Saturday, April 26, 2014

We're Living in Christ's Life After Death, Right?

This has little to nothing doing with what I'm about to write... it's awfully celebratory, though, yes?

ALLELUIA! Christ is risen! The Lord is risen, indeed! ALLELUIA!

It's good to be able to use our Alleluias again. We dusted them off last week and now we're nearly into the second week of Easter. I think this season is pretty cool, since we get to celebrate this one for 50 days, whereas Lent was 40. Lent was a season of fasting and prayer, where this is a season of feasting and rejoicing. We're just making up for lost party time, right?

But the question that I asked in my Easter Sunday post was 'How do we live in the light of the Risen Christ?' It seems like a vague and churchy thing to ask, which is intentional. I want to entertain this question for a while, so being vague helps. The first thing I have to say about it, though, is really anti-climactic. Because nothing outside of church has changed.

See, in church, we may be celebrating for 50 days, but Easter in the secular world has kinda gone the way of Christmas. People know it's coming, they know it's coming and then it arrives! And then it goes away after everyone finds their Easter baskets and pigs out on the chocolate. Nevermind that, in the case of Christmas, there is a 12 day feast, ending when the Magi arrive in Bethlehem; never mind that, in the case of Easter, there is a 50 day celebration, ending when the Apostles are given the gift of speaking in tongues by the Holy Spirit. Nevermind all of that. The world outside the Christian Church doesn't care about our celebration. For that matter, I don't know how many people inside the Christian Church care about our season of celebration. Like I said, anti-climactic.

For my part, I was working so hard to make it to Easter that it was hardly time to go to bed on Easter Sunday when I started going under the weather. I felt like crap and all I wanted to do was stay in bed and sleep. I didn't let myself (which probably prolonged my time of sickness) but I did what I did and now I look back on the first week of Easter and my life and all I see is a trail of tissues, water bottles and vitamin C boosters. Epic anti-climax.

So in spite of these things, I go back to my original question: How do we live in the light of the Risen Christ?

Truth be told, I don't have an answer to this and I think it would be too presumptuous of me to offer one. I don't even think there is one single answer. If any of you reading were hoping that I would give you your silver bullet here, I think you think too much of me.

That being said, here are a couple of reflections on the topic that are bouncing around in my head:

  • My mother, the priest, is fond of saying that we, as Christians, are Easter people. I know others who say this as well and I tend to agree with them. Saying that we are Easter people means that we live in the truth of Christ's resurrection, his victory over death; it means that death is not the end of the story anymore and that love wins. These are things that I believe in.
  • But what does belief in the Risen Christ get me? I mean, I know that belief in Christ gets me salvation, but it doesn't feel right just to stop there. It's like telling someone "I'm saved. What about you?" Which in my mind is as good as saying "I found my Jesus doll behind the sofa. Have you even been looking for yours?"
  • There's a hymn that I like very much and the refrain says "They will know we are Christians by our love/ by our love/ yes, they will know we are Christians by our love." If this is the metric that is supposed to be used to identify us as Christian, how many of us would even register on the scale? If showing love and compassion for others identifies us as being Christian, I think that there are many others who are better Christians that most Christians are (and I plan to write another whole post on this topic in the future).

Truth be told, asking how to live in the light of the Risen Christ is a question that I do not expect to resolve on my own. I know that trying to understand what Christ did in the nighttime before Easter is what all of Christianity has been trying to figure out since it happened. I also know that trying to live in the light of the Risen Christ is something that I will be able to do better in community, so I will be and have been looking for insight on this from those around me (which is kinda the point of having a church in the first place, right?)

Like I said, I don't want anyone to think that I have a silver bullet. I don't think I even want a silver bullet for this question. I have a lot of reflections and I'm honest when I say that I want to explore this in community. You, dear reader, are a part of my online community. I want to know about your reflections if you'll share them in the comments below.

Alleluia. The Lord is risen...

Monday, April 21, 2014

Out of Lent and into Easter!

Yesterday was Easter Sunday and Saturday night was the Great Vigil of Easter. My wife and I opted to go to the Vigil, reason being that there's a lot more liturgical stuff that happens at the Vigil.

In the Episcopal Church, if you take a look at what the Book of Common Prayer prescribes, there are four parts to the liturgy. One of them is Baptism, which can get really long, depending on how many people you're baptizing. Point is that my faith community only did three of the four parts and we only renewed our Baptismal Covenant; we didn't have any new baptisms. Nonetheless, it was still a long liturgy.

The second of the four parts is the Service of Lessons. There is a huge list of lessons that faith communities can choose from (and I know some congregations that do all of them). Saturday night, my wife and I were helping the youth group to enact the Exodus story; Moses led the Children of Israel out of Egypt, and then the Children got mad at him because they got stuck at the Red Sea and Pharaoh and his army had decided to come and get them to bring them back into slavery in Egypt. It was quite a process to take that text and enact it in such a way that it was both moving and engaging, but neither hokey nor campy. It was tough.

In the end, we made it through; the Vigil happened. We, the youth group, did not bring anything to a standstill (go us!) but as the Vigil went on, I noticed something (and this is the point of my blog today): this Easter Eve mass is both the culmination of Lent and the beginning of season when all is made new. Sunday morning after the Vigil, Christ has risen and there is an overall feeling of resolution. Friday (and even Saturday during the daylight hours) is still firmly entrenched in the Lenten penitence mode. But the Vigil is the point at which these two seasons collide and we churchgoers are thrown in the midst of it all. This may seem obvious but I say it because, last night, I could feel that statement.

Lent has been long and ponderous this year. Yes, I know, Lent is always the same length, but it felt much longer this year. And I could feel that length stretching into the Service of Lessons at the beginning of the Vigil last night. The Service of Lessons happens in a half-dark church with an aura of candlelight. As a church, we tell ourselves these stories about our tradition and heritage. We hear them echoing from somewhere in this space, somewhere in the half-light. It has been a long time that we've been in the desert these 40 days. Moreover, things feel dramatically more barren, now that the man we thought was our Saviour is dead. But I think everyone can feel that something new is about to break out.

Even though my faith community did not have any baptisms last night, it is good to remember that, after we've told ourselves these stories from Genesis and Exodus and after we've heard the words from some of the prophets, those we have nurtured in their study and prayer for the past 40 days stand up, curse the darkness and then are immersed in the water; they die with Christ and are ready to rise to new life on the eve of this season when all is made new. All the rest of us gathered also remember that we have cursed the darkness; we repeat the vows we've taken that bind us to this life, directed by Christ.

Once we've done this; once we've renounced all these things, the new thing breaks out! We find the empty tomb and nothing is the same!

But in my experience of this last night, as we began our Easter celebration, I could feel that everyone was still reeling from this desert time in Lent.

We unleashed our Alleluias! They (literally) floated up to the ceiling (attached to balloons). We proclaimed that He is risen! The Lord is risen indeed! Alleluia! But this word has been shut away for so long that it felt awkward on our lips.

For my part, I wanted to sing at the top of my lungs, but I was so accustomed to those minor key songs and chants that the new keys felt awkward.

And really, I think all of this was okay. The Lord is risen, but who in the world expected a dead man to rise? Nobody really knows what to do with an empty tomb. An empty tomb is a frightening thing. In the Gospel reading, it says twice that we should not be afraid (which is, of course, easier said than done) but even if we disregard our fear, we still find ourselves coping with this strange and wonderful mystery; Jesus the Nazarene was killed, brutally, by the Romans and now that same man is up walking around and talking with his old friends.

I have a couple take-aways. The first I shamelessly take from my priest. He pointed out the question that is asked of the women who go to Jesus' tomb, "What are you looking for?" In Matthew's version, the angel says, "I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here." But no matter how you respond to the women, all you need to do is put yourself in their shoes. When you come up onto the tomb on Easter morning, the question that is still posed to you is "What are you looking for?" For all of Lent, we could have answered "I am looking in the desert for the presence of God." But now, if we look anyplace that we expect Christ to be, we will not find him. The truth is that the Lord has risen! Sometime during the night, he got up and now he is out there in the world.

Which kinda takes me to the second take-away: the uncertainty of the whole thing. Those reading closely will recognize that we've seen all this before, whether it's Lazarus rising from the dead or talking to the women first or just being unexpected... but I don't think any of those stories include the "what comes next?" question. As a disciple of Christ, we can celebrate that our savior is not dead, but nonetheless, we are still left with the aching uncertainty. We are still left asking "what are we to do next?"

In all honesty, I do think there is a lot of joy in the potential answers to that question as well as all the uncertainty in them. And I don't think there are any simple ways to answer what we are to do next. But for my part, I'm going to spend some time meditating on that and posting some blogs in an attempt to explore this question: "How are we to live in the light of the Risen Christ?"

I hope you'll join me on this journey. I hope you'll feel comfortable commenting now or in the near future to share your own reflections on where this path is leading.

Alleluia! The Lord is risen!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Holy Saturday

What are we supposed to do now?

Last week, we came into the city.
We were singing and dancing.

Yesterday, our savior died.
All bets are now off,
All we thought we knew is turned upside down.

Today we sit in uneasy silence;
Hiding from those who are trying to find us,
Like a triumphant fanfare that doesn't resolve.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Good Friday

God died today.

There's a movie that came out recently that has caused a lot of controversy.

Movie poster taken from Filmofilia

It's all about whether or not God exists. Which isn't really a question that I'm interested in debating anymore. And this blog isn't about that topic, anyway.

I assert that God does exist. I also assert that on this day, on Good Friday before Easter, God does in fact die on the cross. After being betrayed last night, tortured this morning and then hoisted up on a cross to die a painful, humiliating death, God in Jesus dies.

And when God dies on the cross, all bets are off... What are we supposed to do when our King and Savior, the one who was supposed to rescue us, has died?

Taken from

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Maundy Thursday

So this is the first of the Three Holy Days, or the Triduum. It is a major turn in the Holy Week story. The name "Maundy" shares the same root with "commandment" because there are a is something that Christ commands us to do in this story. We are told to love one another just as Christ has loved us. And in doing that, in telling this story, the Church has established two things.

I've often felt that the words of this story could be slightly tweaked... What if, instead of a brief statement when we're receiving the Eucharist, we were told something like this: "Child of God, take this and eat it. It is broken for you because you are broken. Let it nourish you; let it sustain you. It is Christ. Always strive to be like Christ, who was broken to heal our brokenness."

I imagine these words whispered in someone's ear. And they seem so much more intimate. Less like Da Vinci's Last Supper and more like this:

Picture of the Last Supper taken from Kirk of the Keys

Maundy Thursday, or Holy Thursday, has been important to me because it establishes two things. One is the Eucharist, which we are invited to participate in. Christ gave it to us and it is something that I think is essential to our efforts to create the Kingdom of God. Because the Eucharist is a little piece of the Kingdom and it is given freely to us. I like imagining that this is was first offered in the company of friends.

The second thing that wasn't so much established, but kind of encapsulated at the Last Supper was Jesus' servant ministry. He had been serving others in many ways during his ministry, but then we get an image like this:

Picture of Jesus washing Peter's feet taken from Artilim

Jesus washing the feet of his friends is a really controversial thing. Because in it, we see the Messiah, this great and awesome king, humble himself to be a servant (and in the picture, Peter doesn't seem too pleased about it at all). And it is exactly what we're all called to be; servants. Our Christian mission is to serve. We're called to give from ourselves to others. Just like how the Eucharist is given as well. They're two sides of the same coin. Two pictures of Jesus, but the same God.

What else do you think about on this first day of the Three Holy Days?

Friday, April 11, 2014

Palm Sunday

I've determined what I want to do for Holy Week. Rather than providing reflections, I want to share a few items that I feel are meditative. Reason being is because the reflections I write, while I love to write them, require a lot of energy and they take me a couple of days to generate. Holy Week doesn't afford much time at all for that kind of lengthy reflection; each turn in the story just keep coming on the heels of the one before. But, in the meantime, there are images that stick with me from year to year. And those are the things that I want to share.

So let's start, shall we? I know that I just shared this clip from the 1973 Jesus Christ Superstar in my last blog post, but it's directly pertinent today, so I share it again:

Some thoughts I have on this one:

The guys at Pulpit Fiction pointed out this week, among other things, that the term "hosanna" means "save us." I was struck by this because I've always been fascinated with the way this song plays with that word. So now I hear the crowd singing so energetically "Save us, Jesus Christ!"and there is such a juxtaposition there, that they're happy and excited for this person who is portrayed so humanly.

And that's the other thing I'll offer: the expression on Jesus's face is so telling as the crowd sings through the verses. The start in the song with "Hey J.C., J.C.! Won't you smile at me..." and then they go to "you're alright by me" and it really does seem like these poor and oppressed have finally got a leader who pays attention to them. And then the next time they sing that line, they say "Hey J.C., J.C.! Won't you DIE for me?" and the camera stops on the actor's face. The image in that split second is one of a Jesus who knows he is going to die for all these people and he doesn't even know whether they understand what they're asking of him. I know a lot of people who don't like Jesus Christ Superstar for this exact reason; that it portrays such a human Jesus. But I like it. It emphasizes for me that Jesus was a real person, not just some deity that co-mingled with its worshippers about 2,000 years ago.

This Palm Sunday, I'll be thinking of this image as the whole congregation participates in the Passion. We'll be the ones that both praise Jesus and condemn him.

I want to ask you to think of something this week at church, too. What are your meditations on Palm Sunday? Does this video make sense with your experience? Or is your experience far and away from it? If you want to share your thoughts in the comments, I would love to read them.

Friday, April 4, 2014


The story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead is completely unexpected. Or at least that's how it feels to me. And I'm already getting ahead of myself...

I'm continuing my trend of posting about the Sunday lectionary before I go to church on Sunday. But this Sunday is the last in Lent (well... last before Holy Week. Well...) and I really don't know what I'm going to do during Holy Week. I have enjoyed this Lenten discipline because I share once a week... but this stays on my mind all week. Which is really kinda the point, isn't it?

In the meantime, I'm writing now on Friday. At home. When I'm supposed to be teaching. But I'm not because they called a snow day.