial of his life, death and resurrection. In Holy Eucharist we are invited into the story, into the life of faith. It is a gift that invites us, with each celebration, to remember and to grow. It is a gift that challenges us to not remain on the outside looking in, but rather to roll up our sleeves and but our hearts, hands and minds to work, in living out the knowledge of doing and being.

 


Today take a bit of time to acknowledge the times and situations that have made you feel at a distance, and to remember also when you have felt close to God and strong in faith.

 

The Rev. Andrew Kellner
Saint Christopher’s, Gladwyne

March 28, 2018

Wednesday in Holy Week

And the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And when the centurion, who stood facing him, saw that he thus breathed his last, he said, “Truly this man was the Son of God.”   Mark 15:38-39

 

What a sight to witness! Finally, the opposition has achieved what it wanted. This rabble rouser, who so upset the religious authorities, is dead! But who expected such a dramatic and immediate end – the holiest of holy portion of the temple utterly exposed. And with it the very being, the very essence of just who this Jesus the Christ is. His death has opened the way for us to God in a new way. God is no longer inaccessible, as the veil is torn in two from top to bottom, God is fully exposed, fully accessible. The full revelation of who Jesus the Christ is is made manifest. And of all the people who have attended or witnessed this crucifixion, only one, a centurion, a professional officer of the Roman army, was converted that day. He was immediately caught up in the revelation of Jesus Christ and can proclaim him the Son of God. Thanks be to God.

 


Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;
For those who have lost their faith
For those hardened by sin or indifference
For the contemptuous and the scornful
For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and persecutors of his disciples
For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others
That God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to faith and obedience. Amen.

 

The Rev. Jo Ann B. Jones
Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr

March 27, 2018

Tuesday in Holy Week

Then Jesus uttered a loud cry and breathed his last.   Mark 15:37

 

There is a particular power to the verb “to utter.” It conveys something more primal and raw than many of the other words we use to describe an act of speech. “To speak” already suggests the intervention of thought. When we speak what we say is considered. What we think is discerned. Our words fit within a certain grammar that is shared and understood. To talk, to discuss, to exclaim, or to declare all assume some degree of self-reflection. We choose to do these things and are aware of that choice even as we are doing them. But utterance is more immediate, as if it couldn’t be helped.

Mark doesn’t tell us simply that Jesus cried out; nor do we ever say that someone “uttered a shout.” By stating that Jesus “uttered a loud cry” Mark makes the instant of Jesus’ death the complete antithesis of the act of God’s creation, when, in Genesis, God spoke the world into being, bringing form out of chaos. God’s words in the beginning were more than statements or commands; they were primal utterances too, through which God gave his very life to the life of the world in all its beauty and variation. (Only after each utterance did God step back to declare an assessment.) And God’s culminating act was then breathing soul into the life of humankind.

In this one verse, Mark informs us that Jesus died on the cross. But he did so in such a way that we might realize what Jesus’ death signified. It was the undoing of everything, the triumph of chaos in the unravelling of all creation. And, as Jesus’ breath vanished, it was even the death of his soul.

One verb reveals the magnitude of this moment.

 

The Rev. Peter Vanderveen
Church of the Redeemer, Bryn Mawr

March 26, 2018

Monday in Holy Week

When some of the bystanders heard it, they said, “Listen, he is calling for Elijah.” And someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, put it on a stick, and gave it to him to drink, saying, “Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to take him down.” Mark 15:35-36

 

This detail from Jesus’s last chaotic, awful moments reflects more than anything else the confusion of the “bystanders” witnessing the event. We are told that Jesus calls out “Eloi, Eloi…” (Aramaic, “My God, my God”), but those listening either hear or interpret this as beseeching Elijah, a prophet. Then they “run” and offer him a sponge with rancid wine to drink.

Are these his friends, or enemies? Do they seek to relieve his suffering, or further mock him? Are they acting in hope, or cynicism? Whatever the intent they do this, apparently, to see if this act, or his plea, will bring Elijah to his aid. All we know is that the next thing that happens is Jesus takes his last breath.

Today, thousands of years later, we are still struggling with the same confusion as those standing by as Jesus dies. As we stand at the foot of the cross what proofs do we seek? How do we hear his words? What struggles do we have about what is happening, our part in it, our doubts, our yearning, our hopes? We are still confused bystanders, staring aghast up at the cross, listening to the gasping of a dying Christ, offering insufficient comfort as we try to grasp what he is saying to us. As the body of Christ, we are still calling out to God.

In this step by step, day by day pilgrimage of Lent, we needn’t rush to the tomb because we are afraid. If scripture is clear about anything it is that we are asked to live these struggles as Christ’s body, just as he lived, and died in them so something new can be born.

 


God, what is it going to take for us to know that you are with us? How much will we cause you to suffer because loving each other as you love us is so hard? How long before we hear you? Amen.

 

The Rev. Christopher Bishop
Saint Martin’s, Radnor