Saturday, March 23, 2013

Easter Letter to Zion

Woman, why are you weeping?”  She said to the (two angels), “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.”  When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus.”  John 20:13b-14

Dear Zion Parishioners,

On Easter we have the opportunity, in our liturgy and prayer, to relive the joy of the Resurrection.  But as the reading above makes clear, the risen Christ often appears to us in a form we don’t recognize.  Mary Magdalene turned from her grief at the empty tomb and saw Jesus.  But she must turn again, or be fully converted, before she can recognize the voice and face of her beloved teacher. “Jesus said to her, “Mary!”  She turned (again) and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” John 20:16

In Scripture, turning represents a conversion; a turning toward the Holy in awe and wonder, just as Moses turned toward the burning bush and heard the voice of God telling him to take off his sandals because he was standing on Holy ground.  The miracle of the Resurrection is that Jesus continues to come to us again, and again, turning our ordinary ground into Holy space. 

Our Holy Week liturgies give us the opportunity to stare longingly into the empty tomb.  We can name, before God, the emptiness in our lives and imagine a world without Jesus in it.  This is what happened to the disciples.  The Last Supper was really the last time they ate with him.  Until they ate with him again in his risen form he had ceased to be.  This is where we often find ourselves - caught between faith and self-centeredness; forgetting that Christ has risen, and relying solely on our own gumption to get us through the day.

Thanks be to God, we don’t have to go it alone.  Each year gives us the opportunity to turn again, and see the Lord with new eyes.  All of our grief, all of our sorrow, and all of our hope is met with the promise of salvation and joy as Jesus sees us for who we really are and calls us each by name. 

Alleluia, Christ is Risen!

This is the Night

Magdalene’s Musings: “This is the Night”

Holy Week this year begins on March 24th with the Sunday of the Passion.  The culmination of Holy Week, the Easter Vigil, is on Holy Saturday, March 30th at 7 pm.  The Easter Vigil is also the culmination of the Triduum (pronounced TRIH-jew-um), beginning with Maundy Thursday, which flows into Good Friday, and resolves with joy and ritual celebration during the Vigil on Saturday night.  Three profound celebrations, which commemorate the Last Supper, followed by the Crucifixion, and climaxing in the Resurrection.  One way to understand the significance of the Triduum is to look at its history, recovered for the publication of the 1979 Book of Common Prayer.

In the Early Church (the fourth century in Jerusalem), the Vigil emerged as the center of the Christian year and the heart of the mystery of faith.  Because of this centrality, converts to the faith were baptized during the Vigil, after forty days of study and preparation during Lent.  Our Lenten practices of abstinence and spiritual study actually began with the Christian community offering their solidarity with the Catechumens - they all studied together in order to renew their baptismal vows with the newly baptized.

Liturgically, the Vigil recreates the drama of our salvation, from the Creation to the Resurrection.  It also introduces the Paschal Candle for the fifty days of Easter.  In this liturgical drama we relive the covenants God made with us and how faithful God is in his promises to us.  We begin the service with darkness (like the darkness before creation and the darkness of the tomb), and light the Paschal Candle from the New Light of a fire (historically brought to the church as coals from the people’s homes).  As the Candle processes through the congregation, we sing, “The Light of Christ”, breaking the silence with our singing, and the darkness with the single candle of Christ.  We spread Christ’s light from candle to candle among the faithful.  Then, with only the light of the candles illuminating the music, the most ancient chant of Christianity, the Exsultet, is sung by the light of the candle, proclaiming that, “This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.  This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell and rose victorious from the grave.”
If you have never experience the joy of this service, I invite you to try it this year.  We will have fewer readings, and more singing and participation, all  with the intention of renewing our faith.  You are all asked to bring bells to the service, so we can make the Great Noise, when the Resurrection is proclaimed and the Sanctuary lights go on, and we sing our “Alleluia, Christ is risen”, to the pealing of bells.

Epiphany Musings

e·piph·a·ny [ih-pif-uh-nee] noun, plural e·piph·a·nies.
“A sudden, intuitive perception of or insight into the reality or essential meaning of something, usually initiated by some simple, homely, or commonplace occurrence or experience.”

The Feast Day of Epiphany on January the 6th commemorates the story in Matthew’s Gospel of Gentiles (or non-Jews) drawn to Christ through the guiding light of a star.  But the story itself is filled with “sudden intuitive perceptions” that guide the Gentile Kings safely through deceptive encounters and deadly plans.  These same “insights into the essential meaning” of dreams lead the Kings safely back to their foreign countries, and the Holy Family into and out of Egypt.

It is a common occurrence to experience epiphanies when you discuss their significance with someone on a regular basis.  Many of you know that I am a Spiritual Director.  One of the questions I always ask a directee is, “How do you experience God?”  Do you find God with you on walks?  In the Eucharist?  In your dreams?  With your grandchildren?  When you have an “aha” moment with God do you write it down?  Do you share it with someone? 

Epiphanies come in all shapes and sizes.  An inspired idea of what gift to give a special person in your life.  A sudden understanding of how your parents loved you  when you were a child.  A feeling of deep connection with a stranger.  An overwhelming desire to go somewhere, and when there have a “chance” or synchronicitous encounter with a long-lost friend.

If we sit and talk for awhile about these occurrences in our lives their frequency increases.  Why is that?  I have come to believe that the more we discuss the spiritual nature of our lives the more spiritual we become.  It is like priming a pump.  You pour a little water in, and then a little more, and the stream is drawn upward into your bucket.

Christ comes to us as Holy Spirit, Unbounded Love, and Intuitive Friend.  If we learn what our own spiritual language is we have a much better chance of catching insights.  We all have a personal prayer language.  May this Epiphany Season enrich and multiply your epiphanies so that your experience of God can shine for someone else.  And lead them on their way.

The Fig Tree

Sermon for the Third Sunday in Lent, March 3, 2013: Luke 13:1-9

Mary Annoints Jesus

Sermon for the fifth Sunday in Lent, March 17, 2013: John 12:1-8