Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Easter Sunday

Alleluia.
Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us;
therefore let us keep the feast,
Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,
but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. Alleluia.

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again;
death no longer has dominion over him.
The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all;
but the life he lives, he lives to God.
So also consider yourselves dead to sin,
and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

Christ has been raised from the dead,
the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
For since by a man came death,
by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.
For as in Adam all die,
so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Alleluia.

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

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Holy Saturday

The readings for today remind us that our time on earth is finite. This, of course, we know.  The question is, do we live life with the spirit of this knowledge each day?

Our school community in Alexandria lost a good man, a true friend and a beloved teacher recently. At his memorial service, the minister assured us all of the only two real truths that exist: We are all going to die some day, and the only thing that really does matter is love. Our friend who just passed away confessed that he regretted not having written a book. The minister disagreed and told him that his book was written in and on the hearts and souls of the students he loved dearly. Love is tender.

One of my mentors is a gifted leader and humanitarian who taught me years ago the value of every day. I was part of a group of donors she had assembled to thank us for our contributions and to assure us that more than 90 cents of every dollar we gave to her organization would go directly to helping needy families and children. And then, just before we all started offering high fives around the room, she basically said, “See you tomorrow.”  In so many words, she made sure we all went to bed that night knowing that the next day would definitely bring hardships to many and we need to rise and give what we can today, tomorrow and the next day. Love is generous.

On my paternal grandmother’s side we are descendants of Pocahontas. Some historians suggest that her Christian name of “Rebecca” that she received when she was baptized was actually symbolic of Rebecca from the Book of Genesis, mother of Jacob and Esau, to represent her role as a “mother of two nations.”  Had it not been for Pocahontas’ love for her new friends and her willingness to sacrifice her life for others, the course of history may very well have been far different.  Love is brave.

I like to suggest to our kids to “put legs on” whatever thought or point they are making.  What does it look like?  How does it move?  What does it do?  How do we put legs on love?  Based on the important lessons taught by these three teachers, I think we must take time to love all those in our path with great tenderness.  We must love them every day and pour out all that we can to them in a generous way.  And we must be willing to sacrifice for those we love.  We must be brave.

Can your love change history or give birth to a nation?  Maybe.

Carrie Garland

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

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Good Friday

“For the Lord will not cast off for ever, but though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men.” Lamentations 3:31-33

The book of Lamentations was written to mourn and lament the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Babylonians.  The people of Jerusalem not only suffered from the loss of the center of their faith, Solomon’s Temple, but they were beseiged and enveloped by violence, terror, hunger, and many other unimaginable horrors, and eventually were exiled to a strange and foreign land. Lamentations gives voice to the entire range of pain and suffering that we experience on this earth.

Lamentations also expresses the confusing sentiment that although God causes grief, he doesn’t do so willingly. This is the question that we sit with today, on Good Friday.  Today we lament the death of Jesus, and it is worth asking: how could God allow his own son to be affixed to a cross, tortured, and killed? Yet we can also see that, as painful as it is, this moment is the moment of God’s deepest compassion for us, his children.  God does not willingly afflict or grieve the sons of men, but when we are afflicted and grieving, he stands with us in solidarity on the cross, suffering with us.

We must walk through Good Friday to stand in joy on Easter Sunday.  Each of us at some point in our lives walk through our own Good Friday moments. When that happens, may we turn to the Book of Lamentations, which gives voice to our own pain, and to God, who suffers with us.

Sarah Miller

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

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Maundy Thursday

I have heard that one of the most popular paintings in the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Art is Salvador Dali’s “The Sacrament of the Last Supper.” I can see why.

Dali is one of the most famous of the surrealistic painters. By his own admission, Dali referred to his style of painting as “hand painted dream photographs.” He is such an intriguing painter because his attention to meticulous detail is set within the context of fantasy. At once he is real and unreal. The conscious blends into the unconscious. The literal and the imaginative combine. Dali draws us into his works by realism and then takes us beyond the literal into the ethereal.

In his depiction of the Last Supper, the Twelve are all dressed in stylized, monastic clothing. They are kneeling devotionally, with each head bowed in perfect symmetry. At the center of the painting is Jesus. Dali makes us wonder: is this the Jesus of history, or the mystical Christ of faith? Are they wholly different or are they one and the same? Dali poses the same question with his depiction of the table. It can be seen as an ordinary dinner table, or it can be seen as an extension of the light that fills Jesus and the landscape. Is it the dinner table confined to an upper room some 2000 years ago in Jerusalem, or is it the sacred table over which Christ presides out of eternity forever?

St. Augustine once wrote, “faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of faith is to see what we believe.” I think that is the point Dali engenders in this painting.

The Holy Communion is both real and surreal. It begins in eternity, enters space and time in a definitive, historical way, and yet forever breaks through time into our world—wherever and whenever believers gather around the eternal table to “do this in remembrance of me.”

Luis León

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

Tomorrow, we enter the final three days of Lent, the Triduum of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday.  As the Passion narrative from Palm Sunday demonstrated, everything is about to turn on its head.  We’re on the verge, and tension is building.  Really, it’s been building for the past six weeks, and we’ve felt it as we’ve journeyed toward the cross; the weight of the season is heavy.

Now, more than ever, we’re called to put our Lenten practice to use.  It’s time to harness what we’ve learned and take it into the Easter season.  More simply, we must move on.  However, our journey doesn’t end simply because Lent does.  We continue on, better equipped, thanks to Lent.

By making time for self-examination, prayer, and fasting, by going back to the basics, by preparing, we’ve reaffirmed our faith during Lent; we’ve built new rituals.  Let us not lose these practices, but, rather, embrace them as routines that will bring continued value and strength.  Take Lent with you beyond the cross.

Sara McGanity

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

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Tuesday in Holy Week

Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,
from the grasp of those who are evil and cruel.
For you have been my hope, Sovereign Lord,
my confidence since my youth.
From birth I have relied on you;
you brought me forth from my mother’s womb.
I will ever praise you.
I have become a sign to many;
you are my strong refuge.
My mouth is filled with your praise,
declaring your splendor all day long.
Do not cast me away when I am old;
do not forsake me when my strength is gone.
Psalms 71:4-9

The verses of this psalm remind me of my favorite prayer, by my favorite theologian and public intellectual, Reinhold Niebuhr, whose writings I first came across in a third year political philosophy class at Trinity College, Dublin, taught by an American professor. I loved Niebuhr’s clear simple writing, and robust but pluralist views on international affairs.

Niebuhr was initially a social democrat, and later moved towards inclusive liberalism, but he was also a supporter of the “just war” theory, primarily because of Nazism and fascism, and an opponent of communism.

The Serenity Prayer, which has conclusively been proven in recent years to indeed have been authored by Niebuhr, I cite (below) in its fullest version. I say it to myself often several times a day when I am worried, hopeful, thoughtful. I say only the first verse, but the second is important too:

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference. Living one day at a time; enjoying one moment at a time; accepting hardships as the pathway to peace; taking, as He did, this sinful world.

As it is, not as I would have it; trusting that He will make all things right if I surrender to His will; so that I may be reasonably happy in this life and supremely happy with Him forever and ever in the next. Amen.

Michael H. C. McDowell

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

Pathways through Lent, Uncategorized

Monday in Holy Week

“Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
he will not falter or be discouraged
till he establishes justice on earth.
In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”
Isaiah 42:1

At Jesus’ baptism, a voice is heard, assuring those present that Jesus is the Son of God, in whom God is well pleased. This language evokes prophesy from deutero-Isaiah in which the prophet tells of a servant of God who is possessed of the spirit of God—meek and gentle, but also a bringer of inexorable justice. Within the quiet servant is a transformative power. This power is not held by a triumphant leader, nor is the transformation wrought from Heaven itself. It comes from a servant of God, whose cry will not be heard in the streets.

Sometimes I think I don’t always look for God in the right places: I seek out the grand, the big, the loud. But what this reading in Isaiah tells us is that it pays to listen to the barely audible. God’s love, righteousness, faithfulness, or judgment is not like the words of men or women; they are like the mighty mountain, or the great deep: ever-present, never calling attention to itself. If I can remember to be quiet, I can hear and see the goodness of God, and when I don’t blind myself, I can see light by the quiet light of God.

We can take our cue from Mary of Bethany. She cared for Jesus and his disciples, giving them food and shelter. Then, bearing witness to the Lord, she cared for Him when His hour of trial was almost at hand. Jesus knew she cared for those in need, and He knows when we do likewise. So let us look and listen for the call of servant with the spirit of God who is quietly transforming and renewing the world. God did not visit Elijah in the wind, the fire, or the earthquake, but in a sound of sheer silence.

Robert Gaffey

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