Friday, April 28, 2017

The Stations of the Resurrection (Joy)

Through Lent and Passiontide there has been a long tradition in the Church of meditating on the events of the suffering and death of the Lord Jesus, called the Stations of the Cross. In the latter part of the twentieth century a complementary devotion emerged, possibly from the Iberian peninsula, called the Stations of the Resurrection or the Stations of Joy. They provide much-needed resources for the celebration of the Great Fifty Days.

As with the Stations of the Cross, we move from station to station, reading an appropriate Bible passage and meditating on it. By using the resurrection appearances as a focus for reflection and meditation we have an opportunity to appreciate and celebrate the Easter mysteries of the resurrection of our Lord. The resurrection appearances are more than just stories or history, they are a record of personal encounters with our risen Lord, so silence and space should be given to allow the liturgy to enable that encounter to happen today. (from Common Worship: Times & Seasons)

I The earthquake Matthew 28.2-4
II Mary Magdalene finds the empty tomb John 20.1,2
III The disciples run to the empty tomb John 20.3-8
IV The angel appears to the women Matthew 28.5-8 or Mark 16.3-8 or Luke 24.2-9
V Jesus meets the women Matthew 28.9,10
VI The road to Emmaus Luke 24.28-35
VII Jesus appears to the disciples Luke 24.36-43 or John 20.19,20
VIII Jesus promises the Spirit Luke 24.44-49
IX Jesus commissions the disciples John 20.21-23
X Jesus breathes the Spirit in the upper room John 20.22,23
XI Jesus reveals himself to Thomas John 20.24-29
XII Jesus appears at the lakeside John 21.9-13
XIII Jesus confronts Peter John 21.15-19
XIV Jesus and the beloved disciple John 21.20-23
XV Jesus appears to over five hundred at once 1 Corinthians 15.3-6
XVI Jesus commissions the disciples on the mountain Matthew 28.16-20
XVII The ascension Acts 1.3-11
XVIII Pentecost Acts 2.1-11
XIX Jesus appears to Saul (Paul) Acts 9.1-18 or 1 Corinthians 15.8

Thursday, April 27, 2017

(Easter) Joy - Pillar #1

“For every event in life,” says the Dali Lama, “there are many different angles.”

There is, perhaps, no greater route to joy than this. Taking a “God’s-eye perspective,” as Archbishop Tutu says, allows for the birth of empathy—the trait that creates joy not only in the one, but in the many. Empathy opens the door to togetherness, and keeps us from building walls around our individual selves—walls that keep out so many potential friends and allies. Realizing and accepting the validity of different perspectives turns “I” in to “we”. The anger and frustration that comes of living a life of “I,” makes sustained joy nearly impossible. Humans are social creatures in an interconnected world—there is no escaping our fellows.

Opening up to the lives and perspectives of others, and being willing to experience their suffering and hardships, reminds us that we, too, are not alone in our own difficulties. In nurturing perspective and allowing ourselves to see the world in a larger way, we open up the door for joy to come into our lives, and for us to open up that door for others unlike ourselves.

Taken from

“Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering.
A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.” (Dali Lama)

Find the book here:

8 Pillars of (Easter) Joy

For one week, the Dali Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu conversed on the subject of attaining joy in a sorrowful world. “Joy is a byproduct of a life well lived. It’s much bigger than happiness.”
  1. Perspective
  2. Humility
  3. Humor
  4. Acceptance
  5. Forgiveness
  6. Gratitude
  7. Compassion
  8. Generosity 

Taken from

“No dark fate determines the future - we do. Each day and each moment, we are able to create and recreate our lives and the very quality of human life on our planet.”
– His Holiness the Dalai Lama & Archbishop Desmond Tutu

“I mean simply to say that ultimately our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others.” (Tutu)

“As we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.” (Tutu)

“The ultimate source of happiness is within us. Some of my friends are billionaires, but they are very unhappy people. Outward attainment will not bring real inner joyfulness. We must look inside.” (Dali Lama)

“Too much self-centered thinking is the source of suffering.
A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness.” (Dali Lama)

Find the book here:

Monday, April 24, 2017

Easter 2 Sermon #50statesofjoy

Risen Lord, in bursting from the tomb you have broken the power of death and we see there is no darkness that can overcome your love. Breathe into our lives the wonder of your saving glory, that our song may ever be your Alleluia. Amen. (Ian Black)

Easter is joy. It touches our souls. Such joy is a gift of this Easter Season and for all of our lives. The joy that understands that through the Resurrection of Jesus, our Easter faith makes our hearts glad & our flesh live in hope. But that deep joy can be forgotten. Our Gospel begins today in fear even after the disciples had learned about the Empty Tomb, even after Mary Magdalene tells them she has seen the Resurrected Lord on Easter morning…

The doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked in fear, and then Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, "Peace be with you.”

Finally at the end of Easter Day, their fear is turned into joy. Death has been replaced with resurrected life. The tomb they locked themselves into had been opened.

As the 1st letter of Peter puts it: “By God’s great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

And into that living hope, Jesus invited his disciples by helping them relieve their fear; he then breathes on them, the Spirit of God comes upon them and they feel at peace. Being joyful & peaceful are connected.

As Dietrich Bonhoeffer observes, “"Peace be with you"—that means: he who himself is this peace, Jesus Christ, the crucified and resurrected, is with you. The word and sign of the living Lord brings the disciples joy. Community with the Lord, after anxious, dark days, has been found again.”

What a moment that must have been. Peace entered into their very midst and the fears that controlled them, melted away. The Easter joy had to get through the suffering of Good Friday and that fear that entombed them. Such joy is much deeper than mere happiness. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu put it:

“Joy is much bigger than happiness. While happiness is often seen as being dependent on external circumstance, joy is not. Our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others.”

That is true of our lives, for joy is there for us too, and there will be suffering & fear.

“Suffering is inevitable, they said, but how we respond to that suffering is our choice. Not even oppression or occupation can take away this freedom to choose our response.” ― Dalai Lama

It is that response, flowing out of joy that will lead us to help others who are suffering, helping others find that joy and love we have received. And such love and joy will lead us away from fear and antipathy.

In her book Jesus Freak, Sara Miles writes about her church in San Francisco: St. Gregory of Nyssa Episcopal Church & their weekly food pantry. Parishioners have worked hard over the years to build up the pantry, feeding hundreds of poor and struggling families in the Bay area. The church is most proud that the pantry is “not a traditional charity, but a community of poor people feeding each other.”

Visitors to the parish are impressed and deeply moved by what Sara and her community have done. But there is often a sadness to their adulation; there seems to be a sense of resignation and resentment of the church's work. Sara writes:

"People insisted that . . . our food pantry was so special, that they couldn't possibly do anything like it themselves. It was as if they wanted to explain away the possibility of their own power. Of course, they'd say, you can experiment as much as you like out there in California; we could never get away with that in the South. Of course you must have a lot of creative folks in your congregation, not like our boring Midwestern grandmothers. Of course you have a wonderful bishop, a lot of money, a better class of poor people, some mysterious kind of permission that allows you to be so cool and daring. I wanted to cry. What more permission do they need . . . 'Receive the Holy Spirit' isn't that enough?'"

The Spirit that Jesus breathes on the disciples on that first Easter night is breathed upon us at our baptism. And through the Spirit, God’s grace enables us to live our joyful lives with the belief that the good is always possible; it is the grace that enables us to transform our doubts and fears into reconciliation & justice, peace & hope, into tangible and life giving works of love in the midst of fear and sadness.

“Discovering more joy does not, save us from the inevitability of hardship and heartbreak. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreaks without being broken.” ― Desmond Tutu

We will always face hardship & heartbreaks but we cannot let ourselves become so beaten down by life that our cynicism begins to destroy our spirit & the joy that God gives us. When that happens we are no longer able to realize God's presence among us; we fail to see this life of ours as a gift from God, given in order that we might find God and, in the process, find ourselves, and help others too.

CS Lewis once remarked: “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

Indeed, as we continue our Easter celebrations, let us live into that Easter joy that God gives us, a joy that sets us free from fear and a constant search for something else to make our hearts glad.

"We are meant to live in joy," Archbishop Desmond Tutu explained. "This does not mean that life will be easy or painless. It means that we can turn our faces to the wind and accept that this is the storm we must pass through.”

We have sailed through the storm of Holy Week & Good Friday, now let us live into our Easter joy, be fully alive & help change the world. Amen.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

Easter Sermon

Almighty God, we praise your holy name in this joyful Eastertide. We thank you, Lord, because through your death and resurrection we have won the victory and your redeeming grace and love. Loving God, fill us with new life so that we may love one another and do what you want us to do in sharing your love with your whole creation. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen. (adapted Mother’s Union)

A parishioner was teaching Sunday school class & the topic was Easter and the resurrection of Jesus. “What did Jesus do on Easter?” she asked. There was no response, so she gave her students a hint: 
“It starts with the letter R.” One boy blurted, “Recycle!”

Close enough! Jesus rose from the dead. He was resurrected. Recycled? Well the Webster dictionary says… “to pass again through a series of changes; to recover.” Indeed Jesus has done just that…and there waiting for him were the women disciples who did not flee. They held fast. They persisted.

Easter is about Persistence.

The disciples had fled and abandoned Jesus on the cross. Many women were there, looking on from a distance; they had followed Jesus from Galilee and had provided for him. Among them were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee.


So Joseph took the body of Jesus and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.


God was not done. The cross would not stand in the way. Nor the tomb… for after the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb and Jesus was not there… And their persistence is rewarded…

So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, “Greetings!” And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.”

We too are called to such persistence in our faith. To live into that faith knowing that death is never the end; our God is a God of the living. Jesus’ resurrection invites us to live into his new life.

In Anthony Doerr's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel All the Light We Cannot See, the heroine is 16-year-old Marie-Laure, the blind daughter of the widowed master locksmith at the Museum of Natural History in Paris. Marie-Laure loses her sight at the age of six due to congenital cataracts. Her father is determined that his beloved daughter will not live a life of self-pity, so he teaches her Braille and designs intricate puzzle boxes for her to solve. Under his guidance, Marie-Laure learns to negotiate her way with her cane, one centimeter at a time, from their apartment to the museum and then home again. Despite her natural shyness, Marie-Laure develops a sharp, inquisitive intelligence and a steely resilience as World War II begins.

When Paris falls to the Nazis, Marie-Laure and her father flee to the town of Saint-Malo in Brittany where they take refuge with relatives. Her father constructs a detailed model of the town. By touching each door, each tree, each streetlight in the model, Marie-Laure memorizes every street and landmark until she can confidently negotiate her way around the coastal town. She counts the steps and manhole covers; she learns the sounds and smells unique to every street and place; she follows railings and cables and hedges.

The shy blind girl grows into a courageous and resourceful young woman. Her ability to make her way through Saint-Malo during the occupation enables her to become an effective operative for the Resistance that leads to Saint-Malo's liberation and eventually all of France. Marie-Laure's intelligence, resourcefulness and courage enable her to perceive the light that the seeing world around her cannot see. She embraces the simple wisdom of the housekeeper in Saint-Malo who takes Marie-Laure under her wing: "If God wants us to see something, we'll see it."

She & her father were persistent. Jesus’s resurrection calls on us to have such persistence in our faithful lives and to pay attention to the signs of God's renewed presence in our midst. Like Marie-Laure's persistence in seeing with the eye of her intellect, we have to look with more than just our senses but with our hearts and souls to see our world through the Easter prism of hope and new possibilities, to not be held back by our own doubts and fears, our own tombs, but allow this Easter day and faith to guide us forward. To have…

Persistence with our faith.

According to ancient tradition, Mary of Magdala was a wealthy woman from whom Christ expelled seven "demons." During the three years of Jesus’ ministry, she helped support Him and His other disciples with her money. When almost everyone else fled, she stayed with Him at the cross. On Easter morning she was the first to bear witness to His resurrection. She is often called “Apostle to the Apostles.”

After the Ascension, Mary Magdalene journeyed to Rome where she was admitted to Tiberias Caesar's court because of her high social standing. After describing how poorly Pilate had administered justice at Jesus’ trial, she told Caesar that “Christ is risen!” (from the dead). To help explain the resurrection, she picked up an egg from the dinner table. Caesar responded that a human being could no more rise from the dead than the egg in her hand turn red. The egg turned red immediately, which is why red eggs have been exchanged at Easter for centuries in the Byzantine East.

Mary spent the rest of her life in the Mediterranean proclaiming the good news of Christ & preaching the resurrection.

May we have the persistence of the women at the tomb to hold on to faith & hope through it all, to have persistence like Marie-Loure & her father so we can see what God wants us to see and like Mary Magdalene, to proclaim the Good News of the Risen Jesus by what we say and do. May God on this Easter fill us with that new life so that we may love one another and resolve to do what God calls each of us to do in sharing that love with the whole creation. Amen.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Week and the Hatred of the Jews: How to Avoid Anti-Judaism this Easter

This is from an opinion piece in Australia by Professor Amy-Jill Levine...

Jesus of Nazareth, charged by the Roman authorities with the sedition, dies on a Roman cross. But Jews - the collective, all Jews - become known as "Christ-killers."

Still haunting, the legacy of that charge becomes acute during Holy Week, when pastors and priests who speak about the death of Jesus have to talk about "the Jews."

Every year, the same difficulty surfaces: how can a gospel of love be proclaimed, if that same gospel is heard to promote hatred of Jesus's own people?

The charge against "the Jews" permeates the pages of the New Testament.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Pilate literally washes his hands while "all the people" - all the Jewish people - clamour for Jesus's death: "Let him be crucified ... His blood be on us and on our children!" (Matthew 27:23, 27).

John's Gospel identifies the Jews as "from your father the devil" (John 8:44) and blames them for backing Pilate into a corner and forcing him to kill an innocent man.

In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter charges "the entire house of Israel" (Acts 2:36) with crucifying Jesus and so having "killed the Author of life" (Acts 3:14-15). Paul then bluntly refers to "the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus" (1 Thessalonians 2:14-15).

Perhaps this vilification was inevitable. Jesus's followers could not understand how the vast majority of Jews could not accept their belief in him as the Messiah. The majority of Jews, in turn, saw no sign of the Messianic age having dawned: no general resurrection of the dead; no ingathering of the exiles to Zion; no end to death, war, disease, or poverty. What was self-evident to one group was incomprehensible to the other. Incomprehension turned to mistrust, and mistrust, on both sides, turned to vilification.

Today, interfaith conversation, in which Jews and Christians learn to appreciate their common roots and better understand the reasons for the gradual and often painful separation, can reverse the process. Official (and unofficial) church statements facilitate healing as well: Nostra Aetate, the 1965 declaration of Vatican II, proclaimed that all Jews at all times should not be held responsible for Jesus's death, and Benedict XVI, in the second volume of his Jesus of Nazareth, strongly reiterated the point. Christians from many (but not all) other branches of the tradition, generally agree.

But we still have to deal with our pasts, and with our Scriptures. Every time the Passion narratives are read, the threat of anti-Judaism reappears. There is no catch-all for resolving the problems in the New Testament - or in Tanakh/the Old Testament, for that matter; we all have difficult texts in our canons. But there are strategies. Here are six, in order of usefulness...

 Read the whole article here.

Images of Mary Magdalene & The Egg (one tradition)

(from the sermon)

"After the Ascension, Mary Magdalene journeyed to Rome where she was admitted to Tiberias Caesar's court because of her high social standing. After describing how poorly Pilate had administered justice at Jesus’ trial, she told Caesar that “Christ is risen!” (from the dead). To help explain the resurrection, she picked up an egg from the dinner table. Caesar responded that a human being could no more rise from the dead than the egg in her hand turn red. The egg turned red immediately, which is why red eggs have been exchanged at Easter for centuries in the East."

Easter Blessing

Easter Benediction used in 2017:

And now to God who is able to keep us from falling, and lift us from the dark valley of despair to the bright mountain of hope, from the midnight of desperation to the day break of joy; from the sunset and darkness of Good Friday to the dawn and light of Easter; to God be all power and authority, and may the blessing of God…  Amen.
(slightly adapted from Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-68)

Easter Vigil Sermon

O Loving God, by the resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ, you conquered sin, put death to flight, and gave us the hope of everlasting life: Redeem all our days by this victory; forgive our sins, banish our fears, make us bold to praise you and to do your will; and steel us to wait for the consummation of your kingdom on the last great Day; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tonight we celebrate Jesus resurrection. The word “resurrection” comes from a Greek word, which means “to stand again.” The resurrection is God standing again even after the tragic evil of the cross, for death is never the final word in God’s story, for our God is a God of life and love and hope. We are joined with Christ in the experience of his resurrection , for our failures and losses are not the last word for us as God’s power can lift us out of the pit of death and to stand again in new life.

Watch a short video on Easter… (a video series we had done for our Lenten Supper & Study)

Out of the stale darkness, he rises into the light. This is our future.

Our Christian lives are resurrected lives, we stand again in God’s light.

“We, like newborn infants, are learning to walk in this new kind of life. It is a life that does not fear death. It does not seek fame or fortune so to keep death from knocking at the door. Christians are called to learn to live the Kingdom of the Resurrected Christ. This means living in a world of hope that pushes away the skepticism of this world. It means building on a faith that God is restoring all things new, and making a place for all of humanity. It means trusting that deep and lasting relationships will exist to push back broken commitments and lost trust.

Resurrection means a standing up for all humanity, not just in the next life, but in this world right now. This is the difference that Christ’s victory has made in this world. Without the resurrection this world would be a much darker place. Because of the resurrection, people like Oscar Romero, Martin Luther King Jr., Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Mother Teresa, and many others had the courage to stand up to oppression and injustice to create, with Jesus, a world of peace, a world of hope.

This is not to say that every moment of a person’s life is this kind of resurrection moment, but God showed us in the resurrection that life could not be swallowed up in the tomb. It presses forward, into our lives. How can you live in this kind of new world, in the Kingdom of the Resurrected Christ?

There is still plenty to be done and Christ invites us to join him, to stand again in this redeeming work of recreating God’s new dream in our world today.” (Phuc Luu)

Alleluia. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia. Amen.