I’ve been reminded lately, by events in the world and events in the personal lives of those around me, that just because we are in Eastertide doesn’t mean that everyone is happily enjoying new growth and life! After the solemnness and introspection of Lent, and the drama and trauma of Holy Week, we were primed to get right into the celebration of resurrection at Easter. And yet, for some of us, the celebration comes harder some years than others. And sometimes during Eastertide we have an anti-climactic feeling, or it seems that the promised new life is slow in coming or might have passed us by entirely....
My latest and sixteenth great nephew or niece was born here in New York to my niece, Phoebe, and her husband, Mathias Mueller, on Easter Monday. They have given him the grand name, Otto Richard St John Mueller! He is surely destined for great things. But there is nothing quite like a new birth in Eastertide to bring home the wonder of new life and resurrection.
In a Peanuts comic strip, Charlie Brown is talking with Lucy as they walk home on the last day of school. Charlie Brown says to Lucy: “Lucy, I got straight A’s. Isn’t that great!” Lucy in her typical fashion shoots down poor Charlie Brown and says: I don’t believe you Charlie Brown. “Unless you show me your report card, I cannot believe you.” Can you relate to Lucy? Seeing is believing, isn’t it? Most people have to see something before they can believe it. I am sure we have all heard, “don’t believe everything that you hear and only half of what you see.” This is often how we described the apostle Thomas, but is this really accurate?... ...Jesus tells Thomas that he believed because he saw and was convinced. Maybe you have been caught in a downward spiral and things have been slipping in your spiritual life. Maybe you are just waiting for the chance to see some proof. Jesus is with us now by the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. He is here waiting for you to turn from your lack of focus and faith to proclaim Him as your Lord and your God. I do not know what it is that you need today but Jesus does. Just as He knew what Thomas needed so long ago. He knows today what you need and He is waiting to meet that need.
One of the most powerful experiences of my spiritual life was spending a month in Jerusalem and the Holy Land in 1993 undertaking a course, “The Bible and the Holy Land,” at St George’s College in Jerusalem. During that time, we visited many ancient sites throughout the region. But at its heart were the holy sites in Jerusalem itself associated with the events of Holy Week. As a modern pilgrim visiting ancient sites which have often been built over again and again you have to use your imagination while noting the archeological clues. But for me the most memorable experience of the course was walking the Via Dolorosa, the Way of the Cross, with 25 members of the class, carrying a large wooden cross.....This cross, this instrument of cruel death had become paradoxically the sign of healing, of reconciliation between God and humankind, a sign of new life and hope. From feeling unworthy to carry the cross, I felt humbled and then deeply honored to carry the cross of Jesus. After walking for over an hour and a half we wended out way up the Via Dolorosa to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where we completed our walk and our devotions. We walked back to the College in silence, deep in our own thoughts.
A few weeks ago I wrote about the Lenten practice of Stations of the Cross, which grew out of the pilgrimages early Christians took to Jerusalem to walk in Jesus’ footsteps in his last days. Much of what we know about this kind of pilgrimage comes from a journal kept by a Spanish nun named Egeria (or Etheria or Aetheria) who traveled to Jerusalem in the fourth century (sometime in the 380s). The nun wrote of her experiences for a group of nuns and other women back home, and it is the earliest such account that we have.... ...I find it so moving that when we have our own Palm Sunday procession with palms, we are not only walking in the footsteps of those who witnessed Jesus’ entry in to Jerusalem, but also of countless pilgrims like Egeria. To be sure, their procession and worship lasted all day, and so was a bit more immersive than our circling our sanctuary; nevertheless, we are taking part in a very ancient remembrance. The ancient liturgies continue as we move through Holy Week, following Jesus in his last days. Why not make a point to join us, and the myriad pilgrims who have gone before?
We are in the midst of a transitional time in terms of the seasons: Winter is transitioning into Spring with all its equinoctial storms, gales, and general unsettled weather. We say: "Winter one day; Spring the next." It has little to do with climate change (amazing how all weather seems to be blamed on that these days!) but is part of well-established weather patterns. If you don't believe me just look around you at what is happening in nature: the forsythias and crocuses are in flower; the trees and shrubs are budding; even the birds are singing. Nature has its way! It is not surprising that our church year is built in part around what is happening in nature. In the deep mid-winter we celebrated the 3 seasons of light: Christmas; Epiphany and Candlemas. The current season of Lent with its more sober spirit reflecting the rather dreary weather leads into all the riotous joyfulness of Easter and Spring. These particular transitions are familiar to us.
What was the best gift you have ever received? We might have a lot of different ideas about what makes a great gift, but think about it for a moment, what was the greatest gift ever given. Think about a beautifully wrapped package. As you can probably guess by the way it is wrapped, there is a gift inside. Everyone likes to receive a gift. I can’t imagine anyone saying that they don’t enjoy receiving a gift. If someone were to give a package to you and you were asked, give me five dollars, would it be a gift? No, if you to pay for it or do something to receive it, it isn’t a gift. When someone gives you a gift, it doesn’t cost you anything. It doesn’t come with any conditions. All you have to do is accept it. That’s what makes it a gift.... ...What is that gift? It is the gift of eternal life. It is the gift of God and it was given to anyone who wants to receive it. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Whoever –that’s you and I. The greatest gift of all is for you and me.
Bp Mary Glasspool, Assisting Bishop in the Diocese of New York, recently wrote a meditation about the Lenten Practice of Stations of the Cross. As you may know, the devotion developed out of the practice of early Christians who wanted to literally walk in the footsteps of Jesus as he journeyed in his last hours to the cross.....
Tomorrow happens to be the Feast of St. Matthias, the apostle chosen to replace the traitor Judas. You can read the account of the search process and outcome in Acts 1: 15-26. With the death of Judas by his own hand it was seen as important to maintain the 12-fold Apostolic leadership as founded by Jesus. In terms of qualifications it was deemed that a person who had known Jesus throughout his earthly ministry should “become with us a witness to his resurrection.” That is not a bad description of what Christian ministry is all about. We are all called by our baptism to be “witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus.”
As a child I was always fascinated by my maternal grandmother’s rather ostentatious observance of Lent. She would make sure that we all knew that she had given up sugar in her many cups of tea for Lent! Even as a boy I found this somewhat amusing and questioned whether it had much to do with God. There is nothing wrong with the practices of self-denial and of abstinence from certain foods or alcohol or other activities during Lent....