Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Easter Day

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have died.

For since death came through a human being, the resurrection of the dead has also come through a human being;

for as all die in Adam, so all will be made alive in Christ.”

1 Corinthians 15:20-22

 

Appointed readings for today: Acts 10:34-43, Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24, John 20:1-18

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Holy Saturday

“So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.”

Matthew 27:66

Holy Saturday is traditionally a quiet day. The two days before, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, are days filled with rich, vivid liturgies that draw our hearts and minds to Jesus offering himself to his disciples in the bread and the wine, and then offering himself for all of creation on the cross.

Once we get to Saturday, though, things are quiet. The liturgy for Holy Saturday is short, very short. It may, in fact, be one of the shortest services in our prayerbook. We’re meant to sit in the quiet with the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene, and the other women and men who followed and listened and loved Jesus. We’re meant to call to mind that none of us escapes death, not even the Messiah. In the Orthodox Churches this day is called the Great Sabbath because it’s on this day that Jesus rested in the tomb.

We don’t do rest well in our homes, in our city, or in our world. We’re too busy, too active, too worried to ever completely rest. And that’s too bad, because it is only in resting, in stopping, in dying that we find our new life in Christ. As St. Augustine said in his Confessions, “Thou hast formed us for Thyself, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in Thee.”

Take some time today to stop and rest so that we may, as the collect for Holy Saturday says, “rise with [Jesus] to newness of life.”

The Rev. Andy Olivo

Appointed readings for today: Job 14:1-14, Psalm 31: 1-4, 15-16, Matthew 27:57-66

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Good Friday

Reflection

The woman said to Peter, “You are not also one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.”

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. They asked him, “You are not also one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” 26 One of the slaves of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” 27 Again Peter denied it, and at that moment the cock crowed.

John 18:17, 25-27

History. There it is: stark, sure, heavy with reality, freighted with consequence. Here in these verses part of Peter’s life is writ forever in time, never to be altered, never to disappear.

That truth could be the doom and damnation of all of us were it not for the equally durable and unchangeable fact of redemption, the strange and unreasonable truth of the capacity to build good and better lives on bad history.

The third chapter of Genesis records the startling and far reaching mutation of the history of God’s creation: we left the paradise of perfection for the mystery of morality. The mystery of choice, freedom, consequence, responsibility and redemption. We can’t undo history. It is gone. But it can be redeemed. Good can come out of it. What is ugly and despicable can be redeemed into honesty and the opportunity for new relationships.

It is on Good Friday when God’s hand seized evil and shaped it into ultimate good. It is an awesome alchemy by which God empowers us to make new lives out of failed efforts. It is what we understand from all those Gospel imperatives that summon us to the future: repent, believe, take up, come, and follow me.

Peter’s tears of sorrow will wonder of wonders, be made a fountain of new life. God will fashion out of this wreckage of denial a new life of grace and power. That is why we dare to call this Friday “good.”

The Rev. Dr. Luis León

Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 52:13-53:12, Psalm 22, John 18:1-19:42

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Maundy Thursday

A Hymn to God the Father

Wilt thou forgive that sin where I begun,

Which was my sin, though it were done before?

Wilt thou forgive that sin, through which I run,

And do run still, though still I do deplore?

When thou hast done, thou hast not done,

For I have more.

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I have won

Others to sin, and made my sin their door?

Wilt thou forgive that sin which I did shun

A year or two, but wallow’d in, a score?

When thou hast done, thou hast not done,

For I have more.

I have a sin of fear, that when I have spun

My last thread, I shall perish on the shore;

But swear by thyself, that at my death thy Son

Shall shine as he shines now, and heretofore;

And, having done that, thou hast done;

I fear no more.

John Donne

Every year, the Episcopal Church celebrates John Donne, Anglican priest, preacher, poet. His work is essential to any English class syllabus, but it was not always so. Donne’s remarkable poetry fell far from favor and was condemned as “inept and crude” until 20th-century greats like T.S. Eliot and William Butler Yeats championed it. What did they understand that for centuries others had not? That one could be elected dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, become a celebrated cleric (he preached before the king at court) and yet continue to nurture the imagination and artistry of a great poet—one with sharp wit, to boot.

We Episcopalians reawaken our relationship to John Donne during Lent. One of his poems, “A Hymn to God the Father,” was set to music and today is the first hymn—Hymn 140—in the Lent section of the Episcopal hymnal. Think of that placement as assigning Donne as our guide for a 40-day period of self-examination and contemplation. He’s not one to avoid hard truths, yet few can best the way he conveys confidence and delight in God’s unconditional love, often with a glint in his eye. Hymn 140 is such an example. Donne wrote the poem when he was about 50 and seriously ill. John Hilton, his contemporary, set it to music. (Note too the pun on “done”—how Donne pronounced his last name!)

Anonymous

Appointed readings for today: Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 116:1, 10-17, John 13:1-17, 31-35

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Wednesday in Holy Week

Letting Go

Nebuchadnezzar said to them, “Is it true, O Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, that you do not serve my gods and you do not worship the golden statue that I have set up? Now if you are ready when you hear the sound of the horn, pipe, lyre, trigon, harp, drum, and entire musical ensemble to fall down and worship the statue that I have made, well and good. But if you do not worship, you shall immediately be thrown into a furnace of blazing fire, and who is the god that will deliver you out of my hands?”

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego answered the king, “O Nebuchadnezzar, we have no need to present a defense to you in this matter. If our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire and out of your hand, O king, let him deliver us. But if not, be it known to you, O king, that we will not serve your gods and we will not worship the golden statue that you have set up.”

Then Nebuchadnezzar was so filled with rage against Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego that his face was distorted. He ordered the furnace heated up seven times more than was customary, and ordered some of the strongest guards in his army to bind Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego and to throw them into the furnace of blazing fire.

Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up quickly. He said to his counselors, “Was it not three men that we threw bound into the fire?” They answered the king, “True, O king.” He replied, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the middle of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the fourth has the appearance of a god.” Nebuchadnezzar then approached the door of the furnace of blazing fire and said, “Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, servants of the Most High God, come out! Come here!” So Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego came out from the fire. And the satraps, the prefects, the governors, and the king’s counselors gathered together and saw that the fire had not had any power over the bodies of those men; the hair of their heads was not singed, their tunics were not harmed, and not even the smell of fire came from them. Nebuchadnezzar said, “Blessed be the God of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, who has sent his angel and delivered his servants who trusted in him. They disobeyed the king’s command and yielded up their bodies rather than serve and worship any god except their own God.

Daniel 3:14–20,24–28

The story of the three young Hebrew men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, is one of remarkable faith. Threatened by Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar with death by fire if they would not deny their one true God by bowing down and worshiping the king’s huge golden image, they stood their ground. For that, they were thrown into the fire, but they survived completely unharmed. Neither was their hair singed, nor was there any smell of fire on them—a result completely outside the realm of human logic. Verse 18 tells us they weren’t even sure that their God would deliver them, and yet they trusted their lives to God and continued to deny Nebuchadnezzar. Though they did not know the outcome in advance, they trusted in God anyway. They gave up control over what would happen to them and let God manage. Hence the oft-heard modern dictum, “Let go and let God.” That’s hard to do. Complete trust in another is very hard, especially when it’s an entity one cannot see. We feel more secure and more worthwhile if we can manage everything ourselves, and that seems to work out pretty well as long as things are going good. But life can change quickly on anyone. Where is our trust when the going gets tough—or even when there are little bumps in the road?  Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego offer an example of trust to be esteemed—trust that can result in outcomes that are beyond our ability to imagine.

Let go and let God.

Bill Josey

Appointed readings for today:  Isaiah 50:4-9, Psalm 70, John 13:21-32

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Tuesday in Holy Week

The Lenten Fast

“Do not judge, so you may not be judged.”
Matthew 7:1

Lent is supposed to be a time for fasting, prayer, meditation and worship. I wonder how many Christians get much further than the fast. Like New Year’s resolutions, fasting is a simple, tangible discipline, easy to start, easy to give up. It takes much more effort to concentrate on the intangible practices of prayer and meditation. The obvious danger is that fasting is, of necessity, short term. If I give up red meat for the entire forty days of Lent and then eat cheeseburgers every day during Easter week, I haven’t accomplished a whole lot. The same is true if I give up chocolate, bread, sweets, or my standard—oatmeal-raisin cookies. My beltline and blood sugar may improve, but my heart and soul won’t notice any difference. By concentrating on the tangible, we allow ourselves to wiggle out of the more difficult task of caring for our souls. Lent is about the body, mind, and spirit, and each needs Lenten discipline.

A less visible danger of emphasizing the fast is the risk of becoming judgmental. We ask everyone what they are “giving up.” We watch family and friends like hawks to see if they are “keeping Lent,” ready to pounce when we catch them taking a drink or eating a piece of cake. If we are not careful, we become sanctimonious Pharisees, sure we’re the only ones who know what Lent is truly about.

That’s not to say the fast has no value. Just be sure your fast is an outward and visible reflection of an inward and spiritual grace gained through prayer and meditation, and not a judgment.

Webb Hubbell

Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 49:1-7, Psalm 71:1-14, John 12:20-36

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Monday in Holy Week

Get Rite with Lent

Now our feet are standing within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Psalm 122:2

Cyril of Jerusalem (b. 315) was the bishop credited with having organized and instituted much of the Palm Sunday and Holy Week liturgies we still practice. Consecrated in 349, Cyril lived in a city troubled by ecclesiastical disputes; he was banished and restored three times. Yet he prevailed in his dedication to teaching the faith through the ordered rhythm of annual rites and liturgies of Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem and ultimate walk to Golgotha.

In the mid-fourth century, as now, Jerusalem attracted many pilgrims, especially during Lent and Easter, who visited the holy sites and attended the teaching and liturgies. Among them was a nun from Galicia, Spain, named Egeria, who recorded Cyril’s pre-baptismal instruction and rites in detail. Her account helped spread the practice of the Jerusalem observance and is why we have them today.

What can we still learn from a fourth century teacher-bishop and an enthusiastic nun? First, nothing much has changed in the world: Jerusalem is still a city troubled by religious and political divisiveness, a microcosm of and metaphor for the church and the world. Second, the observance of Lent, Palm Sunday, and Holy Week has been an essential element of who we are as Christians since the fourth century. And, third, faith thrives when ordered by rite and regimen.

Public worship, like private prayer, is a cornerstone of who we are as Christians. Thanks be to God for the opportunity to re-enter the gates of Jerusalem each Sunday in Lent and throughout Holy Week.

Ben Hutto

Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 42:1-9, Psalm 36:5-11, John 12:1-11