Sunday, April 25, 2010

Easter 4 Sermon (April 25)

“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.”
That hopeful reading from Revelation is often read at funerals as we mourn the loss of loved ones. Reminding us that our loved ones are now in God’s hands and in God’s peace. We watched recently as a nation mourned – Poland –who lost its president & first lady and so many others in the Polish leadership in a tragic plane crash. We often talk about Christian hope in the midst of mourning and grief.

Our first reading from the Acts of the Apostles illustrates it beautifully. Tabitha (or in the Greek Dorcas) was a disciple of Jesus and she was a pillar of her faith community in Joppa. She was a widow which in that society would have meant that she was on the margins and not financially secure. But what she had was faith. It was that faith that the widows and other disciples also had in that community. They felt her love and her care. She fell ill and died. They learned Peter was nearby and asked him to come at once. Peter learned from the widows of the good works & charity of Tabitha, the clothing she made for other widows. Peter puts them all outside the room where they beautifully laid their beloved Tabitha. He prays and asks Tabitha, to get up. (Reminiscent not only of Jesus’ resurrection, but Elisha and the widows’ son from the OT)

She does get up and Peter returns her to her community alive. The same Spirit that raised Jesus from the dead, raised Tabitha. It was a reminder to the early Christian community that God’s Spirit was still active in the world, just as it is for us today. God’s spirit is still active, still brining new life, still resurrecting people from their dead lives. In her book An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor writes about a woman who was not sure she wanted to go on living.

"She was old. She lived alone. She was afraid to go to sleep at night for fear that she would not wake up in the morning, so she lay in bed waiting for the sun to come up before she dared to shut her eyes. "Then someone who loved her suggested that as long as she was awake, she might as well start listening for the first bird that sang each morning. Before long, the sound of that bird became the bell that woke her heart to life again. She named the bird. She discovered what such birds like to eat and put feeders full of seed in her yard. Other birds came, and she learned their names as well. She began to collect birdhouses, which she hung from the rafters of her porch until she became the mayor of an entire bird village."
The woman still does not sleep well, but she found reason to get out of bed every morning. In caring for the birds of the field, she rediscovered love and hope in her life. It is that Spirit, the Spirit of God that will enliven us in the beauty of this world and in our lives. Easter faith calls us out of our places of death and into places of beauty.

Yesterday, we buried Tom Gilbane from this parish. He had only been with us for a couple of months. But he found in this place love and acceptance, and fellow pilgrims walking on their journey of faith. Whether we are burying one of our oldest members like we did with Martha DuBail just a few months ago, or one of our newest with Tom yesterday, we do so as a community of faith, following the lead of the Good Shepherd.

And we do it with the hope of those in Joppa burying their own Tabitha. But it isn’t just a hope for us, we carry out that hope to the world…
A man was walking along the East River promenade in New York City in a very dejected state of mind. He was more than dejected—he was suicidal, was seriously contemplating climbing over the railing that separated the promenade from the river and throwing himself in. Life felt empty, meaningless, hollow. He felt that the writing he had devoted himself to for decades had no real value, and didn't amount to much, what had he really accomplished in life?

As he stood staring at the dark, swirling water, trying to summon up the courage to do the deed, an excited voice interrupted his thoughts. "Excuse me," said a young woman, "I'm sorry to impose upon your privacy, aren't you Christopher D'Antonio,* the writer?" He nodded indifferently. "I hope you don't mind my approaching you, but I just had to tell you what a difference your books have made in my life! They have helped me to an incredible degree, and I just wanted to thank you." "No, my dear, it is I who have to thank you!" Antonio said as he wheeled around, turned away from the East River and headed back home. (from Small Miracles)
In this our place of worship, we know that the Spirit of God is with us here and that same Spirit sends us out into the world to do God’s will, to live out our abundant Easter hope in our lives and to help others live abundantly too. Amen.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day Prayers

On this earth day let us all remember our stewardship of this planet and its resources.

Almighty God, we thank you for making the earth fruitful, so that it might produce what is needed for life: Bless those who work in the fields; give us seasonable weather; and grant that we may all share the fruits for the earth, rejoicing in your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O heavenly Father, who hast filled the world with beauty: Open our eyes to behold thy gracious hand in all thy works; that, rejoicing in thy whole creation, we may learn to serve thee with gladness; for the sake of him through whom all things were made, thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

O gracious Father, who openest thine hand and fillest all things living with plenteousness: Bless the lands and waters, and multiply the harvests of the world; let thy Spirit go forth, that it may renew the face of the earth; show thy loving-kindness, that our land may give her increase; and save us from selfish use of what thou givest, that men and women everywhere may give thee thanks; through Christ our Lord. Amen.

O merciful Creator, thy hand is open wide to satisfy the needs of every living creature: Make us, we beseech thee, ever thankful for thy loving providence; and grant that we, remembering the account that we must one day give, may be faithful stewards of thy good gifts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with thee and the Holy Spirit liveth and reigneth, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Consecration Information

Bishop Ian Douglas was consecrated yesterday as our diocesan bishop.

Read a story from the Hartford Courant here.

Pictures here.

Service Bulletin

Service Notes

Easter 3 Sermon (April 18)

Lord, open our eyes that we may see You in our brothers and sisters. Open our ears that we may hear the cries of the hungry, the cold, the frightened, the oppressed. Open our hearts that we may love each other as You love us. Amen.

Open our eyes that we may see you (Mother Teresa)
Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work (Collect)
Open our eyes to see your hand at work in the world about us. (Eucharistic Prayer)

Open our eyes - It is an exercise in trying to see the world as Jesus would have us see it and to notice Jesus in this world already working. Martin Smith priest & retreat leader puts our seeing in the context of prayer,
“By taking our questions directly to Jesus [in prayer], instead of talking around him, we open ourselves to being influenced and enlightened by what Paul calls simply, “the mind of Christ.” Not instructions to obey but a mindset to adopt, a whole way of looking at the world through his eyes.”
Such work is not easy. Its hard work. But it is what Jesus expects of us as his followers. In the Gospel reading, Jesus appeared to his disciples again for they had returned to their old ways, they had gone finishing. And in the miracle of the large catch of fish, the disciples realized that they were seeing Jesus even if they didn’t voice it. And in a shared meal, Jesus became fully present to them. And then Jesus addressed Peter three times, do you love me (feed or tend my sheep). Each time I can imagine with greater emphasis, you love me? Feed my sheep. Because out on their boat, Peter could not feed the sheep. He wasn’t reaching out to others.

Then Jesus called them to follow me as he did when he first called them to be his disciples. Jesus once again opens their eyes to their ministry. They had seen Jesus after the resurrection but they failed to see how it changed their lives & what they were supposed to do. They did not look for his redeeming work.

A young nun went to the back of the chapel and was praying earnestly that she longed to see God’s face, after a while she opened her eyes from her silent prayers and looked smack into the face of Jesus on their large crucifix. O well never mind she said to God and went back to her prayers. Years later she would remember this event after having worked with many different suffering souls and realized that God had answered her prayer.

In our prayers, we can miss God if we don’t take the time to listen and open ourselves to see as God sees. And like the disciples we can avoid what Jesus asks of us and not see what we already know.

A young woman had been diagnosed with a condition that causes a gradual and permanent loss of vision. For some time she was able to function without any assistance - But as her vision slowly deteriorated, she could not accept the reality that she would have to make some adjustments in her life. She worried how others would perceive her: She did not want anyone's sympathy or pity. She kept a white cane in her brief case - but was too self-conscious to use it. So she ran into walls and doors and signs all the time; on the subway and on buses, she would often stand because she could not make her way to an open seat.

She was content to continue bumping into things rather than being recognized as a blind person - until her perspective changed. She was walking alongside a building she was familiar with. When she sensed the corner approaching, she moved away slightly so her shoulder wouldn't brush against it. Suddenly she realized her feet were no longer on the ground. When she felt she was again on the sidewalk, she stopped and looked back. What had changed around the corner? Then she saw him: She could make out the shape of a homeless man who was asleep on the pavement. He was unaware of what she had just realized - that she had walked right over him. Fortunately, she hadn't hurt him. But she knew that if she had used her cane, this never would have happened.

She now recognizes the absurdity of her fears and pride about her blindness. She now uses the cane. She not only accepts her condition but she is secure with herself and her abilities to deal with it and "see" her way through her life. [Foundation Fighting Blindness.]
The Easter Season is our time to see Christ at work in our world and in our lives. Hearing his call to come follow him, and not to be blind to what is all around us. I think of Saul & Ananais – Saul whose vision is clouded with hate for the disciples until he encounters Jesus on the way to Damascus. But he still can’t see until Ananais ministers to him and scales fell from his eyes. Together we help each other in opening our eyes to God’s work.

For just as Christ lifted the disciples from their nets to embark on their new ministry and like the woman who finally accepts her blindness and transforms her life in the process, in Easter it is Christ who lifts us all up to envision new life. Scales can fall from our eyes if we are ready to live that new life that Jesus calls us to. As Mother Teresa put it,
"People are hungry for God. Do you see that? Quite often we look but do not see. We are all passing through this world. We need to open our eyes and see."
Indeed, may we “open our eyes to see God’s hand at work in the world about us” and join in. Amen.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Summer Camping

In 'Coming to our senses,' the ENS Weekly bulletin insert for April 18, Bill Slocumb, associate director of Episcopal Camps and Conference Centers (ECCC), explores the ways in which summer camp experiences touch the senses of sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste, bringing the reality of God's creation closer. You can see the article here (pdf).

To learn more about summer camping opportunities at our Camp Washington, go here.

I will be chaplain for Theater Week. Camp is awesome!

Michelle Obama, Jill Biden visit Haitian diocese's quake survivor camp

[Episcopal News Service] First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, the wife of the U.S. vice president, April 13 visited a Port-au-Prince earthquake survivor settlement run by the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti.

The two women walked to College Ste. Pierre, a wrecked diocesan high school, as part of their one-day surprise tour of the Haitian capital.

U.S. Embassy personnel told the Rev. Lauren Stanley, Episcopal Church-appointed missionary in Haiti and liaison to Bishop of Haiti Jean Zaché Duracin in the U.S., that Obama and Biden visited the site because they wanted to see an actual survivor camp where Haitians were helping Haitians recover in the quake's aftermath. Stanley said the embassy personnel told her that they knew such work was being facilitated by the diocese.

Obama and Biden arrived at College Ste. Pierre about 12:30 p.m. and were greeted by head of school the Rev. Lucas Rigal; Joseph Harry Anglade, College Ste. Pierre academic director; and the Rev. Canon Oge Beauvoir, dean of the diocese's nearby seminary and executive director of its Bureau of Anglican Education of Haiti. The men, whom Stanley said learned 90 minutes before Obama and Biden arrived that they would be visiting, briefed the two women on the situation at the camp.

According to the media pool report, sounds of saws could be heard in the background where workers are helping to rebuild classrooms.

Obama and Biden talked with some of the people living in the camp and with some of the people building the new classrooms. Stanley said the two later spoke at the U.S. Embassy in Port-au-Prince and praised the efforts of schools such as College Ste. Pierre to re-open.

As many as 200 students may have died at the school during the Jan. 12 magnitude-7 earthquake, according to Stanley, who said that university students were taking tests at the high school when the quake hit.

The College Ste. Pierre settlement began the night of the quake and has held as many as 3,000 survivors, including some diocesan personnel. It is one of many such camps the diocese is now managing throughout Haiti.

Abagail Nelson, Episcopal Relief & Development senior vice president for programs, told the Episcopal Church's Executive Council in February that her agency and the diocese believe that between 25,000 and 30,000 survivors are living in more than 60 settlements connected to the diocese.

Before arriving at College Ste. Pierre, Obama and Biden had first toured the devastated capital in a U.S. Army helicopter, according to press reports. Their helicopter then landed on the lawn of the destroyed presidential palace in downtown Port-au-Prince, where the two met with Haitian President René Préval and his wife, Elisabeth Delatour Preval.

According to the media pool report, they then went through the Camps de Mars, the city's central square that now houses a huge survivors' settlement, on their way to visit a children's art-therapy center set up behind Le Musee d'Art Haitien.

Children do art therapy in green buses that were donated by the first lady of the Dominican Republic and are decorated with balloons in the red, white and blue colors of the Haitian flag. Dozens of children sang their greetings to Biden and Obama, who danced with them. The two women joined some children in one of the buses, where Obama later said she drew a red fish at the request of the children.

Plas Timoun or "The Children's Place" was developed by Mrs. Preval Philippe Dodard, an internationally respected Haitian graphic artist and painter, and a group of psychologists, educators and politicians, according to the pool report.

The White House kept the women's visit secret for security reasons until they arrived in the Haitian capital at about 4:40 a.m. local time. The visit was meant to "underscore to the Haitian people and the Haitian government the enduring U.S. commitment to help recover and rebuild, especially as we enter the rainy and hurricane seasons," the White House said.

The White House said Obama and Biden also thanked "the women and men across the whole of the U.S. government for their extraordinary efforts in Haiti during the past three months and reach[ed] out to the U.N. and international relief communities in recognition of the truly global effort underway to help Haiti."

Their visit came in conjunction with Obama's three-day trip to Mexico City where, in her first solo diplomatic venture, she is to meet children, tour an anthropology museum and dine at Los Pinos, the president's residence.

Duracin was not present for the visit because he had left earlier in the day for a previously scheduled trip to south Florida. His wife is recuperating there from injuries she suffered when their home collapsed during the quake.

-- The Rev. Mary Frances Schjonberg is national correspondent for the Episcopal News Service and editor of Episcopal News Monthly.

Tax Day Prayer

Income Tax Day

On this day of internal revenue
    some of us are paid up,
    some of us owe,
    some of us await a refund,
    some of us have no income to tax.

But all of us are taxed,
    by war,
    by violence,
    by anxiety,
    by deathliness.

And Caesar never gives any deep tax relief.

We render to Caesar . . .
    to some it feels like a grab,
    to some it is clearly a war tax,
    to some – some few –
        it is a way to contribute to the common good.

In any case we are haunted
    by what we render to Caesar,
    by what we might render to you,
    by the way we invest our wealth and our lives,
    when what you ask is an “easy yoke”:
        to do justice
        to love mercy
        to walk humbly with you.

Give us courage for your easy burden, so to live untaxed lives.  Amen.

From Walter Brueggemann's Prayers for a
Privileged People (Abingdon, 2008).

Clergy Sex Abuse in the Episcopal Church

There has been a lot of news lately on the RC Church and the hiding of clergy sexual abuse by bishops.

Sadly, every denomination has suffered from clergy sex abuse, including our own.

Here's some information on what's happening lately in the Episcopal Church:

An Episcopal Story (From the Atlantic) Here and Here.

Confronting sexual abuse in the Episcopal Church (from Daily Episcopalian)

How our diocese handles clergy sexual misconduct:

Safe Church & Pastoral Response

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What do the young believe?

The core finding of Pew's "Religion Among the Millennials" report is that young Americans are "less religiously affiliated" than their elders. In fact, one in four of Americans ages 18 to 29 do not affiliate with any particular religious group. This is not entirely unexpected, since it is a sociological truism that young people cultivate some distance from the religious institutions of their parents, only to return to those institutions as they marry, raise children and slouch toward retirement. According to Pew, however, "Millennials are significantly more unaffiliated than members of Generation X were at a comparable point in their life cycle ... and twice as unaffiliated as Baby Boomers were as young adults."
Lots to think about, esp. as we look to this generation amongst our flock. Read the whole article by Stephen Prothero here.
Although the independence of the Millennials is often misread as apathy, my college students are deeply engaged both spiritually and politically. They care about things of the spirit, and they are eager both to vote and to volunteer. They are suspicious, however, of large, cookie-cutter organizations that want to corral and "brand" them. Do they trust people over 30? Absolutely. They just don't want to join their clubs, their political parties or their churches. They don't want a place at the table. They want a chat room of their own.

Leadership Today

There are two recent articles that looked at leadership today:

The Humble Hound By DAVID BROOKS (NY Times)
Some leaders are boardroom lions. They are superconfident, forceful and charismatic. They call for relentless transformational change...

Jim Collins, the author of “Good to Great” and “How the Mighty Fall,” celebrates a different sort of leader. He’s found that many of the reliably successful leaders combine “extreme personal humility with intense professional will.” Alongside the boardroom lion model of leadership, you can imagine a humble hound model.
Leadership crisis in the Episcopal Church By Katherine Tyler Scott
The Episcopal Church, like other mainline Protestant denominations, is not immune from the seismic political, sociological and economic shifts happening today. Most of us are experiencing "a time of no longer and a time of not yet"--an era of rapid, complex change; chronic anxiety; and heightened ambiguity. The comfort of the familiar is fading, and the movement toward an unknown future can feel terrifying. In times like these, Christians expect religious leadership to help bridge the gap between the ideal and the real, and to equip followers to live out the Gospel in an environment of extreme polarities, i.e., poverty and wealth, insularity and inclusiveness, hostility and hospitality, homogeneity and diversity.
It is worth reading both articles and it left me thinking about how we lead today...
Leaders cannot sequester congregants in beautiful spaces of worship with glorious music and liturgy without also engaging them in deeper reflection about what it means to live one's faith responsibly in the world. (Tyler)

She tries to construct thinking teams. In one study, groups and individuals were given a complicated card game called the Wason selection task. Seventy-five percent of the groups solved it, but only 14 percent of individuals did...The humble hound is a stagehand who happens to give more public presentations than most. (Brooks)
Leadership today is about humility, working with others, and also engaging the bigger questions in the midst of change when nothing is settled.

Easter 2 Sermon (April 11)

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves: regret for yesterday and fear of tomorrow.” ~ Fulton Oursler
On that first Easter, I bet the disciples felt that way, regret for not standing by Jesus, fleeing at his arrest, denying him before others. Now its evening and they are locked away for they fear the future: arrest, torture and crucifixion. They do not know what to expect, Jesus is gone, its all over and they have locked themselves up to be safe. Reminds me of a poem by Shel Silverstein:
The hens they all cackle, the roosters all beg,
But I will not hatch, I will not hatch.
For I hear all the talk of pollution and war
As the people all shout and the airplane roar,
So I'm staying in here where it's safe and it's warm,
The disciples would not hatch, they wouldn’t go out. Only Thomas is not with them, God knows where, maybe they already got him.

Fear had a hold on them and it is Jesus himself who comes to set them free. Peace be with you Jesus said to the disciples and showed them him his wounds, and they remembered and they believed and their fear turned to Joy and again Jesus said, Peace be with you and he breathed on them and the Holy Spirit came upon them. And he would do the same for Thomas a week later.

As the author and pastor Frederick Buechner put it, “for Jesus, peace seems to have meant not the absence of struggle, but the presence of love.”

And as the disciples left that locked room, with Christ’s peace and love in their hearts, in their being, it did put them in places of struggle.

Think of our first reading from Acts:
"When the temple police had brought the apostles, they had them stand before the council. Peter and the apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than any human authority. We are witnesses to these things.”
The Spirit of God gave them the strength to stand up for their faith and be a witness to Jesus and to what had taken place. They were no longer locked away in fear, but the Spirit was with them.

As we continue to celebrate the resurrection – new life in Jesus & the Spirit’s gift to guide us – I am also aware that today is Yom Hashoah - the Day of Remembrance of the Holocaust of WW II.

We remember the evil of Nazism and its attempt to not only annihilate the Jewish people but anybody who stood in their way. I think of Professor Kurt Huber who was one of those in Germany who stood up to the Nazis and who was executed for his resistance (part of the White Rose – a small student led movement in Munich).

We also remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor and martyr whose writings and resistance to Nazism, has helped many come to terms with what we as Christians need to do when we face evil.

And yet, Bonhoeffer like the disciples before him struggled with his role. When his sister and brother in law asked him to lead the funeral for his brother in law’s father, a non believer, Bonhoeffer was warned by his church not to conduct the funeral of a non-church member, and so he refused. By November, Bonhoeffer regretted this and he apologized to his sister and brother in law:
“How could I have been so terribly afraid? . . . I must ask you both to forgive me my weakness. Today I know for certain that I should have done otherwise.”
When Bonhoeffer came to the US for a position at Union Seminary in New York in mid 1939. He soon decided that leaving Germany was a mistake. He wrote to Reinhold Neibuhr,
“I have come to the conclusion that I made a mistake in coming to America. . . I shall have no right to take part in the restoration of Christian life in Germany after the war unless I share the trials of this time with my people.”
All the fear that held him back was gone when he returned, for he would lead the underground confessing church movement in Germany, continue to actively resist all that the Nazis did and ultimately was arrested in 1943, he was tried and hanged by the SS in 1945.

The last words of Bonhoeffer were: “This is the end, for me the beginning of life.”

It is the Spirit of God who was with him through all the resistance, his trails and his hanging. Indeed, Christ’s peace was so part of his being that the SS doctor who witnessed Bonhoeffer’s death remarked,
“Bonhoeffer was devout . . . brave and composed. I have hardly ever seen a man die so entirely submissive to the will of God.”
We may not be Dietrich Bonhoeffer but that same Spirit the led him to resist, the same Spirit that lead the apostles to become witnesses to the events of Jesus’ life, is the same Spirit that calls us from our own fears, our own locked rooms, out into the world.

For it is Jesus who gives us his peace and his love to live in our lives. As one author put it, in how our lives connect with the Bible:
“In this one book are the two most interesting personalities in the whole world--God and yourself. The Bible is the story of God and man, a love story in which you and I must write our own ending, our unfinished autobiography of the creature and the Creator.” ~ Fulton Oursler
May our ending, our unfinished autobiography, speak of the peace, joy, love & freedom we have found in the risen Christ and not on the fear that tries to rule this world and leave us locked in our rooms regretting yesterday and fearing tomorrow. Amen.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I am a Social Justice Christian!

I am an Episcopal Priest and a social justice Christian!

Easter Blessing

The Blessing used at our Easter Services:

May the love of the Lord Jesus draw you to himself,
May the power of the Lord Jesus strengthen you in his service,
May the joy of the Lord Jesus fill your soul,
May the blessing of God almighty the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit be with you and remain with you and those you love this day and evermore. Amen

Easter Sermon

How blessed is this day, when earth and heaven are joined and humankind is reconciled to God! May the light of Jesus shine continually to drive away all darkness. May Christ, the Morning Star who knows no setting, find his light ever burning in our hearts—he who gives his light to all creation, and who lives and reigns forever and ever. Amen.
Three boys are in the schoolyard bragging about their fathers. The first boy says, "My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a poem, they give him $50." The second boy says, "That's nothing. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a song, they give him $100." The third boy says, "I got you both beat. My Dad scribbles a few words on a piece of paper, he calls it a sermon and it takes four people to collect all the money!"
Well, here’s my scribble: In December 1875, a ship foundered and sank off the English coast. On board the ship were five Franciscan Nuns who were making their voyage to America to begin a teaching assignment in Missouri. The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, heard the story of the sisters and was so impressed that they sacrificed their lives so others could be rescued from their sinking ship that he wrote a poem dedicated to the sisters. He saw in their sacrifice, a connection with Christ’s own suffering. In one of the last lines he writes:
"Let Him easter in us, be a dayspring to the dimness of us…" (The Wreck of the Deutschland)
Let Him easter in us – Hopkins uses Easter in the poem in its nautical term, meaning to steer a craft to the east, into the light. Let him easter in us – its Easter used as a verb, not just a noun – understanding Easter as not just a day but something we think, feel, do and live. How do we let Jesus easter in our lives? I think of a story of Easter Sunday by Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano:
Nineteen seventy-three, Montevideo, Ninth Cavalry barracks. A rotten night. Roar of trucks and machine-gun fire, prisoners face-down on the floor, hands behind their heads, a gun at every back, shouts, kicks, rifle blows, threats... In the morning, one of the prisoners who hadn’t yet lost track of the calendar recalled, “Today is Easter Sunday.” Gatherings were not allowed. But they pulled it off. In the middle of the yard, they came together.

The non-Christians helped. Several of them kept an eye on the barred gates and an ear out for the guards’ footsteps. Others walked about, forming a human ring around the celebrants. Miguel Brun whispered a few words. He evoked the resurrection of Jesus, which promised redemption for all captives. Jesus had been persecuted, jailed, tormented, and murdered, but one Sunday, a Sunday like this one, he made the walls creak and crumble so there would be freedom in every prison and company in every solitude.

The prisoners had nothing. No bread, no wine, not even cups. It was a communion of empty hands. Miguel made an offering to the one who had offered himself. “Eat,” he whispered. “This is his body.” And the Christians raised their hands to their lips and ate the invisible bread. “Drink. This is his blood.” And they raised the nonexistent cup and drank the invisible wine.
Easter in us – when Christ comes no matter where we are, no matter what we have, we gather and celebrate that Christ is alive and we have been set free. For Charles Colson, the convicted felon from the Nixon White House scandals, who turned his life around with Jesus and started the Prison Fellowship, he spends Easter Sunday in a prison because
“the prison is filled with people who are condemned to a living hell, yet the power of Christ resurrects them.”
No matter how you feel about his politics, Colson’s commitment to visit prisoners to tell them the Good News of Easter and how it changed his life is quite admirable and captures what Easter is all about… It is Good News that changes our lives, that is what it means to have Christ Easter in us, to remove the dimness in our lives, and by the Spirit’s guidance to move us toward the east, toward the light, toward the new life Jesus offers to us every day. Growing up in MI, my brother had a sticker next to our light switch,
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.”
Easter stands as such a day for us too. No matter how many Good Fridays we have suffered, when we have felt alone and forsaken, there is always Easter, there is always the possibility of new life and knowing this is the first day of the rest of my life. Think of the women at the tomb, doing what tradition and their hearts told them to do, to go anoint but they find two angels
“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen.”
They are astounded, they go tell the 11 disciples and the rest who at first did not believe them, but Peter, yeah Peter!,
“got up and ran to the tomb; stooping and looking in, he saw the linen cloths by themselves; then he went home, amazed at what had happened.”
And there lives were changed! Easter is a most amazing day – it turns our world upside down. To have Jesus Easter in us, is to have Easter become part of our lives. Not just a day to celebrate and feast for Christ is risen, but to continue that every day for the rest of our lives. To continue that celebration and freedom. It is for you and me. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer, pastor and martyr, put it,
“From the resurrection of Christ a new and purifying wind can blow into the present world. If a few human beings would really believe this and would let themselves be moved by this in their earthly behavior, much would change. To live from resurrection – that indeed is the meaning of Easter.”
Today and every day, let him easter in us
  • so our lives may be full of his love and compassion, forgiveness and hope.
Let him easter in us
  • So we can be his servants & witnesses today (teachers, healers, footwashers, you name it)
Let him easter in us
  • So we can carry our own cross and help one another bear theirs.
Let him easter in us
  • So that at the last, we can turn to the light and Easter in him. Amen.

Easter Vigil Sermon

You can find the Easter Sermon by St. John Chrysostom that I used at the Easter vigil here:

A Prayer for the Miners

O God our times are in your hands. Look mercifully on those who mourn the loss of their loved ones in Upper Big Branch Mine in West Virginia, those miners who remain trapped there, and those who care for the injured. Let your Holy Spirit abide within and among them, reminding us all of our call to care for all God's people. We give thanks for all who risk their own comfort and safety for the sake of others and all whose work puts them in harm's way. Keep us mindful of our responsibilities to press for increased safety measures in their work places. We pray in the name of the one whose very name is Mercy. Amen.

Good Friday Sermon

At midnight I awoke and gazed up to heaven;
No star in the entire mass did smile down at me at midnight.

At midnight I projected my thoughts out past the dark barriers.
No thought of light brought me comfort at midnight.

At midnight I paid close attention to the beating of my heart;
One single pulse of agony flared up at midnight.

At midnight I fought the battle, of human woe;
I could not decide it with my strength at midnight.

At midnight I surrendered my strength into your hands!
Lord! over death and life You keep watch at midnight!
(Freidrich Ruckert)
At midnight, on the Mount of Olives, Jesus pondered his life & where he was that night, he prayed to God and was ultimately betrayed & arrested. Freidrich Ruckert’s poem reminds me that Maundy Thursday ends with Jesus’ surrender to God’s will and to those who come out to arrest him, and Good Friday is all about God’s silence in the face of the crucifixion.

Good Friday is also the midnight of our faith. Our savior dead on a cross, buried in a tomb, we await God’s promise and our hope of new life. It is in those dark times when there seems to be no light, no hope, nothing that we wait. Hoping God is still working even when at those Good Friday moments we wonder if God has forsaken us. At the Hope for Haiti telethon, Dave Matthews & Neil Young sang a duet on a song titled “Alone & Forsaken” and after seeing those terrible scenes of destruction in Haiti, I thought the song was very appropriate for the Haitians and those words could have been from Jesus about humanity on Good Friday:
We met in the springtime
When blossoms unfold
The pastures were green and Meadows were gold
Our love was in flower as summer grew on
A love like the leaves has withered and gone
The roses have faded
There's frost at my door
The birds in the morning don't sing anymore
The grass in the valley has started to die
Out in the darkness the whippoorwills will cry

Alone and forsaken
By fate and by man
Oh lord if you hear me
Please hold my hand
Oh please understand

The darkness is falling
The sky has turned gray
A hound in the distance is starting to bay

I wonder, I wonder what he's thinking of
Forsaken, forgotten without any love

Alone and forsaken
By fate and by man
Oh lord if you hear me
Please hold my hand
Oh please understand
Jesus betrayed, forsaken, and alone, it was the midnight of his faith and so it is for our faith, we hold on to hope, waiting for the dawn, and expecting a miracle:
“Jeanette was buried for six days in the debris of a bank in Port au Prince (Haiti). Her husband, Raja, stood faithfully all that time, watching, waiting for help, pleading with anyone who could help him find his wife. He waited, not knowing if she was dead or alive, but waiting in hope. He rushed in every time ground was cleared at the bank.” The Los Angeles rescue team arrived, searched and almost gave up hope when suddenly there was an indication that someone might be alive down there. They listened carefully and her voice was heard. Many long hours of digging and she was finally freed. And as she emerged she shouted “Thank God” and then burst into song: “Don’t be afraid of death” she sang. In her cement tomb she found God.”
Good Friday is our time to wait but just as Jeanette sang: we need not be afraid of death. Our faith & hope rests on the knowledge that God will deliver us. That death is not the final answer and the end of all things. That the darkness of midnight is not all there is. So tonight, we wait with hope for the light. Amen.