Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Easter Wednesday

St. Mary's Stations of the Resurrection: Station Five

O God,
whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread:
Open the eyes of our faith,
that we may behold him in all his redeeming work;
who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.

From Luke 24:13-35

Now on that same day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him..............
As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying, "Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over." So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other, "Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?" That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, "The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!" Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Tuesday

O God, who by the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ
destroyed death and brought lif
may abide in his presence and rejoice in the hope of eternal glory;
through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit,
be dominion and praise for ever and ever.

Every Holy Saturday, the Stations of the Cross that are on the wall of the nave of the church where I serve are taken down and replaced by the Stations of the Resurrection. These Stations celebrating the events in the life of the risen Lord remain until Holy Cross Day in September. Though the Stations of the Cross have been prayed by the faithful since the fourth century, the Stations of the Resurrection, or Stations of Light as the Roman Catholics call them, are a late twentieth century practice.

St. Mary's Stations of the Cross and Stations of the Resurrection are both collages created by our talented Music Director, Celeste Booker. The third station, Jesus meets Mary Magdalene, is the Gospel reading appointed in the lectionary for Tuesday in Holy Week.

Christ is in the Midst of us!

He is, and ever shall be!

John 20:11-18
Mary Magdalene stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping?" She said to them, "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. Jesus said to her, "Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?" Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away." Jesus said to her, "Mary!" She turned and said to him in Hebrew, "Rabbouni!" (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, `I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.'" Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, "I have seen the Lord"; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

Easter Monday

Grant, we pray, Almighty God,
that we who celebrate with awe the Paschal feast
may be found worthy to attain to everlasting joys;
through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Walking with Jesus: Good Friday

Almighty God,
we pray you graciously to behold this your family,
for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed,
and given into the hands of sinners,
and to suffer death upon the cross;
who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A sermon for Maundy Thursday

Maundy Thursday Math
John 13. 1--17, 31b--35

Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. LoveLove. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love. Love.

Love x 54.

The word love is used 54 times in John’s Gospel to tell what Jesus does or what Jesus says.

Not yet times 3.
Three times in John’s Gospel, Jesus has said, “Not yet! My hour isn’t here yet.”
But tonight, at a near half way point through John’s Gospel, Jesus says, “Now! Now my hour has come!”
This hour lasts three days, and then another fifty after that.
Jesus’ hour starts with this final meal, followed by his death, and won’t end until he ascends to heaven, fifty days after his resurrection.

And you are here for the beginning of his hour.

In John’s version of Jesus’ last meal, this last supper takes place the day before Passover begins.
It’s a private meal for those closest to him, and no servant is present.
Though I always wonder if women and children were present too, but simply not counted.
The other three Gospels have this last meal as the Passover meal.

But for John, Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world; so Jesus will be crucified, tomorrow, on Passover, at the very hour that the priests are sacrificing the Passover lamb in the temple.
Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast.

Back to the meal.

Since there is no servant present, there is no one to wash feet as an act of hospitality at the beginning of the meal.
You can almost imagine the disciples casting their eyes down and looking away when someone says, “Who is going to wash the feet?”
Because it’s something no on one wanted to do. It was beneath them.
It’s one of those things we pay people to do because we don’t want to do it.
So it is beyond a surprise when Jesus jumps up and says, “I will!”

Do not miss how humble Jesus has to be to wash feet.
He has to hike his garments up to keep them from getting wet.
He has to grab a towel.
He has to get way low, on the ground, in an uncomfortable, awkward posture, that puts him in a most intimate place with his disciples--up close, and very personal.
He then proceeds to wash all twelve, yes twelve, disciples’ feet.

Jesus washes Judas’ feet, too.

When he is finished, Jesus asks, “Do you know what I have done?’
And the disciples are silent.
Of course they don’t.
Of course we don’t.

Jesus continues by saying he’s giving them a new commandment.
(Which is, by the way, why we call this day in Holy Week, Maundy Thursday, from the Latin word for commandment.)
Actually, Jesus isn’t giving them a new commandment.
Loving God and loving neighbor is at the heart of the Jewish faith, and is to be found throughout the Hebrew Scripture.
But what is new about Jesus’ kind of love, for Jesus to say that it is a new kind of love?
Jesus’ love is vulnerable and highly personal.
It’s the last thing we may want to do.
It’s the kind of love that we can only give if we’ve received it first.

If you go back five days earlier in John’s Gospel, Jesus is at Lazarus, Martha, and Mary’s home in Bethany for a post-bringing back Lazarus from the dead meal.
We’re told that Martha serves, of course, meaning the meal,
and that Mary gets down on her knees, and pours costly perfume over Jesus’ feet to clean them, then uses her hair for a towel.
She receives nothing but criticism and misunderstanding for this act of kindness and service, except from Jesus, of course.

I wonder. Was Jesus remembering this act of love, this act of humble, uncomfortable, intimate, awkward love when he then shared that love with his disciples?

I wonder, was Jesus seeing how one act of service puts in motion another whole chain of acts of loving service?

I wonder. Since Jesus, who freely and lovingly washed Judas’ feet, who in verses left out of the reading of our Gospel tonight, Judas leaves in the midst of this meal to go betray Jesus, I wonder if Jesus is saying that this new commandment means that we love without judging?
Jesus loves with abandon, even loving and serving those who others would say don’t deserve to be loved.

On this last night before his crucifixion, within the words of our Gospel tonight, Jesus is at an ordinary meal with those he loves most dearly, including Judas, teaching them things that they will need to know to go on without him.
As he teaches his disciples, life is continuing to go on outside the upper room.
Everything in the world surrounding them is the same, while in the room, with Jesus, nothing will ever be the same again.

On this night, Jesus gives the disciples, and thus us, props.
In the accounts from Matthew, Mark, and Luke, bread and wine.
In John’s account, a towel, a basin, water, a hiked up garment, and down on our knees.

Jesus says we need both. To love as Jesus loved.
Remember what he has said: Love one another as I have loved you.
Forty two times more in these final chapters of the Gospel of John, forty two, love will be at the center of what Jesus says or what Jesus does.
This last meal is not so much about bread and wine and washing feet.
It is about love.
Loving us, first the disciples are fed, with the bread and with the wine.
Loving us, then the disciples are served, with the water, the towel, and Jesus down on his knees.
Loving us, we are fed, with the bread and the wine.
Loving us, we serve, down on our knees no matter how inconvenient or embarrassing.

We must receive both. We must give both.
Jesus did.
Jesus’ feet were washed by Mary of Bethany, and then he washed his disciples’.
Jesus fed the disciples physically, within a time of feeding them spiritually.
In Jesus’ new commandment of loving others as he has loved us,
It’s only Jesus’ kind of new love when we receive it.
It’s only Jesus’ kind of new love when we give it away.
For when we don’t allow others to serve us, they cannot serve as they’ve been served.
Having been served, we are commanded to continue the ripple effect of service, passing on that service with which we’ve been served.

Tonight, the hour has begun. The clock is ticking.
Jesus loves as he has been loved. Will we love as he has loved us?
At least 54 times.

Walking with Jesus in Holy Week: Maundy Thursday

Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered,
instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood:
Mercifully grant that we may receive it thankfully
in remembrance of Jesus Christ our Lord,
who in these holy mysteries gives us a pledge of eternal life;
and who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

John 13. 35
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another."

It's not until someone isn't around that we miss all that they do.

Martin has been a servant at St. Mary's for as long as I've been there. He does a lot of things behind the scenes, most so ordinary that we don't even notice that they've been done. Except when they aren't.

During Lent, Martin suffered a very painful back problem. He was on bedrest for a number of weeks, and thankfully, is now back up and about, but must use a walker to get around.

Martin has many not so little tasks that he does for Lent, Holy Week, and Easter. He starts us off on Shrove Tuesday making pancakes, and finishes the great Forty Days with pancakes at the Easter Sunday breakfast. He gets the fire pit out for the burning of palms on Shrove Tuesday, then gets it out again for the Holy Fire at the Great Vigil of Easter. He retrieves the large cross we use on Good Friday and places it for all to see on Palm Sunday. He also gets the cross ready that we use for the flowering of the cross on Easter Sunday.

On Holy Wednesday, I realized that the Good Friday and Easter Sunday crosses weren't out. We had taken Martin's annual service so for granted, I wasn't even sure where they were.

When we called to ask Martin, he was at physical therapy. I seemed to remember that the cross was stored in the attic. Turns out that most people didn't even know we had an attic! I knew that it would be a task to go up there and get those cumbersome crosses down, so I told the Altar Guild directress to wait until there were some stronger folks around to do it.

I went back to my office to do my oh, so important work. Next thing I knew, I heard banging and screeching out in the hall. Three women from St. Mary's had decided to bring the crosses down from the attic, with, I must add, no help from the rector (me!).

What these three women did is the Gospel for Maundy Thursday in action. Had I not been there with camera, no one would know the act of love they did for hundreds of people. Turns out until Martin was unable to do the service he had done so selflessly year after year, no one appreciated his act of love. These folk didn't wash feet, but they did serve as they had been served.

An email went out last night to dozens of people asking them to help with the Easter breakfast. Though Martin believes he can make the pancakes, he'll need a lot more help since he is less mobile right now. There are others who help with breakfast year after year, but I can't wait to see who else will live the Maundy Thursday gospel on the Sunday of the Resurrection, especially by making breakfast (which is, of course, one of the things Jesus did for his disciples after his resurrection).

Thank you to all of the servants who share God's love as Jesus did. Continued healing prayers for Martin, too.

Join us tonight at St. Mary's for the Maundy Thursday Holy Eucharist which will include foot washing and will conclude with the stripping of the altar and a vigil in the (inside) prayer garden.

Join us tomorrow for the continued vigil in the garden through noon, followed by the Good Friday liturgy at noon, and Stations of the Cross at 6.30 PM, either traditional stations in the nave, or family stations in the outdoor prayer garden.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Walking with Jesus: Wednesday in Holy Week

Lord God, whose blessed Son our Savior
gave his body to be whipped and his face to be spit upon:
Give us grace to accept joyfully the sufferings of the present time,
confident of the glory that shall be revealed;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The readings that we will use at the Holy Eucharist this morning are different from the daily office readings that were included in the St. Mary's Holy Week booklet. They definitely include some greatest hits:

From Isaiah 50. 4--9a
The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher, that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word. Morning by morning he wakens--wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

Hebrews 12. 1--3
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight and the sin that clings so closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for the sake of the joy that was set before him endured the cross, disregarding its shame, and has taken his seat at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such hostility against himself from sinners, so that you may not grow weary or lose heart.

And just like that, dear brothers and sisters, you've both read Scripture and prayed today!

I think the most challenging part of Holy Week is having the world and our many commitments continue to swirl around us, and yet go to that place of connecting with Jesus and the way of the cross. There is no week in the year when the world place and the God place feel more discordant. And yet, what we are called to do is to see the cross of Christ within our most ordinary moments--that place where the quotidian Gospel is lived.

Coming tomorrow: Maundy Thursday Eucharist at 7 with 15 hour Watch with Christ Prayer Vigil following (at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Cypress, Texas). A few of the Vigil time slots are still empty. Will you give an hour of your time (plus travel!) to pray?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Walking with Jesus: Tuesday in Holy Week

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son
you made an instrument of shameful death
to be for us the means of life:
Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ,
that we may gladly suffer shame and loss
for the sake of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ;
who lives and reigns with you
and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

AM Psalm 6, 12; PM Psalm 94
Jer. 15:10-21 + Phil. 3:15-21 + John 12:20-26

This Lent my intent was to attend Morning and Evening Prayer more frequently at St. Mary's. I don't know about you, but when I try to be more intentional about some spiritual practice, too often more and more obstacles seem to fall in my path.

I have a back up plan which I often do when I can't join my brothers and sisters at St. Mary's in the Prayer Garden for the daily office. It does connect me with brothers and sisters in the larger Anglican Communion. David Guthrie from the Anglican Church in New Zealand has a twice daily podcast of Morning and Evening Prayer. I download it and keep it ready on my ipod for when I'm driving during Morning or Evening Prayer at St. Mary's.

The thing about our Holy Week walk with Jesus is to do something sometime. The thing is to find some pocket of time somewhere and do some spiritual practice. I think we start out with lofty plans, and when we fall short, too often dismiss the smaller moments of time that God gives us each day. In the same way that we love to have people we love be with us, a short visit better than no visit at all, God loves to have those God loves with God, and will always give us time for that visit, no matter how brief.

So if you haven't taken time yet to say at least a small prayer, to read one verse of Scripture, the day isn't over yet. In fact, if the last thing you do before you go to sleep tonight is to say a prayer and one verse of Scripture (even "Jesus wept," or "God is love")--then your day is better for it.

And after all, tomorrow is a brand new day to walk with God.

P.S. Tomorrow is Holy Wednesday, and we will celebrate Holy Eucharist with Healing at 9 AM. Please join us if you can.

Walking with Jesus: Monday in Holy Week

The Daily Office for Holy Monday:
AM Psalm 51:1-18(19-20); PM Psalm 69:1-23
Jer. 12:1-16 + Phil. 3:1-14 + John 12:9-19

There are occasions in the Church calendar when time becomes especially focussed. Holy Week, the last week of Lent and the week before Easter, gives each day of the week it's own unique name--each day is that important. Yesterday was Palm Sunday. Today is Holy Monday. Tomorrow will be Holy Tuesday. The Church assumes that there will be daily worship, and even provides collects (prayers) and Scriptures for that day's celebration of the Holy Eucharist. Although we didn't celebrate Holy Eucharist at St. Mary's today, those praying Morning and Evening Prayer can pray this day's collect:

Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain,
and entered not into glory before he was crucified:
Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross,
may find it none other than the way of life and peace;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen

I took today as my Sabbath, and so joined the other at home prayers and worshippers. I lit my candle and connected with all of us praying and worshipping at St. Mary's and elsewhere.

I took a walk. I made gingerbread. I knitted. I cleaned off book shelves and took books to the Northwest Library for their Friends of the Library Book Sale. I wrote to a couple of friends. I took a nap. I looked ahead to the Scriptures for Maundy Thursday and spent quiet time reading and beginning to pray about the sermon I'll preach that night. I prayed for my friends and family, and especially my family at St. Mary's.

I'm mindful that most everyone in the parish had a day full of busy-ness. I'll be joining them first thing tomorrow as the Holy Week push to Easter continues. But for now, I hold the parish in my heart and pray that they will each have moments of reaching out and grasping Jesus' hand.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Another Holy Week

Today we begin another Holy Week. This is the one week in the year when the most important business at St. Mary's Episcopal Church in Cypress, Texas is worship and prayer. Most everything else is suspended for this one week. This is the week that year after year, I invite all of us to walk intentionally day by day with Jesus. Knowing that some of us cannot get to St. Mary's everyday for worship, we handed out wonderful beeswax candles made by the sisters of the Monastery of Saints Mary and Martha in South Carolina. Everyday, especially on the days they cannot join for worship at St. Mary's, each family is invited to stop intentionally for prayer and worship and light the candle as a connection to the candles lit at the worship occurring at St. Mary's. I'll also be posting a daily blog to give us shared food for thought in our daily Holy Week worship.

As a beginning, here is the sermon that started us off on the Sunday of the Passion, Palm Sunday.

I want Jesus to walk with me
I want Jesus to walk with me
All along my pilgrim journey
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me

In my trials, Lord, walk with me

In my sorrows, Lord, walk with me

In my troubles, Lord walk with me
Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me

Don’t we all want Jesus to walk with us?

Most of us know that Jesus is always walking with us. Always. I wonder. Does Jesus want us ever to walk with him?

This is the week that Jesus is kind of busy. Jesus is busy taking on the sin of the whole world. Feeding his disciples one last time, being betrayed, being arrested. Being denied, being beaten, being ridiculed. Having nails hammered into his hands and feet. Dying.

Jesus is very busy.

Today we read the Passion Gospel (Matthew 26.17--27.16), that last less than twenty four hours of so of Jesus’ life [before his resurrection]. Today, you, the congregation, read the part of Jesus. You will be hearing the Passion narrative from Jesus’ perspective.

As you read, notice who is walking with Jesus this week.

The disciples who are all with him when he is feeding them a meal.
The disciples who are all with him when they go out singing the last song.
The disciples who fall asleep when Jesus is praying.
Judas and Peter who betray and deny.
Caiphas and the other leaders of the temple who look for loop holes of blasphemy.
Pilate and the Roman guards who mock and beat and crucify.
The crowd who is....well caught up in being a crowd.

This is who is walking with Jesus this week.

So I wonder.

Since Jesus is pretty busy this week, on our behalf, could we walk with Jesus, and surround him with those who love and adore him? Not just for the meal and the song. We already walked into Jerusalem with him today having an awfully glad time. When it was easy.

Can we, not just today when it’s easy, this whole week long keep walking with him?

Yes, it’s not convenient. Sure it takes a little extra time and effort. I don’t think Jesus is looking for convenient in his life this week. I think Jesus is taking a lot of extra time and effort on our behalf this week.

So as you listen to the Passion Gospel. As you read the words of Jesus, imagine: Who is walking with Jesus? Who would he like to be walking with him? Who is surrounding Jesus? Who could make Jesus’ week more bearable by being with him?

I have a song that I think that Jesus might sing to us if Jesus were to sing to us:

I want you, to walk with me.
I want you, to walk with me.
In my trials, please walk with me.
I want you, to walk with me.

In my betrayal, please walk with me,
In my arrest, please walk with me.
In the denying, please walk with me.
I want you to walk with me.

In my beating, please walk with me.
In my crucifixion, please walk with me.
In my aloneness, please walk with me.
I want you to walk with me.