Happy Easter, Everyone!

“O God, who for our redemption gave your only-begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer).

It’s officially Easter. It also happens to be April Fools’ Day. It seems fitting when most of the world looks at Christians as fools for believing and living as they do.

It does seem foolish to strive for greatness by becoming the servant of all.

It does seem foolish to turn the other cheek instead of striking back.

It does seem foolish to seek to gain your life by losing it and to pick up your cross daily to die to sin and to follow Jesus.

It does seem foolish to proclaim Jesus words that He is the way, the truth, and the life in the face of so many others who would tell you that there are many paths to God.

It does seem foolish to follow a carpenter’s son who wrote no books and led no great revolts. His ministry lasted barely three years and He died as a criminal in the worst way possible.

Yet what seems like foolishness to most is the wisdom of God.

That same carpenter’s son lived sinlessly, and after dying on the cross, defeated sin, death, and hell forever by raising from the grave after three short days.

We now mark history by His life and there are billions who profess to follow this Jesus, who is both Lord and God.

So once again, happy Easter. May both your words and your actions testify to this foolishness that is wiser than the wisdom of men.

 

Holy Saturday

“O God, Creator of heaven and earth:  Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the  coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer).

According to weather reports, tomorrow will be a wet soggy mess. And it’s also Easter Sunday. Too bad the weather couldn’t have carried over from today with its perfect temperatures and blue skies.

Still, the point of Sunday isn’t the weather but an empty tomb. Jesus may well be the only figure in history to have borrowed a tomb. He really only needed it for Saturday.

It’s true that Jesus is alive and it’s also true that He’s coming back to take His followers with Him and to rescue and redeem a fallen creation.

That Saturday between Good Friday and Easter Sunday is a sort of in-between day, coming in between the crucifixion and the resurrection. Right now, it feels a lot like living in the in-between, looking back on the incarnation and eagerly awaiting the Second Coming.

The hope is that just as surely as Jesus walked out of the tomb on that Sunday morning, He will return, just as real and just as alive.

Sure, there will be easter bunnies and chocolate and easter egg hunts. I don’t have a problem with all that. I only need to remember that above all that reigns the living and breathing Jesus. And that makes even a wet and rainy mess of a day better.

 

 

 

Hurry Up and Slow Down

“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” (The Book of Common Prayer).

I attended my church’s annual Maundy Thursday service. As usual, it was a small and quiet affair with only the music from a string quartet to break the silence. There was no preaching, no singing, but only the taking of the elements.

My prayer this year is to not rush through another Easter season. These days, my life already goes by at breakneck speed. I certainly don’t want to hurry it up any further.

So I’m doing my best to savor this season and not let any of its rich meaning be lost. I want to remember how Jesus, sharing God’s very nature, made Himself nothing and took on the form of a slave, becoming obedient even to the point of death.

I remember how Jesus was silent in the face of false accusations against Him. He did not open His mouth to defend Himself, even though He was innocent, choosing the way of crucifixion and death so that I the guilty may go free and be declared innocent in the eyes of God.

Let me take it all in and not lose a single iota of it. Let not one crumb of bread or drop of wine be lost. I want to hurry up and slow down.

“He orchestrated this: the Anointed One, who had never experienced sin, became sin for us so that in Him we might embody the very righteousness of God” (2 Corinthians 5:21, THE VOICE).

 

 

 

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. Amen (The Book of Common Prayer).

Tonight I participated in the Eucharist at Kairos. I’m coming to appreciate and treasure more and more what taking the elements means. My faith tradition says that the bread and wine are symbolic of the body and blood of Jesus and point to a deeper meaning.

I hope there’s never ever a time when I get over what Jesus did for me. This holy week is all about remembering the tremendous sacrifice Jesus made so that I might know true and abundant life everlasting.

Jesus, You died for me. May I live for You. Amen.

 

Post-Thanksgiving Pre-Advent Thoughts

Apparently, this will be one of those odd years where Advent doesn’t immediately follow Thanksgiving. According to my understanding, Advent begins next Sunday. I’m not exactly an expert on these things, so it may very well be that I’m wrong about this. If so, be gentle.

Today seemed like a good day to look at old memories on Facebook and Timehop. I’m reminded that two years ago I was dog-sitting in McKay’s Mill for a very lovable and friendly dog named Millie who has since crossed the rainbow bridge.

I also see pictures of my late beloved Lucy, who was looking very contented and well-fed at the time. Part of me still wonders if I missed a clue that might have helped her live a little longer. Most of me knows that she was deeply loved and had a very good life. I was blessed to have her for those 17 years.

I also finally got around to one of the classics of modern cinema. I’m talking about Weekend at Bernie’s. No, it was not a great piece of filmmaking by any stretch, but it was a good representation of the good and bad of 80’s movies.

Today ends the extended version of the weekend known as Thanksgiving/Black Friday. I got caught up on my sleep, made it through a migraine on Saturday, and had a lovely day today.

I’m not sure what to read out of The Book of Common Prayer next. I guess I’ll get a head start on the Advent readings. It’s never too early to start getting my heart ready for the celebration of the promised Messiah.

Here’s a little taste:

“What is coming upon the world is the Light of the World. It is Christ. That is the comfort of it. The challenge of it is that it has not come yet. Only the hope for it has come, only the longing for it. In the meantime we are in the dark, and the dark, God knows, is also in us. We watch and wait for a holiness to heal us and hallow us, to liberate us from the dark. Advent is like the hush in a theater just before the curtain rises. It is like the hazy ring around the winter moon that means the coming of snow which will turn the night to silver. Soon. But for the time being, our time, darkness is where we are” (Frederick Buechner, The Hungering Dark).

Casting My Anchor in the Port of Peace

I’m occasionally like praying other people’s prayers. By that, I mean praying out of books like the Book of Common Prayer and The Seven Sacred Pauses. I’ve chosen a prayer from The Valley of Vision, a collection of Puritan prayers and devotionals, that expresses the prayer of my heart right now. While I think it’s important to pray what’s in your heart as authentically as possible (even sighs and groans), I also believe that sometimes that prayer best comes out in somebody else’s words.

“My faith is in thee,
My expectation is from thee,
My love goes out toward thee,
I believe thee,
accept thy Word,
acquiesce in thy will,
rely on thy promises,
trust thy providence.
I bless thee that the court of conscience
proves me to be thine.
I do not need signs and wonders to believe,
for thy Word is sure truth.
I have cast my anchor in the port of peace,
knowing that present and future
are in nail-pierced hands.
Thou art so good, wise, just holy,
that no mistake is possible to thee.
Thou art fountain and source of all law;
what thou commandest is mine to obey.
I yield to thy sovereignty all that I am and have;
do thou with me as thou wilt.
Thou hast given me silence in my heart
in place of murmurings and complaints.
Keep my wishes from growing into willings,
my willings from becoming fault-finding
with thy providences,
and have mercy on me.
If I sin and am rebellious, help me to repent;
then take away my mourning and give me music;
remove my sackcloth and adorn me with beauty;
take away my sighs and fill my mouth with songs;
and when I am restored and rest in thee
give me summer weather in my heart” (The Valley of Vision).

Fixed Hearts

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen” (Collect for Fifth Sunday of Lent, Book of Common Prayer).

I’m getting a little ahead of myself (and a couple days early for this collect), but I do so love this one, especially the part about “swift and varied changes” contrasted with “our hearts may surely there be fixed.”

That’s the key. Everything else is fleeting. From one moment to the next, you can never count on anything to be the same. Just when you’ve gotten used to something, it changes and becomes something completely different.

But Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He’s that place where our hearts can surely be fixed and can finally find rest.

That’s comforting and assuring during this season of Lent where we seek to find our bearings again and to be reoriented to the Truth that does not change with the culture or with passing trends or societal norms.

In a frenzied and frantic world, He still leads us beside still waters and restores our souls. Even in the midst of the deepest darkest valleys, He’s with us and His rod and staff still guide us.

That’s what I’m hoping and praying you and I find during this season of Lent and Easter– rest. Not lots of good naps (although they are still the best way to pass a Sunday afternoon), but times of refreshing where you are rejuvenated down to the core of your very being. That’s what I want for all of us.

 

Trying Less and Trusting More

“Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer, Second Sunday of Lent).

Why is it that the harder you try not to laugh the more you end up laughing? It seems especially true when you’re in a place where laughter is completely inappropriate yet you just can’t help yourself.

I know for me sometimes that the more I try to do good and be good, the more I find the not so good showing up in me (or to use an old fashioned word that’s definitely considered politically incorrect, sin).

Christianity isn’t about trying harder and being more moral or keeping rules for the sake of keeping rules. It’s not about God helping those who help themselves (which isn’t even in the Bible– Benjamin Franklin said it). FYI, if we could help ourselves, we wouldn’t have needed God or faith or Christianity to begin with.

Christianity is all about those who know they can’t help themselves (in every sense of the word). It’s for all those who’ve tried and failed so many times they’ve lost count.

Christianity is about how Jesus has already done for us what we could never hope to do for ourselves. It’s His resurrection power that enables us to live right because it’s His life in us.

It’s about God promising to finish the good work He started in us long ago and keeping His promise because God is a Promise Keeper.

 

 

The Last Thursday Before the Last Sunday Before Lent

O God, who before the passion of your only-begotten Son
revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that
we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be
strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his
likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God,
for ever and ever. Amen” (The Book of Common Prayer).

Mardi Gras is in 5 days (as is my birthday– hint, hint). Ash Wednesday is in 6 days.

That means I’ll be taking my usual sabbatical from social media for the next few weeks until Easter Sunday.

I’m actually looking forward to it this year more than ever. Not so much because of all the negativity (although there has been plenty of that lately) but more so because of all the extra time I’ll have to have actual face-to-face conversations with friends, do some reading out of actual books, watch movies, or just sit and contemplate in silence.

I recommend taking a social media break from time to time. It helps clear your head. It’s like a periodic reboot of your PC that helps reset and reorient your thinking when it’s gotten off track.

I’ll still be doing my blog posts as usual and keeping you updated on all the latest shenanigans in my life (as well as the ongoing saga that is the life of one Lucy the Wonder Cat).

I have some books lined up to keep me occupied, including hopefully rereading some Tolkien in the very near future. I’m still taking requests for good new/old music/movies, and books to check out, so keep sending them my way.

Who knows? Maybe I can manage to meet one or more of you at a nearby coffee spot for one of those face-to-face conversations? You just never know.

 

 

The True Meaning of Christmas 

“O God, you have caused this holy night to shine with the
brightness of the true Light: Grant that we, who have known
the mystery of that Light on earth, may also enjoy him
perfectly in heaven; where with you and the Holy Spirit he
lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen” (from The Book of Common Prayer).

It seem like the old adage is true. The older you get, the faster time goes. As a kid, I thought Christmas would never arrive. Now, I feel like if I blink, I might miss it.

This year, I’ve barely had time to revel in the season of Advent and Christmas, and tomorrow is Christmas Day. If only I had a remote control for life with a big pause button to slow everything down for a bit just so I could savor all of the sights and sounds and scents.

But the true meaning of Christmas is for more than just December 25. Its still good after all those ornaments have been taken down and the tree put away for another year. It goes beyond December and into the new year and follows all the days of every year.

God has come near. As my pastor says often, Christianity isn’t that we can get to god but that God in Jesus has come to us. He didn’t wait until you and I got our acts cleaned up and made ourselves ready to receive the Incarnate. He came when we were in the middle of our biggest messes. He came when we needed a Savior the most.

Even after the shine wears off of those gifts, the best gift will still be that Emmanuel is still here. He has not left us and He never will. The hope of Christmas is the hope that will sustain us always.