Easter Monday evening! It’s so quiet. All the frenzied activity, liturgies, coordinations, rehearsals, complaints, unexpected breakdowns, etc., of Holy Week have come and gone. My beloved wife has gone to sleep early as she has not been feeling well since Easter p.m. Abby the dog is patiently waiting to go out one last time. I am here alone…but not alone.
It’s these quiet moments that remind me that the greatest of Easter miracles took place without human observation. The tomb was found empty but no one witnessed what exactly happened and how. (Unlike the apocryphal so-called “gospels” where the Resurrection takes place with more noise than the sound of an approaching express train!)
My personal spirituality makes me believe that God’s mightiest acts are only perceived when we are quiet enough to pay attention. Suicide bombers and hate mongers make noise. The power of the Risen One is perceived in stillness. Although their words had a totally different context and intention, I rehear Simon and Garfunkel’s ode and “listen to the sound of silence.”
It’s Maundy Thursday and the Sacred “Triduum” of the most solemn Christian Holy Days has begun. Please remember our schedule of Services:
Maundy Thursday at St. John’s 7:30 pm
Good Friday at St. John’s Stations of the Cross at 2:00 pm
Good Friday Ecumenical Service (Episcopal, Presbyterian and Methodist) at South Salem Presbyterian Church at 7:30 pm
Easter Vigil at St. John’s First Service of Easter at 7:30 pm (Saturday)
Easter Sunday at St. John’s at 9:30 a.m.
Most importantly – we remember why we celebrate the victory of Jesus over death – why these days are so spiritually significant. Read the final prayer of our Good Friday Liturgy. This is at the heart of what Christ did for us!
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set
your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and
our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and
grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy
Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life
and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you
live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
St. Patrick’s Day
For those of you of Celtic heritage, today is a major “feast” – a celebration of things Irish. For the rest of us, it is a day to honor a great man of his time: a kidnap victim in his youth, daring escapee, Christian, priest, bishop and eventually a missionary sent back to the very barbaric peoples who captured him years before. To me, Patrick was an outstanding preacher, teacher and living proof that one does not have to remain a victim of the malevolent actions of others.
To go back “into the lion’s den” as it were (as he did) and spend the rest of your ministry bringing them the Good News of Jesus (to convert their souls but also to help form a culture and language where art, literature, and faith would flourish) convinces me that with and in the power of the Holy Spirit, all things are possible.
I look at our parish – we are by the numbers small, not really strong and still struggling. As I tell my peers, we are in “better” shape but we are nowhere near “good” shape physically or financially. But trusting in the power of prayer, firming our commitment to the Lord of life who enlivens this community with His Spirit, and with a tenacity that marked Patrick, we can sustain in St. John’s what Patrick brought to Ireland: a living faith!
May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always
at your back
The sun shine warm upon
The rain fall soft upon your
And until we meet again
may God hold you in the
hollow of his hand
May you be in heaven an
hour before the devil
knows you’re dead
This coming Sunday we’ll all endure the loss of sleep ritual known as returning to “Daylight Savings Time.” So we set our clocks ahead an hour but never really retrieve that lost hour of sleep – not really!
Again this works, for me, as a powerful metaphor for the spiritual renewal going on within ourselves and also regarding the renewal of our parish. Things will always happen to take “time” away from us, and we never have enough “time” to do everything we suspect we ought to be doing. (Perhaps we need take more seriously the words of the Confession of Sin: “… for what I have done and for what I have left undone …”).
We lose an hour of sleep – oh well. We lose a chance to invite someone to share our worship with us, or an opportunity to truly model the Good News of Christ in front of our kids, or even to exercise one of the Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting or “almsgiving.” We lose a moment to grow spiritually or to enhance our parish community with some soul who may be seeking God – that moment is lost. Forever! Lent is always about time – and what we do with it!
I’m going to visit the “dark side” this week. For those of you who are reading Faithful Facts for Lent as a Lenten Meditation, you know that today the reflection turned to Judas Iscariot.
I will not repeat what is written in the meditation booklet (written far better than anything I could), but I will ask you to consider some implications for this person who, to be truthful, was one of Jesus’ failures.
Judas stands as a reminder that any of us can give up and yield to temptations and just do what is easiest rather than what is right. Any of us can build up our expectation of God or anyone else and then collapse into despair when those expectations are not met.
Even a parish community, no matter how successful in terms of numbers attending or money in the bank or even using those resources for “good works” can become lost because they lose sight of HIM who is our purpose and our goal – and our redeemer.
We can stop on the journey, become satisfied with self, lose sight of the destination or forget about the abundant life offered to us by our crucified and risen Lord. Do this – then like Judas we betray our purpose, our Baptism Vows, ourselves and most of all, Our Lord.
People use the cliché: “There but for the grace of God go I.” When I think of Judas, I pray that cliché as a prayer.