Pathways through Lent

Our grief, Our hope, and Our Waiting

candlelightJob 19:21-27a

And so, we wait. Yesterday we mourned and tomorrow we celebrate, but today we wait.  God is strangely silent on Holy Saturday. In the midst of a week of the church’s most elaborate liturgies, our prayer book offers just a short liturgy of the word. We do not celebrate the Eucharist today. What more can be said? What more can we do? What is done is done.  The seeds of new life have been sown.  We have fed them with water and fertilizer through the practice of our Lenten disciplines. Perhaps we have been faithful in our spiritual disciplines during the past 40 days, or perhaps we have been more sporadic.  None of that matters now, because there is nothing we can or cannot do that will take away the gift of new life that is on the verge of bursting forth from an empty tomb. It is hard to be in this in-between place, teetering on the edge of the mystery of death turned into life. It is hard to wait for God to do God’s work, as we so often want to do the work ourselves.  It is tempting to continue the work of preparation, and of course, some preparation for tomorrow’s celebration must be done. But today, if you can, find a moment to rest and allow God to be with you wherever you are, whether it is in a place of grief or joyful anticipation.  Job is a good companion today, as he gives voice to the varied thoughts and feelings that may arise for us. Job laments, “All my intimate friends abhor me, and those whom I loved have turned against me.” Yet from his place of grief, Job has a vision: “For I know that my Redeemer lives, and that at the last day He will stand upon the earth.” God is with us today in our grief, our hope, and our waiting.

 –Sarah Taylor

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Pathways through Lent

Living in a Good Friday World

easter-good-friday

If we have died with him, we shall also live with him; if we endure, we shall also reign with him.

Good Friday service, Book of Common Prayer

Today, we observe the darkest day in the Church. It is a time to mourn Christ’s crucifixion and realize the cost of our betrayal. We are called to remember and accept our role, as humans, in His death. On Good Friday, we are exposed to our sin.  It is out there, obvious, ugly, and vulnerable. Good Friday is rock bottom, and in our own lives, we have plenty of rock bottom moments. Sometimes, they can last weeks or months. It is in these times that we learn a lot about ourselves, our priorities, and how to respond. Often, these responses define us. Will we react in love or anger; empowerment or indifference?

As part of Christ’s body, we are called to be more than a Good Friday people. Luis often says that, and I agree.  We are called to rise from rock bottom, to rise from our humanness – and it is through the acceptance of our sins, and Christ’s death for that sin, that we arrive to Easter Sunday. Truly, Good Friday and Easter Sunday are divinely connected. We cannot have one without the other: we experience Good Friday in the hope of living more fully as Easter Sunday people.  Just as the darkest moment is before the dawn, Christ must die to be raised.

-Sara McGanity

Pathways through Lent

Music and Worship

music“Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all the earth: make a loud noise, and rejoice, and sing praise.” -Psalm 98:4

It’s hard for me to think of a worship experience that doesn’t involve music. Perhaps I’m biased from years in the youth choir we used to have here and now as a member of the Parish Choir, but the two go hand in hand for me. Despite that history, I’ve never given much thought to why music seems to play such a important role.

Of course music’s role in Christianity has been shaped by earlier traditions and the buffeting winds of history, but I think that there’s an important connection that lies even deeper. Music is a bridge between the human and the divine precisely because it is so human. Whether you sing (even just in the shower), play an instrument, dance along, or simply enjoy the experience, music is written deep in a fundamental part of humanity.  Even if you’ve lost your sight, your hearing, or a limb, you can still be a part of the experience.

Music then stands as an accessible entry point to worship. It draws people in who might otherwise have some barrier to entry. It meets them in their homes if they can’t go out.  It reaches out through the streets to where they are.  It greets them at the threshold if they can’t come in. It is therefore reasonable to argue that music should be, as it is at St. John’s, a central part of the equation for any church that seeks to be open and welcoming.  After all, as Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “If I should ever die, God forbid, let this be my epitaph: The only proof he needed for the existence of God was music.”

-Katherine McClintic

 

Pathways through Lent

Gospel in a Nutshell

childrenIt is humbling to (attempt to) answer a child’s questions.  My son is four years old, which means on any given day he may ask “Why do people honk their horns?” or “Why does it snow?” Most of the time, I answer his questions.  Often times, I refer him to his father.  Rarely do I feel I knock it out of the park.

The other day, my son asked “Momma, do we all die?”  I paused briefly and answered honestly.  I replied “Everyone eventually dies, but you know what? If you believe in God, you live forever.”  I explained John 3:16:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

It was gospel in a nutshell, and it served me well at that moment.

I then reflected on another moment when I always recall John 3:16.  A friend of mine, who was 18 weeks pregnant, was given the devastating news that her unborn daughter had a fatal illness known as non-immune fetal hydrops. After meeting with dozens of doctors and praying for a medical miracle, my friend, her husband and family were given hope by a team of specialized medical professionals. Brianna Marie was born on March 16, 2012: we all joined together to pray for their daughter’s survival–after all she was born on 3:16!  After 15 hours, Brianna Marie was given everlasting life.  She lives on forever in God’s Kingdom and through the Brianna Marie Foundation.

After answering my son’s question and briefly reflecting and praying for Brianna Marie, we carried on with our day.  My son then asked “Momma, can I have a basketball hoop?” Much easier question this time.  My response, “Ask your father.”

-KayAnn Schoeneman