Sunday, April 29, 2007

Follow the Shepherd into love

“So. You're minding your own business, filling up your gas tank, when your cell phone rings. Hmmm. Should you answer it? Because you've heard you shouldn't use cell phones near gas stations since they can produce small sparks that can ignite big fires.

But wait. Could that actually be true? Sounds like a job for MythBusters! It's a tough job separating truth from urban legend, but the MythBusters are here to serve.

Each week special-effects experts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman take on three myths and use modern-day science to show you what's real and what's fiction.”

This summary from the Myth Busters webpage gives a great description of one of my favorite TV shows. My entire family enjoys watching this show and seeing what goofy thing they are going to prove or disprove next. Over the last week, while I attended CREDO I found myself engaged in a deep conversation with a room full of priests, and we were all discussing Myth Busters. Seems it is a favorite around the country with me and my colleagues.

And I bring it up this morning because there is a lot of stuff written and thought about the Book of Revelation that is simply not an accurate portrayal of this beautiful book of scripture.

True, this book is very difficult to understand. The language is symbolic and intentionally oblique. The author, some unknown person named John, (not the Gospel writer, nor the author of the Epistles of John, but another John) wrote The Book of Revelation sometime between the years 92 and 96 AD. Revelation was written during a time of great persecution of Christians in Asia Minor.

This book of scripture is in the genre of apocalyptic literature. It is similar to the book of Ezekiel, Daniel, and 1 Enoch. Apocalyptic writings in our scripture have been misconstrued by other modern day writers. These books are not predicting the future. Rather they are dealing with some current issue at the time it was written.

In Revelation the story is about the persecution of Christians by the Roman Emperor Domitian. The image of the “Beast” in Revelation refers to Domitian and his Roman soldiers who captured and killed Christians.The Roman Officials were arresting and killing Christians in large numbers because, as a general rule, the Christians refused to worship the Emperor.

It was customary in those days to worship the Emperor as if he were a God. For many centuries, up until most recent times, it was believed that people of royalty, kings and queens, and Roman Emperors were divine, made of the same stuff of God.

It’s where we get so much of our language for Jesus as King.

But ancient Christians, who in baptism have given their lives to Jesus were not about to betray him by worshiping the Roman Emperor. So, when discovered, the Roman Officials arrested and killed Christians as traitors.

Therefore the author of Revelation did not want the average Roman to understand what was really being said. It is a book written for the marginalized and persecuted under class, Christians. So, it was written in secret code. Only those “in the know,” the Christians in his community, would have the key to understand this book. Roman citizens, who were the dominant culture of the day, would not understand it. It might be like someone today writing in Hip Hop which the average American would not understand.

“Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!’ And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures…”

…thrones, and lambs, white robed elders, made white in the blood of the lamb…images of myths. Like other apocalyptic writings of the times, Revelation is almost absurd in the richness of its images and the drama of its text. Its grandeur and drama are a powerful reflection of the suffering experienced.

There is a potency to suffering. All humans experience suffering – emotionally, physically, and or spiritually… I wonder, though, if we are becoming numb to our suffering and the suffering of others in the world. On television and in movies and photographs in the newspaper overwhelm our senses with images of violence. After awhile these images lose their power over us, they become normal.And soon we don’t even see them anymore. Like a sign you drive by every day that blurs into the landscape.

I wonder if violence and suffering are just blurring into our overall view of life and the world.

I hope the narrative stories of real people and their suffering remain powerful;

So that we can be moved by them, So that we can become vehicles of change working to end suffering and violence in our world. We arrest teenagers for writing violent stories. But we do nothing about the environment they are exposed too; nothing about gun control for automatic weapons, nothing about the violence on TV or the movie theater…

Some contemporary books and movies are returning to the apocalyptic genre. Some of them use themes and imagery from the Book of Revelation. But often these books these distort the beauty of the Book of Revelation.Yes, the Book of Revelation uses mythic imagery to tell its story. It is a book about pain and suffering and violence.

But that pain and suffering and violence is inflicted by humans onto other humans.
It’s a story about how awful we can be to one another.

To this day, people around the world who suffer are able to understand and find comfort in the book of Revelation.

The language is intentionally obscure because the writer wanted to protect the Christians and prevent the Romans from understanding what the book was about –

the salvation found in Jesus.

The intent of the Book of Revelation is to encourage and support Christians during times of great tragedy and difficulty.

The worship service in the red Book of Common Prayer specifies particular readings for funerals, several of them coming from the Book of Revelation.

“They will hunger no more, and thirst no more; the sun will not strike them nor any scorching heat; for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and he will guide them to springs of the water of life, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”

Primarily it is a story of how God meets us in the chaos, the suffering, and the tragedy of our lives. God meets us in those dark places and walks with us, journeys with us to a better place.The grace of this book is its ability to offer tremendous comfort to suffering people.

Although it is written in code, people around the world, people over the centuries, who experience persecution get it. The language is beautiful poetry. The words assure the grieving of God’s great love for all humanity. They remind us that we are not fully in charge of our lives.

People make decisions, for good or for evil, that affect the lives of others.

People fly planes into buildings.

People take over cities and countries and destroy lives in the name of justice.

People make and hord huge sums of money failing to share or even care for those who have so little.

Revelation is not a story of prophecy. This is not a story of predicting the future. Although apocalyptic literature in the bible deals with “end times” they refer to the end of the time of suffering, The end of the world as we know it, of violence and greed and abuse of power. Revelation points to a new era, one grounded in God, centered in the divine.

The Book of Revelation is story of love.

The great multitude named in Revelation points to people of all nations, all people. God is with all of us. With all of us to hold us up. To sustain us. To guide us. To love us.

We are made pure in the blood of Christ, shed in the pouring out of God’s love for us.

God who lived as one of us. God who died as one of us. God who understands the pains and sorrows and joys of life.

In this deep love God saves us from ourselves.

God saves us by offering us a vision of God’s love poured out in Jesus. Saves us by showing us the way to follow God’s love. Saves us by leading us away from our narrow view of life, away from power and control and violence and selfishness.

All we have to do is turn our hearts and minds toward the love of God
And strive to love others as God loves us.

In the Book of Revelation we have a view of heaven – of the profound love God has for us. Heaven, perhaps the only place where there are no tears.

And in the real “myth”, which is the revelation, we come to know the greatest truth of all, for “the one seated on the throne will shelter them.”

The love of God is a gift freely given to all to lead us out of suffering into new life.

Like sheep, following their shepherd, let us hear the voice of God calling us to love.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

God's Plan: Prayer

As I was reviewing the readings for today, I thought I saw clearly the common thread that brings them together - a sure fire sign of what lessons I should concentrate on up here this morning.

It was the seeing and recognizing: Saul, having, losing, and then regaining his sight. The disciples - seeing Jesus on the shore, and yet, once again, not recognizing who he was.

Both had their eyes opened by God, and were led to carry on God’s work and word.

I figured there had to be something there that would speak to me, to all of us. Well - there probably is, but I didn‘t figure that out in time!

What I did figure out, however, was another common thread, that not only runs through some of our readings, but the events of this past week, as well.

And, I feel I would be remiss not to recognize an event so painful, so needing of our thoughts and prayers, for so many.

First, we have Saul - out of the blue, blinded by the brilliant light of God. Second, we have Ananias, a disciple of God, chosen to risk his own safety to bring God’s healing to someone who is in desperate need.

Third, we have the disciples, fishing in their boat, trying to catch some breakfast. And lastly, we have students, parents, teachers, friends, and family changed forever by the tragedy in Virginia.

I can only imagine that they all were faced with the following emotions : fear, uncertainty, anger, and frustration.

Saul, suddenly losing his sight, fearful of what would happen to him, not knowing how long he would be without sight, uncertain if it would ever return.

Angry and frustrated : well, let me ask you, have any of you ever stubbed your foot on the leg of the bed, trying to make your way back to bed, in the darkest of the night, after going to the bathroom ? I have - anger and frustration is only the tip of that iceberg.
Ananias - fearful to approach Saul because of his past persecution of disciples of Jesus. Uncertain if he would be arrested as well. Angry and frustrated that God pushes him to do as he is told.

The disciples - fearful: Jesus was dead, now alive, but not as before. Uncertain as to the work they are to do now, will Jesus stay or leave again - will they continue to be persecuted and pursued ? Will they ever catch anything to eat, or will they go hungry ?

Angry and frustrated by the past events - Jesus’ brutal death on the cross, Jesus coming and going, being left alone without a teacher and leader, not knowing what their future brings, and all on an empty stomach.

The students and teachers in Virginia - I think it’s easy to imagine their fear and uncertainty, with death or injury looking them directly in the eye. Perhaps watching friends or teachers murdered, wondering if they’ll be next.

And I’m sure we can also relate to the anger and frustration that is beginning to surface,

regarding security and emergency message systems to alert those on campus, or lack thereof.

New findings of potential warning signs that went unnoticed or ignored.

Fear, uncertainty, anger, frustration - evident in our readings, our world, and perhaps, our own church family. We here at St. Hilary’s face uncertain times.

Our records indicate that our numbers are not growing as we‘d like, our financial resources becoming limited.

And, we are not alone - churches all over the diocese are experiencing many of the same trends.

Many of us, I’m sure, are fearful of what our future holds. We are uncertain how long we can sustain a parish without new members, and with such a small treasure chest.

Many are probably angry and very frustrated that for all of our efforts - our numbers haven’t really changed.

Frustrated, also, that we have had many visitors that have come, even for a number of weeks or months, only to suddenly stop coming and leaving us to wonder what we didn‘t offer them.

For Saul, Ananias, and the disciples - they were fortunate to discover God’s plans for them without too long a wait.

Saul had his sight restored after 3 days, Ananias’ healing was welcomed and no arrests were made - in fact he was witness to Saul’s conversion - what a gift !

The disciples did as they were told, were greatly rewarded with a tremendous catch, the recognition that Jesus was again among them, and breakfast to boot.

I would never begin to try to interpret what God’s plans are for the victims of Monday’s tragedy.

Likewise, I wouldn’t presume to know what God’s plans for us are either. It may be awhile before we know what our future holds.

However, in all of these situations, God was present. None faced their fear, uncertainty, anger, and frustration alone.

Even one of the victims wounded in Virginia said he saw both Satan and God at work during all of the bloodshed.

And, God is with us as well. Holding us, giving us strength, answering our prayers - perhaps not in the way we’d like or in the way we believe to be best - but answering them all the same.

During their convocation ceremony on Tuesday, I heard various people speak of great evil, tremendous grief and suffering,

but also of courage, strength, and good coming from something so horrible.

Many calls were made for all of us to rally together for support, for comfort, and to do what is necessary to make sure that good triumphs over evil.

And, we were all asked to pray - for victims, for survivors, for family and friends in mourning,

and, for the one who committed such a heinous act and for his family as well.

Now, just as in Virginia, I ask that we rally together for support, for comfort, for strength,

for new ideas, and to make sure that we continue the good work that we do for each other and the outreach ministries we support.

St. Hilary’s is a tremendous family - I truly believe we care about each other greatly - it is our strongest virtue.

I believe we have a lot to offer anyone that comes through our doors - no matter how long they stay.

I ask that we all continue our great gift of hospitality, and never stop thinking of new ways to greet the world

and spread God’s word and love to those around us who need it the most.

And, finally, I ask that we continue to pray ! Pray in thanksgiving for all of our blessings,

pray for our family and friends who are safe and healthy, pray for those who aren’t,

pray for our community that it continues to be a safe place to raise our families,

pray for patience and guidance for whatever monkey wrench Life throws into our lives.

And pray for all of us - near and far - who wait for a clue as to what the future may bring !

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Struggle, Hope, Transformation

“When it was evening that day, the first day of the week the doors of the house where the disciples met were locked for fear...”

As this gospel reading begins we are in the evening of last Sunday, Easter Day. Jesus first appears to the disciples that very night. And he finds them hiding in fear.

Of course they have lots to be afraid of. Their friend and leader, Jesus, has just been crucified. Who knows, they could be next. The Romans may be looking for them!

On top of that they’ve heard that Jesus is missing. His body is not in the tomb. The women said he is alive! How could this be? Is Jesus now a ghost come to haunt them? If so, this is a problem; they are all guilty of denying him in his greatest hour of need. Who knows what the ghost/Jesus might do to them….

This is probably the worst day of their lives. Granted it was pretty awful when Jesus was captured and killed. But now, for the disciples, this day is even worse. They ran away and abandoned their friend, they are going to be held accountable. How do you say, “I’m sorry,” for something like this?

So, the disciples are hiding…fear-filled…a tremendous anxiety. The awful struggle to move through the last three days - and now this – what a horrible day.

All over the news this week we’ve heard about the hurtful remarks of Don Imus and the women’s basketball team from Rutger’s. This has been a troubling week in our society as we face the reality of prejudice and hurt. The suffering of these women, robbed of the joy of their successful year. The suffering of Imus who is living the consequences of his actions. He’s not getting away with it this time, and it must feel terribly humiliating. I don’t know Imus, I suppose he could stand defensive against this and not feel bad, but most of us would feel deeply ashamed if we were he.

Take a moment and think of your greatest struggle. Think of the time when you felt you hit your lowest of lows. When just getting out of bed in the morning was all you could manage, if you even managed that. How did it feel? You needn’t share the situation, but can you share the feelings?
Several years ago Joan Chittister spoke on the subject of suffering at a conference at Chautauqua in New York State. She is a renowned Benedictine nun, an author (35 books) and an international lecturer on topics concerning women, the poor, peace and justice, and contemporary issues in church and society.
She titled her presentation at Chautauqua: “Scarred by Struggle, Transformed by Hope, the 9 Gifts of Suffering”.

The premise is that all people suffer. Each of us has as the one common denominator in life, times of suffering. They come she says, just when we think life is perfect. Wham. Everything changes. Someone dies. Someone get sick. Depression hits. A job is lost. The list could continue on. We all suffer when life changes dramatically for unexpected reasons when we least expect it. These struggles are not just some mere inconvenience. These struggles are irreparable change. Life will never be the same again.

And the point is, how do we go about living through these times of great suffering with out giving up the soul?

She lists 9 struggles and the gift that comes from the struggle. By gift she means what we learn about ourselves, our lives, our faith, by living through the struggle.

The first struggle is change. Struggle brings unwanted change. The disciples have faced an unbelievable change: Jesus has been crucified. From this place of profound change comes the gift of conversion, we learn to recreate ourselves. For the disciples this struggle began with them running away but led to the resurrection. Throughout the Easter season, for the next seven weeks, we will hear resurrection stories in our Gospel. On Pentecost we learn that these stories led to a conversion of strength and courage in the disciples. It was the disciples new found strength, enlivened by the Holy Spirit, that built the Church. And from the early church came a legacy of human transformation that has lived over 2000 years.

The second is isolation. The struggle leaves us feeling alone, and in deep pain. The disciples are hiding in the room with the doors locked. They are hiding in fear. From isolation comes the gift of independence. Actively working to move through our suffering days leads us to a place where we can become independent from our pain, we learn to insist on living despite the pain. Anyone who has lived with a chronic illness or suffered for a long time knows this reality. Buddhists call this “mindfulness” having an observing eye, able to look with some detachment at the circumstances of one’s life even as one lives and feels life fully.

The third is darkness and its gift is faith. In the darkness of losing everything we come to believe in a life beyond the life we know, something greater than we are is acting in the world. On our darkest days it’s that something that gets us up in the morning. God stays with us in these dark moments. We are not abandoned. Jesus returns to the disciples, finds them in their darkest moment, in this room, and assures them that they are not alone. He is with them always. “My peace I give to you. My peace I leave with you.” Jesus is not a ghost out to haunt them. He is the resurrection, bearing in his body the reality of God’s love. His body bears the marks of his tragic death and with those marks of suffering he is a new person. He is the fullness of God’s love, poured out for all humanity. He loves the disciples just as they are at this very moment. He loves the disciples even knowing they abandoned him. This story assures us that God’s love for us is ever present, there in our darkest moments.

Forth is fear. In our struggle we face things we do not understand and cannot name. We are paralyzed by our unknowing, but in moving through the fear we come to know the gift of courage. Every tiny act of courage: getting out of bed in the morning. Going to work each day. Seeking help. Each step we take to move through the fear produces in us a little bit of courage. Each little step puts us back in control of our lives, even if on a small scale.

Fifth is powerlessness and its gift of surrender. When we move through struggle, eventually a healthy response means we give into the struggle. We give in because we know that someone is there to help us. It is not defensive. And it is not a giving over of the self. It is not an absence of self. However, it is the realization that we are not in control of everything. This surrender is trusting that someone greater than we are is there to hold us up and keep us going. For Christians this is clearly the message of God’s love poured out in Christ. We sing, Christ beneath us, Christ above us, Christ behind us, Christ before us…where ever we go Christ is there.

Sixth is vulnerability and its gift of self acceptance. In moving through the struggle we come to a place where we have to admit that we are wounded. We need to accept our own weaknesses. Especially the way we hurt others. Here, in this place of vulnerability is where Don Imus can chance, where we can change, where the disciples changed. And in this case our weakness becomes our strength. We are able to accept ourselves for being who are. This becomes a position of humility and grace. We know that God loves us in our brokenness, just as we are. Being loved like this by a gracious God enables us to love others just as they are.

Seventh is exhaustion – moving through struggle wears us out. But the gift of moving through struggle, of living though the exhaustion, the gift is endurance. We learn that life begins again. Endurance brings us hope.

Eighth is scarring. We cannot move through struggle without becoming scarred. Our woundedness leaves marks on us. These marks can make us bitter. Or they can make us better. We can become better people through our struggles. The very process of moving through the struggle, of becoming scarred, is the same process that makes us better people. Our woundedness, our scars, become the source of our compassion. We wear our scars gracefully when we have compassion for others.

Jesus is marked. He appears in the room and shows these marks to the disciples. It is a sign to them that he is who he is. He is their friend. He is Jesus. He loves them just as they are. He has come to help them move through their deepest struggle. He has come again to help them be more fully who they are meant to be. The gift of scarring is hope.

We cannot go through the struggles of this life and remain the same.

We can become bitter. That is one kind of change that can come from struggle.

But we can also be transformed into a new person. Jesus, in his resurrected body, with the marks of his crucifixion still very visible, is transformed into a new life. Jesus, though scarred is now more whole, more fully who he is as the divine son of God. He is now able to be fully present to all of his disciples, and all of us, all the time. In the resurrection Jesus becomes the bridge for us between the divine world of God’s love and the human world of suffering. Jesus offers us a way, a path, a means, for moving through the struggles of life. This is the peace of Christ.

“Jesus came and stood among them and said. ‘Peace be with you.’”

Sunday, April 8, 2007

Easter Year C 2007: Is it Just an Idle Tale?

The darkness of Good Friday has passed. The pain, denial, rejection, and suffering, of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is over.

The tomb is split open and Jesus is on the move again.

In this parish we symbolize the signs of the resurrection in a variety of ways. Most prominent are the flowers in glorious array.

Gone is the simplicity of Lent, the barren features of our worship space and the ordinary glass chalices. Gone is the hearty rye bread and the dry burgundy wine.

In its place we have our finest silver, and a light white bread with a sweet wine.

What remains are the rocks from our prayer cairns, now filled with green vines.

And this chest….

All of Lent this chest has been closed and locked, holding within it the “Allelulia’s” our children created. Then, with the celebration of Easter the chest is burst open, the Allelulia’s are released, the chest falls to its side; eggs pouring out.

The chest represents for us the tomb where Jesus was buried.

The tomb; the shadow side of life: evil, darkness, and death, symbolized for us in this chest as the tomb of Jesus, where people attempted to lock away God’s love.

As if that effort could ever contain God.

As if we humans can ever stop God from doing God’s work in the world.

Celebrating Holy Week, worshiping though the three services of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and The Great Vigil remind us of human failure and God’s triumph.

Failure because of humanity’s efforts to confine and limit God. We confine and limit God whenever we ignore or hurt others: through the words we say, the actions we take or don’t take.

The crucifixion is the ultimate effort to stop God’s love. But, God will not be contained by human sin.

The Resurrection assures us that God will prevail and God’s love will fill our lives and fill this world, we cannot stop it…though we try.

Easter eggs, which pour out of this chest, are a primary sign of Easter. They come from a very long, ancient custom; eggs were a symbol of new life all around the ancient world.

Decorated eggs come from an ancient Persian custom for celebrating the New Year, which falls on the Spring Equinox of March 20th. Persians, people from Iran, still celebrate this New Year with decorated eggs.

The ancient Hebrews, who lived under Persian rule for many years, adopted the use of eggs as a symbol of new life and incorporated them into the Passover seder meal, a symbol of God doing a new thing by freeing God’s people.

And the ancient Romans used eggs as a part of their spring celebrations of new life.

Eggs and rabbits are both ancient symbols of fertility.

There is even a story about Mary Magdalene and eggs. Mary is one of the most faithful disciples. Unlike the other disciples she stays with Jesus to the end. Our Gospel stories tell us that she was at the cross, stayed with Jesus even as he died. And then later she went to the tomb to anoint the body. It was Mary who discovered, on Easter Day, that Jesus was missing. It was Mary who ran to tell the rest of the disciples that Jesus was on the move again.

The story tells us that at one point Mary went to Rome to see the Emperor Tiberius. She took with her an egg and began to tell the Emperor about the resurrection. He responded by saying that the resurrection was as likely to have happened as if the egg she held could turn red.

At which point the egg in her hand promptly turned red.

The Romans would have readily understood the egg as something that brings forth life from a sealed chamber.

The egg quickly came to represent the tomb that held Jesus’ body, and the color red symbolized the spilling of his blood. The Greek Orthodox believe that the color red also has protective power.
However, other colors commonly used today came gradually into use. Tan or ivory shades symbolized the fine linen cloth in which Jesus was bound before being placed in the grave. Green was used for the fresh vegetation of springtime. Blue represented the sky in all of its glory, and purple was used to represent the Passion of Jesus crucified.
Gathered together, all the many eggs of varied hues represent the glorious springtime in which Christians unite to rejoice at the Resurrection of Life.
As the people in the Orthodox Church gather after the Easter services, eggs are blessed and given to all. The worshipers then go about greeting one another with "Christ is Risen!", and hitting their eggs together, cracking them open.
The cracking of the red eggs among the Orthodox symbolizes a mutual prayer for breaking the bonds of sins and misery and for entering the new life which comes from the resurrection of Jesus.
None of the eggs should remain unbroken. Breaking the eggs emphasizes that Christ has conquered death and is risen, granting New Life to all. After cracking, the eggs are eaten, symbolizing the end of the Lenten fast.
Today, in the Christian Church of the western world, we use Easter eggs in all kinds of ways, but often without the conscious meaning used in the Orthodox tradition.

We hard boil eggs and decorate them with colored dye and stickers. Perhaps the Easter Bunny hides these eggs around the house for the children to find in the morning. Some people blow out the inside of the egg and paint the shells in very fancy patterns. Often we use plastic eggs filled with candy treats.

Today after our service we will have an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids, eggs filled with sweet treats. And I think it is helpful to know that this tradition is not just some modern Easter game, but one that is grounded in ancient customs symbolizing new life.

As Christians we interpret this custom of Spring and new life through the resurrection of Jesus. After the tragedy of the crucifixion of Jesus, who was abandoned by most of his friends and left to die a horrible death on the cross, something new was experienced by the people of the early church. Somehow, in someway, Jesus was present to them once again. But this presence of Jesus was not like a ghost…not some vague figment of what was once the person of Jesus. Nor was it a healed and cured Jesus, as if the crucifixion had never happened.

The resurrected Jesus comes to the people as one who is both dead and alive, he bears the marks of his death on his hands and his feet. But he also lives in a new way. He does not need to open doors. He is just there, present to all people in new ways. His being contains the marks of his suffering and the reality of his new life.

It can be a challenge to some modern people to take these ancient traditions of our Christian faith and understand them. How do we come to trust in the resurrection as a reality in our lives? Where is the truth in the resurrection and how can it be meaningful for us?

I think each of us lives with experiences of tragedy and suffering.

There are seasons in life where we struggle and wonder if life will ever feel right again. A song from Indigo Girls says, “It’s been a warm winter but a cold spring. Everything feels wrong to me…” In seasons of suffering, everything feels wrong.

No one is exempt from times like these.But over time, over a life time, we are often able to see that these times of suffering eventually leave and our lives settle down.

At our best we are able to see how the suffering actually makes us better people, gives us character. Like the wounds of Jesus, we carry the marks of our suffering.

True, sometimes these marks make people bitter.

However, when we work through the struggle and the suffering, the effort makes us better, more whole.Wholeness includes the suffering and the wellness…

Only from experiencing suffering can we develop a sense of empathy for the suffering of others.

Our Christian story helps us understand the seasons of life in order to make meaning out of such events and circumstances. For many of us, we are richer deeper people because we have suffered. It is from that place of common suffering that we are able embrace the thread of human life, to show compassion and love for others, because we have all suffered. As Christians, it is from this place of suffering and in our experience of being healed, renewed, and restored to a better life, that helps us grasp just a hint of the resurrection.

God comes to us as a human.

In the person of Christ God learns what it means to live this life,

to love,

to suffer,

to grieve

and to die.

In taking on human form God says that God accepts humans, each one of us, just as we are. And as a Christian people this place of profound acceptance becomes the place where we are able to welcome others, in their anger or fear or pain, and love them for being who they are, who we are, flawed, fully human, whole….

For just as God loves us as we are so too are we to love others, just as they are.

The resurrection is a sure and certain sign that God is with us.

In the midst of our darkest days God holds us up. Its how we get out of bed in the morning and put on foot in front of the other. Into the chaos of our broken lives God sustains us.

Or at the very least, the hope of God sustains us….

From the shattered hopes and dreams God scoops in and begins to help us sort life out, creating a new sense of order, a new sense of life, a new direction.

In the resurrection we have Jesus risen from the dead,

healed, made new,

alive once again,

and yet carrying the clear and visible signs of the tragedy of the crucifixion.

Our lives, made new in the resurrection,

are healed,

not because our suffering and tragedies disappear,

rather those experiences live in us.

And we are better people for them

More compassionate. More humane. More real.

The miracle is that in being loved and in loving we are transformed, made new in a whole new way.

Our Gospel reading tells us that when Mary told the other disciples about the resurrection they thought it was an idle tale…

So, our question today,

in the year ahead,

will the Resurrection be for you just an idle tale???

Or will you bring the Resurrection alive in the way you love God, love self, and love others?

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Stations of the Cross: Palms to Passion Sunday

In place of the usual Passion Play reading from the Gospel, and instead of a sermon, this Sunday our parish "Walked the Stations of the Cross." These stations were created by the children of the parish. They wrote the Reflections and Prayers and created all the art work. The "walk" moved through out the church building, from office spaces to hallways, the chapel, the worship space, and classrooms.Please walk with us the stations in this holiest of weeks of the Christian year.

Station 1

Jesus was alone. He was condemned by those around him. He went through many trials. He was beaten and was to be put to death. They started to the place where Jesus was to be crucified.

Dear Jesus,
We know you were alone. We know you will be put to death even though you haven’t done anything wrong. Please help me to remember this tough time for you. Help me think of you when I judge others or they judge me. And when I have hard times I think of you. Thank you for doing all that you did to save everyone. In your name I pray. Amen

Station 2

People want to crucify Jesus. Pontius Pilate doesn’t want to crucify him. He tried everything that his mind told him to do to change the crowd’s mind but nothing works. He washed his hand in front of the people saying “This is a righteous boy”. He gives Jesus to the men to be crucified.

Dear God,
Jesus carries his cross. He knows it isn’t easy but he carried it the same. I get unhappy with the troubles that I have. I get upset when people tell me to do things for them. I do not want to take my cross. Give me the strength to take my cross as you did, loving God. Help us to see God in all places. God took his cross with no complaint. When I’m tempted to complain help me recognize Jesus and the cross he takes for me.
This I asked Christ our Lord. Amen.

Station 3

They leave the city. Jesus is struggling. He falls. The soldiers lift him up. Jesus keeps going.

Dear Jesus,
You had a heavy burden carrying the cross. But you never gave up. You kept going. You fell but you got up. You were persistent and never quit. Help me to be persistent and never stop trying at stuff I want or need. Help me to trust in you to help me get through tough times. In your name I pray. Amen.

Station 4

At this station Jesus meets his mother. Mary is sad because Jesus is going to die on the cross and Mary knows it. She will miss her child.

Dear God,
Help us know Jesus died on the cross for us. Help us to remember that Jesus loves us like a mother. Amen

Station 5

At this station Simon helps Jesus carry the cross. Simon helps Jesus carry the heavy cross for Jesus’ crucifixion. Simon is a good friend to Jesus.

Dear God,
Help us to help others by doing things for them. We could be a friend, listen to them and other things. Help us be like Simon. Amen

Station 6

Imagine you are carrying a heavy cross. Suddenly you see hope. You see a woman standing there with a cloth to wipe your face. She rushes toward you, but the guards pull her back. You carry on.

Dear God,
I want to stand out in a crowd to help someone in need like Veronica, give them hope like Veronica gave Jesus. Help me help another. Amen

Station 7

Jesus is getting tired. Jesus is getting weaker. He falls. He keeps trying to get up. He gets up and moves on.

Dear Jesus,
You didn’t give up. Sometimes I want to quit because sometimes it’s not easy. When things get hard please help me. God help me see Jesus in all things. Help me to keep trying my best when I fall. I ask this through Jesus Christ. Amen

Station 8

Jesus meets the women. They are crying for him because he is going to die on the cross. He says, “Do not cry for me. Cry for you and your children. I am going to be with my Father”.

Dear Jesus:
You see the women. You try to make them feel better. You say, “Do not cry for me because I am going to heaven to be with my father. Cry for you and your children.” Help me try to make others feel better. Amen

Station 9

Almost to your destination you fall. From the pain of the whips and from the heavy cross you fall. If anything could get worse you fall.

Dear God,
Let me have the strength to carry on. Let me have the courage to keep going. Help me be stronger. Amen

Station 10

The soldiers divided up Jesus’ clothes. They rolled dice to see who got his robe.

Dear Jesus,
Was it embarrassing getting stripped in front of all those people? How did it feel? Please help us when we feel embarrassed or ashamed. Amen

Station 11

The soldiers forced Jesus onto the cross, nailing both wrists to the cross, the same with both of his feet.

Dear Jesus,
Sometimes I say things that hurt people. You put your arms of great love open on the cross. Help me not to hurt people with my words. Amen.

Station 12

Jesus is dying. The people are sad. Then Jesus dies. A big earthquake comes up that splits open tombs. The soldiers say “This must be the Son of God.”

Dear God,
You sent Jesus to save us. Did you know that Jesus would die on the cross? Did you want Jesus to die on the cross? Amen

Station 13

Sabbath is coming fast. The crucified ones have to be taken off before the celebration of the Sabbath begins. The soldier stabs Jesus with a sword to be sure he is dead. The crowd hurries away to their houses to prepare for the Sabbath.

Dear Jesus,
How bad was your death? Were they gentle when they removed you from the cross? Help me to treat others like I want to be treated. Amen.

Station 14

Everyone goes home. Some of the people and Mary go to the tomb. Joseph and John carry Jesus to the tomb. They lay him on a rock bench inside the tomb and the men put a big rock in the entrance to block it.

Dear Jesus,
Thank you for sending your only son. Help me to be like Jesus. Help me to share my life and love. Help me take up my cross and walk where you want me to walk.