Devotional Service
 

May 25,2020

The  Seventh  Sunday  of  Easter


Why do you stand looking upward toward heaven?
 
   Hymn

        Immortal, invisible, God only wise,

        in light inaccessible hid from our eyes,

        most blessed, most glorious, the Ancient of Days,

        almighty, victorious, thy great Name we praise.

 

        Unresting, unhasting, and silent as light,

        nor wanting, nor wasting, thou rulest in might;

        thy justice like mountains high soaring above

        thy clouds, which are fountains of goodness and love.

 

        To all life thou givest, to both great and small;

        in all life thou livest, the true life of all;

        we blossom and flourish, like leaves on the tree,

        then wither and perish; but nought changeth thee.

 

        Thou reignest in glory, thou rulest in light,

        thine angels adore thee, all veiling their sight;

        all laud we  would render: O help us to see

        tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.

 

               (Walter Chalmers Smith 1824-1908)

 

 

 

Lord, open our lips and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

 

ALLELUIA! CHRIST THE LORD HAS ASCENDED INTO HEAVEN:

COME LET US ADORE HIM,  ALLELUIA!

 

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;

   you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;

   we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

 

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;

   on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;

   we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

 

Glory to you, beholding the depths;

   in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

   we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

THE PSALM

 

Psalm 47

Omnes gentes, plaudite

1 Clap your hands, all you peoples; *

shout to God with a cry of joy.

2 For the Lord Most High is to be feared; *

he is the great King over all the earth.

3 He subdues the peoples under us, *

and the nations under our feet.

4 He chooses our inheritance for us, *

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5 God has gone up with a shout, *

the Lord with the sound of the ram's-horn.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises; *

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is King of all the earth; *

sing praises with all your skill.

8 God reigns over the nations; *

God sits upon his holy throne.

9 The nobles of the peoples have gathered together *

with the people of the God of Abraham.

10 The rulers of the earth belong to God, *

and he is highly exalted.

 

THE FIRST LESSON

Acts 1:[1-5] 6-14

[In the first book, Theophilus, I (Luke) wrote about all that Jesus did and taught from the beginning until the day when he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles whom he had chosen. After his suffering he presented himself alive to them by many convincing proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. While staying with them, he ordered them not to leave Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father. "This," he said, "is what you have heard from me; for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”]

So when they had come together, they asked him, "Lord, is this the time when you will restore the kingdom to Israel?" He replied, "It is not for you to know the times or periods that the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth." When he had said this, as they were watching, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. While he was going and they were gazing up toward heaven, suddenly two men in white robes stood by them. They said, "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a sabbath days journey away. When they had entered the city, they went to the room upstairs where they were staying, Peter, and John, and James, and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, and Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James. All these were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, as well as his brothers.

 

THE SECOND LESSON

John 17:1-11[12-24]

Jesus looked up to heaven and said, Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son so that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him authority over all people, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him. And this is eternal life, that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent. I glorified you on earth by finishing the work that you gave me to do. So now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had in your presence before the world existed.”

“I have made your name known to those whom you gave me from the world. They were yours, and you gave them to me, and they have kept your word. Now they know that everything you have given me is from you; for the words that you gave to me I have given to them, and they have received them and know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. I am asking on their behalf; I am not asking on behalf of the world, but on behalf of those whom you gave me, because they are yours. All mine are yours, and yours are mine; and I have been glorified in them. And now I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them in your name that you have given me, so that they may be one, as we are one.” [While I was with them, I protected them in your name that you have given me. I guarded them, and not one of them was lost except the one destined to be lost, so that the scripture might be fulfilled. But now I am coming to you, and I speak these things in the world so that they may have my joy made complete in themselves.  I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. I am not asking you to take them out of the world, but I ask you to protect them from the evil one. They do not belong to the world, just as I do not belong to the world. Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth. As you have sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, so that they also may be sanctified in truth.”

I ask not only on behalf of these, but also on behalf of those who will believe in me through their word, that they may all be one. As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”]

 

REFLECTION

By

Norm Wright

 

+In the Name of the Ascended Christ+

 

When I was growing up in the small town of Kaylor, S.D. Ascension Day was a holiday: no school, no bank, no bars, not even the two gas stations were open.  My dad would close the family-owned grocery store and cafe for the day and, after we all went to church in the morning, we would spend the rest of the day fishing at Pickstown or Lake Andes. 

 

Ascension Day gets little attention nowadays.  It seems to have lost its luster and relevance in today's world.  Because it isn’t given much serious attention, it has been reduced to a story about Jesus’ exit from the scene after his resurrection.   In fact, if one reads about the ascension of Jesus in the Synoptic Gospels, one might conclude that Jesus ascended into heaven on Easter or no later than a day or two after.  There is no distinct timeline given in the Gospels as to when this occurred, and the Gospel of John offers no description of it.

 

The Acts of the Apostles is the only place where there is a detailed discussion about it as an event worth taking note of.  In fact there is a lot to unpack in Luke’s brief but masterful account of it.  What we find is that it is anything but an exit story.  In fact, the ascension story in Acts brings us back to the resurrection, to consider its meaning in the light of Jesus’ ascension.  The ascension underscores that Jesus’ resurrection was not an ending, but rather the start of a new creation that began with the resurrection.   

 

What is intriguing, among many other things, is Luke’s description of Jesus  talking to his disciples about the Kingdom of God. We don’t know what was said, but apparently what wasn’t discussed was anything about Jesus re-establishing the Kingdom of Israel; something the disciples and Jesus’ Jewish followers anticipated as an immediate followup to Jesus’ resurrection.   

 

There was a sense that Jesus was leaving before the job, they believed the Messiah was supposed to do, was done, so they ask (and here I am paraphrasing), “Jesus, now that you’re back, aren’t you going to establish the Kingdom of Israel?  Isn’t that what being the Messiah is all about?  You beat death. How about beating the Romans?  Why leave now when nothing about the world we know has changed?”   

 

This is an important question.  It’s a question (at least an unconscious one) many Christians continue to have today.   It is the reason Luke is addressing it upfront, at the beginning of Acts, because Jesus’ resurrection didn’t result in that happening. 

 

So what is Jesus’ resurrection about?

 

Here I will offer two personal views that may appear incongruent with general understanding and a number of church teachings.

 

The first is that Jesus’s resurrection is God’s final judgement on humankind. Exploring that view will require a whole set of homilies - so stay tuned.

 

The second view is built on the first; that as the final judgment, Jesus’ resurrection serves as the reset point to get us back on the path of taking care of things, which, by the way, is our original job description according to Genesis. 

 

In other words, God’s way of setting things straight begins by setting us straight and putting us on a path established by Jesus - as a trajectory through history - to collectively live into role of caretakers and do the job we were originally intended to do.  Unfortunately, some of the Church’s teachings and practices over the past two thousand years have distracted us from that path.

 

Jesus does not debate the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Israel simply because it is caught up in the establishment of God’s Kingdom.  If for the past forty days Jesus had been talking about God’s Kingdom, why was there a need to ask about the re-establishment of the Kingdom of Israel?  

 

The simple answer is the disciples were incapable of letting go of an entrenched mindset at that point.  In fact, that mindset is traceable throughout the New Testament. 

 

Many Christians continue to insist or at least harbor the idea that Jesus must return or could return as a militant Messiah and that there will be a militant end to the world (a catastrophic Armageddon-moment); an idea that is deeply rooted in Christian fundamentalism and in some evangelical denominations. To be honest, there is a lot of scripture in the New Testament to back that idea, but there is also a lot of scripture that dispels a literal interpretation of its more militant passages.  

 

This idea of a militant return of Jesus begs the question that if Jesus, as the Messiah, didn’t come as a militant messiah the first time around which resulted in God forgiving our bellicose behavior, what makes us think Jesus would come back as a militant messiah a second time around as if to imply the first time around did’t get it right?

 

Jesus basically tells his disciples and us, “Don’t worry about it. This is God’s issue.  What is important for you now is to be my witnesses and continue the work that I started.”  At that point, Jesus ascends and lets the question about such things go unanswered.

 

As the disciples are looking up trying to see Jesus in the obscurity of a cloud, two men in white mysteriously appear and ask,  "Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”  In other words, these two mysterious men were pointing the disciples' gaze and ours back to earth in order to keep us grounded in the reset of creation that is taking place in the here and now.

 

The description of a cloud taking him up; as in, receiving Jesus and being described as the means by which Jesus returns is worth paying attention to because it’s not so much about the cloud being the means by which Jesus goes and comes that is important. Rather, it is the meaning of the cloud that is significant.  The cloud that took Jesus up and received Jesus is a familiar symbol used throughout scripture in various ways.  It is the cloud mentioned in the Transfiguration.  It’s the cloud that led Israel in the wilderness by day during the exodus.

 

Clouds are used throughout scripture as a metaphor for hidden things. They also are used as a metaphor for dispensing goodness, life, and justice just as clouds dispense life-giving rain. The cloud represents the hiddenness; the ineffability of God.  Jesus is absorbed into the paradoxical cloud of that Being in which we live, move, and have our being; that Being which is expressed in our being. 

 

The cloud is also a symbol of the faithful - the cloud of witnesses - us and all who came before and who will come after.  That is why Jesus’ ministry continues through us, his witnesses in the here and now.  The cloud remains until all are one and all are caught up into its mysterious splendor.

 

It was and is necessary that Jesus Christ is hidden from our physical sight, because that sight has never been reliable, as we have seen demonstrated throughout our lessons in Gospel of John during Lent and Easter. What reveals the truth of Jesus to us is the sight of faith.

 

The risen and ascended Christ is experienced as the cosmic nexus between God and humankind, as the path (the way of Jesus) between heaven and earth. Like the rain that falls from clouds, Christ has rained down on all creation and is experienced in all things by the means of God’s grace and expressed through our acts of faith.  

 

The ascension of Jesus reminds us that we are called to live into our roles as the caretakers of life on this planet until we are gathered into that cloud of witnesses and enter into the splendor of that Light in which God is hidden.

 

O Comforter, draw near, within our hearts appear, and kindle them, your holy flame bestowing.  Amen

 

 

   

 

   HYMN

 

         Humbly I adore thee, Verity unseen,

         who thy glory hides ‘neath these shadows mean;

         lo, to thee surrendered, my whole heart is bowed,

         tranced as it beholds thee, shrined within the cloud.

 

         Jesus, whom now hidden, I by faith behold,

         what my soul doth long for, that thy word foretold:

         face to face thy splendor, I at last shall see,

         in the glorious vision, blessed Lord, of thee.

(Thomas Aquinas 1225-1274)


THE LORDS PRAYER

 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name,

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

THE COLLECT OF THE DAY

 

O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.         

 

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

 

Pray for those in our parish family; for Phyllis and Bernard Kubal, Mary Ann Anderson, Sue Lauch, and Pat and Bev Ann Christensen.  On this Sunday we pray for John Keyesbrother Tom, Pat Michels, and Kelly.  Pray for those you hold in your hearts.

 

Pray for those celebrating birthdays: Owen Warren, Katrine Newland  (May 24), and Steve Adamson (May 26).

 

Pray for those celebrating anniversaries this week:  Jim and Black (may 25), Fr. Tim and Melissa Fountain (May 26),  Chris Herrick and Birdie Strnad (May 27), and Ric and Marilyn Wilson (May 29).

 

Pray for those affected by Covid-19; for healthcare workers around the world; for those who provide essential services; for the leaders of all nations, for all governmental officials every where, and for all those making decisions in this time of crisis.

 

Pray for those who have lost their jobs, those who are financially stressed, and those who are need of assistance; that their needs are met and that they find comfort in the support of others.

 

Pray for those who have died.

 

Praise and give thanks to God who in Christ Jesus raises us to new life.

 
PRAYER FOR HEROIC SERVICE

 O Judge of the nations, we remember before you with grateful hearts the men and women of our country who in the day of decision ventured much for the liberties we now enjoy.  Grant that we may not rest until all the people of this land share the benefits of true freedom and gladly accept its disciplines.  This we ask in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

A PRAYER FOR THOSE IN THE ARMED FORCES OF OUR COUNTRY

 Almighty God, we commend to your gracious care and keeping all the men and women of our armed forces at home and abroad.  Defend them day by day with your heavenly grace; strengthen them in their trials and temptations; give them courage to face the perils which best them; and grant them a sense of your abiding presence wherever they may be; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

THE PRAYER FOR MISSION

 God, you have made of one blood all the peoples of the earth, and sent you blessed Son to preach peace to those who are far off and to those who are near;  Grant that people everywhere may seek after you and find you; bring the nation into you fold; pour out you Spirit upon all flesh; and hasten the coming of you kingdom; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen

 

MAY THE LORD BLESS US AND KEEP US.  

MAY THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE TO SHINE UPON US AND BE GRACIOUS UNTO US. 

MAY THE LORD LIFT UP HIS COUNTENANCE UPON US AND GIVE US PEACE.  AMEN

       

The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.

The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

 

---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----

 
May 17, 2020
The Sixth  Sunday  of  Easter

      In him we live and move and have our being.

 

HYMN

    Lord of all being, throned afar, thy glory flames from sun and stars;

    center and soul of every sphere, yet to each loving heart how near!

 

    Sun of our life, thy quickening ray sheds on our path the glow of day;

    star of our hope, thy softened light cheers the long watches of the night.

 

    Lord of all life, below, above, whose light is truth whose warmth is love,

    before thy ever blazing throne we ask no luster of our own.

 

    Grant us thy truth to make us free, and kindling hearts that burn for thee,

    till all thy living altars claim one holy light, one heavenly flame.

          (Oliver Wendell Holmes 1809-1894)

 

 

Lord, open our lips and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

 

 

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!

THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

 

Come, let us sing to the Lord;

    let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

    and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

 

For the Lord is great God.

    and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

     and the heights of the hills are his also.

The seas is his, for he made it,

    and hands have molded the dry land.

 

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

    and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his nature and the sheep of his hand.

    Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice.

 

THE PSALM

 

Psalm 66:7-18

 7 Bless our God, you peoples; *

make the voice of his praise to be heard;

8 Who holds our souls in life, *

and will not allow our feet to slip.

9 For you, O God, have proved us; *

you have tried us just as silver is tried.

10 You brought us into the snare; *

you laid heavy burdens upon our backs.

11 You let enemies ride over our heads;

we went through fire and water; *

but you brought us out into a place of refreshment.

12 I will enter your house with burnt-offerings

and will pay you my vows, *

which I promised with my lips

and spoke with my mouth when I was in trouble.

13 I will offer you sacrifices of fat beasts

with the smoke of rams; *

I will give you oxen and goats.

14 Come and listen, all you who fear God, *

and I will tell you what he has done for me.

15 I called out to him with my mouth, *

and his praise was on my tongue.

16 If I had found evil in my heart, *

the Lord would not have heard me;

17 But in truth God has heard me; *

he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

18 Blessed be God, who has not rejected my prayer, *

nor withheld his love from me.

 

THE FIRST LESSON

Acts 17:22-31

Paul stood in front of the Areopagus and said, Athenians, I see how extremely religious you are in every way. For as I went through the city and looked carefully at the objects of your worship, I found among them an altar with the inscription, To an unknown god.What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, he who is Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in shrines made by human hands, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mortals life and breath and all things. From one ancestor he made all nations to inhabit the whole earth, and he allotted the times of their existence and the boundaries of the places where they would live, so that they would search for God and perhaps grope for him and find him—though indeed he is not far from each one of us. For In him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your own poets have said,

For we too are his offspring.

Since we are Gods offspring, we ought not to think that the deity is like gold, or silver, or stone, an image formed by the art and imagination of mortals. While God has overlooked the times of human ignorance, now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will have the world judged in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed, and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.”

THE SECOND LESSON

John 14:15-21

Jesus said, ”If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”

A HOMILY

By

Norm Wright

This is a portion of a homily I delivered on May 21, 2017 at Christ Episcopal Church.

+In the Name of that Being in which we live, move and have our being+

Its not every Sunday one can give a homily based on Greek legend, Geek mythology, and the New Testament. So I couldnt pass up this opportunity to do so.

In order to fully appreciate our first lesson from Acts 17, we need to know why Paul addressed the Athenians at the Areopagus and why he quotes two poems about the Greek god, Zeus.  The author of Acts, Luke, likely assumed that everybody of his day, two thousand years ago, would have known why, but knowledge can get lost in two thousand years.  So lets take a moment to review:

The Areopagus is a rock outcropping in Athens that was used in Pauls time for conducting public trials.  Here the Athenians wanted to discern if Paul was introducing a new religion into their city, as Pauls preaching about Jesus and his resurrection seemed to indicate.  Introducing a new religion was considered corruption and treated as a serious crime in ancient Athens; a charge that resulted in the death of Socrates in 399 BCE.

On his way to the Areopagus, Paul passes an altar to The Unknown God,” the history of which Paul uses, along with the two early Greek poems, to build his defense that he was not introducing a new religion in Athens.

 

The first poet quoted is Epimenides, who wrote a poem called, “Cretica.  In "Cretica," Epimenides makes the case to his fellow Cretans that the king of the Greek gods, Zeus, was very much alive as evident in their being alive, in spite of their having built a symbolic tomb declaring Zeus dead:

     They fashioned a tomb for you, holy and high one,

    Cretans, always liars, evil beasts, idle bellies.

    But you (Zeus) are not dead: you live and abide forever,

    For in you we live and move and have our being[1]

 As a side note, the line about Cretans being liars is quoted, verbatim,  in Pauls letter to Titus (1:12) and is the basis for what is known as Epimenides’ Paradox which states that, if being a Cretan himself, Epimenides, in calling Cretans liars, is also a liar by telling a truth applicable to himself.

In fact, the altar to The Unknown God has a close connection to Epimenides.   According to legend, during the time of the great Athenian law giver, Solon, the Athenians suffered a horrendous plague attributed to an act of treachery they committed on people they granted asylum to and then killed. To rid themselves of the resulting plague, they tried appeasing their gods through sacrifice, but nothing was working.

So they approached the Oracle at Delphi who informed them that there was a god they failed to appease.  When they asked which one, she said she didnt know, but they should send for Epimenides, a prophet in Crete, who would help them.  So they did.

When Epimenides arrives in Athens he comments that they must be very religious because of the many gods and goddesses they have.  He told them there is a good and great unknown god who was smiling on their ignorance but was willing to be appeased. When they perform the proper rituals throughout the city, the plague is ended and they erected altars to this unknown god throughout Athens. [2]

 

The second poet” Paul quotes is the philosopher Aratus, from his work Phenomenon:

… always we all have need of Zeus. For we are also his offspring[3]

 

Avoiding the name Zeus, Paul infers, via his reference to the Unknown God, the philosophical idea of a Superior God whose nominal identity is simply God” which we monotheists have adopted.   In my opinion, this is the best definition of God and our relationship to God found anywhere. God is the active force of all that is, has been, and will be, and we are the incarnate manifestations of that activity. We live because God is living, we move because God is moving, we are because God is.  This concept of everything existing in God – panentheism – is found in Pauls understanding of the Risen Christ.  Jesus as the Risen Christ is, in Pauls theology,  the cosmic nexus between God and humankind.

 Pauls personal encounters with Jesus occurred in his visions of the Risen Christ.  For Paul, the Resurrection was the reset point of Gods original relationship with us. The risen Jesus Christ is declared by Paul to be the first born of a new creation who, as a man was sown a physical body and, as the Christ was raised a spiritual body as stated in his first letter to the Corinthians (15).

  * * * * * * * * * *

 REFLECTION

Paul’s use of Epimenides’ definition of Zeus and Aratus’ conclusion that we are Zeus’ offspring found a place in Christianity where it became a definition for God.  It has remained there ever since.  We find it expressed in our prayers and in our hymns.  There is an egalitarianism in that definition which resonates with the teachings of Jesus and the whole of Scripture. 

 Paul’s understanding of Epimenides’ definition worked its way into what he described as the Body of Christ.   This egalitarian understanding of the Body of Christ is expressed in Paul’s letter to the Galatians where he wrote, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:28). 

 This truth-based fact that is supported in all of Jesus’ teaching is currently finding expression in TV commercials during this pandemic that remind us,  “We’re all in this together.”    This is the truth inherent in the poetry of Epimenides and Arastus.  It is a truth that allowed the Athenians to accept Paul’s message and allowed Paul to walk away from the Areopagus a free man.

 If we can fully embrace this truth and act accordingly, we will be set free in enumerable ways.  We will be free to work with others in meeting the needs of all.  If we fully embrace this truth we will be free to put aside self interest on both a personal and a national level, and seek solutions with others around the world to the benefit of all. 

 In all things, God’s will is to engage us in the reset that began with the risen Christ; to be one in God and to be caught up in that Love which pervades all things.

 O Love Divine, reset our hearts and minds in the risen Christ, that in you we may truly live, that in you we may truly move, and that in you we may truly find our being.  

 

AMEN

 [1] Translated by Prof. J. Rendel Harris in a series of articles in the Expositor (Oct. 1906, 305–17; Apr. 1907, 332–37; Apr. 1912, 348–353;  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimenides

[2] To An Unknown God,” Christians in Crete, Connecting Gods Family http://christiansincrete.org/news/to-an-unknown-god/

[3] Phenomenon” translated by G.R. Mair; http://www.theoi.com/Text/AratusPhaenomena.htm

 

HYMN

    O Zion , haste, thy mission high fulfilling,

        to tell to all the world that God is Light;

        that he who made all nations is not willing

        one soul should fail to know his love and might.

           Publish glad tidings: tidings of peace,

           tidings of Jesus, redemption and release

 

        Proclaim to every people, tongue, and nation

        that God, in whom they live and move, is Love;

        tell how he stopped to save his lost creation,

        and died on earth that all might live above.

           Publish glad tidings:  tidings of peace,

           tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.

       

        Send herald forth to bear the message glorious;

        give of thy wealth to speed them on their way;

        pour out thy soul for them in prayer victorious

        till God shall bring his kingdom’s joyful day.

           Publish glad tidings:  tidings of peace,

           tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.

 

        He comes again! O Zion, ere thou meet him,

        make known to every heart his saving grace;

        let none whom he hath ransomed fail to free him,

        through thy neglect, unfit to see his face.

           Publish glad tidings:  tidings of peace,

           tidings of Jesus, redemption and release.

          (Mary Ann Thomson 1834-1923)


PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE       

Pray for those in our parish family; for Phyllis and Bernard Kubal, Mary Ann Anderson, Sue Lauch, and Pat and Bev Ann Christensen.  Pray for those you hold in your hearts.

 Pray for those celebrating birthdays: Steven Tacke (May 13), Quinn Sayler (May 16), and Gary Bares (May 16).

 Pray for those affected by Covid-19; for healthcare workers around the world; for those who provide essential services; for the leaders of all nations, for all governmental officials every where, and for all those making decisions in this time of crisis.

 Pray for those who have lost their jobs, those who are financially stressed, and those who are need of assistance; that their needs are met and that they find comfort in the support of others.

 Pray for those who have died.  We pray for Toots Marchand and those who mourn her passing.  May her soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace.

 Praise and give thanks to God who in Christ Jesus raises us to new life.

 

THE LORD’S PRAYER

 Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name,

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

MAY THE LORD BLESS US AND KEEP US.  

MAY THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE TO SHINE UPON US AND BE GRACIOUS UNTO US. 

MAY THE LORD LIFT UP HIS COUNTENANCE UPON US AND GIVE US PEACE.  AMEN

       

Picture  on title page is a photo of a detail design on the clock Jesus is wearing on the Resurrection window.  The photos above and below the second hymn are details from the third window above the altar on its right side. 

 

The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.

The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -----

THE  FIFTH  SUNDAY  OF  EASTER

May 10, 2019

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Gods own people.

 Alleluia, Christ is risen.

The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia

 Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 GLORIA IN EXCELSIS

 

Glory to God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.

 Lord God, heavenly King, almighty God and Father, we worship you, we give you thanks, we praise you for your glory.

 Lord Jesus Christ, only Son of the Father, Lord God, Lamb of God, you take away the sin of the world: have mercy on us; you are seated at the right hand of the Father: receive our prayer.

 For you alone are the Holy One, you alone are the Lord, you alone are the Most High, Jesus Christ, with the Holy Spirit, in the glory of God the Father.  Amen

 

THE COLLECT OF THE DAY

 Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

THE EPISTLE LESSON

 

1 Peter 2:2-10

Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.

Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in Gods sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture:

See, I am laying in Zion a stone,

a cornerstone chosen and precious;

and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame.”

To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe,

The stone that the builders rejected

has become the very head of the corner”, and

 “A stone that makes them stumble,

and a rock that makes them fall.”

They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do.

 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, Gods own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

Once you were not a people,

but now you are Gods people;

once you had not received mercy,

but now you have received mercy.

 

THE PSALM

 Psalm 31:1-5, 15-16

In te, Domine, speravi

1 In you, O Lord, have I taken refuge;

let me never be put to shame; *

deliver me in your righteousness.

2 Incline your ear to me; *

make haste to deliver me.

3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold; *

for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me, *

for you are my tower of strength.

5 Into your hands I commend my spirit, *

for you have redeemed me,

O Lord, O God of truth.

15 My times are in your hand; *

rescue me from the hand of my enemies,

and from those who persecute me.

16 Make your face to shine upon your servant, *

and in your loving-kindness save me.”

 

THE GOSPEL

 John 14:1-14 [italicized insertions are mine - Norm Wright]

Jesus said, Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe [have faith] in God, believe [have faith ] also in me. In my Fathers house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way to the place where I am going.” Thomas said to him, Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus said to him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him.”

Philip said to him, Lord, show us the Father, and we will be satisfied.” Jesus said to him, Have I been with you all this time, Philip, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father? Do you not believe [have faith] that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own; but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe [Have faith ] me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; but if you do not, then believe [have faith in] me because of the works themselves. Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes [has faith] in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”

REFLECTION

By Norm Wright

+In the Name of our loving and  life-giving God+

As I started writing these reflections, I received word that a faithful member of our parish,Toots, that wisp of a woman so full of determinate joy who brought a smile to everyone’s face, had passed away.

So I find it serendipitous that our Gospel lesson for this Sunday is taken from John 14, where we find Jesus saying, “Do not let your hearts be troubled. [Have faith] in God, [have faith] also in me. In my Fathers house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you?  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”

The passing of a faithful member of our parish family always comes with mixed feelings.  There is sadness over the loss and, perhaps, a sense of relief that a loved friend, a family member, and a parishioner no longer has to be troubled and is no longer suffering.  There is, of course, a sense of joy that he or she is now in the loving embrace of our heavenly Father; being caught up in the Risen Christ.

So I pause and think about Toots and her daughter Pam at this time.  I think of  all the people whose lives have been brightened and touched by her, and I thank God for her life and having known her.

Life is changed for Toots, not ended.  And with Toots’s memory fresh in our hearts and minds, our lives continue; remembering the power of her smile, the love in her laughter, and her happiness at making others happy. 

“Do not let your hearts be troubled” is what Jesus was telling his disciples on the night he was betrayed; the night when he would be arrested ; the night that would  give way to the light to the day he would be tried as rebel, crucified, and die.

While these verses for John 14 are often used during funeral service, they were said by Jesus to prepare his disciples for what was to come and to engage them in a discussion about “What next?”

 After Jesus says, “… I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also,” he adds, “And you know the way to the place where I am going. 

That verse, verse 4, can be easily glossed over because of the tendency to view it as a statement Jesus is making to the disciples at the time and not applying to us because we think we know where Jesus is going with this.  We think we know what Jesus is talking about.  

But do we?

The point of John’s parabolic Gospel is to place and find ourselves in it, and ultimately, to find ourselves in Christ.  And so the author of John has our friend, good old questioning, doubting Thomas coming to our assistance and speaking on our behalf, “Lord we don’t know where you are going. How can we know the way?” 

Jesus’ answer to Thomas - to us - is one of the most quoted lines from John:  “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

 

Now if we’re honest, that statement doesn’t tell us much and, in fact, begs more questions than it provides an answer.  Unfortunately, there are Christians who take that statement and run with it; not really knowing what it means or make any attempt to explore its meanings.  They’ll say, “Just believe it. If Jesus said it, that’s the way is. Period!”

 

If that were the case, the Gospel of John would have ended right there, but it doesn’t.

 

In fact, Jesus baits begging the question when he continues, “If you know me, you will know my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him. 

 

Phillip takes the bait and says, on our behalf, “Show us the Father and we will be satisfied.”   Jesus response, “How long have you known me and still don’t get it” comes across as a criticism of Phillip, but it is said to challenge us; to make us ask ourselves, “Do we get it?”

If all we knew of Jesus is what is found in the Gospel of John, we wouldn’t know much more than what Jesus is saying about himself and we wouldn’t get it any better than Phillip. How would Phillip know what Jesus is talking about unless Jesus is referring to the information he and we have of Jesus’ story as found in the Synoptic Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

All of Jesus’s “I am” statements in John are not meant to stand alone as something we should merely believe with an attitude of certitude, but rather should be understood as invitations to explore their meanings.  Every one of them begs the question, “What does this mean?”  

The purpose of the Gospel of John is to deepen our understanding of Jesus as the Incarnate Word and Risen Christ of God. Its purpose is to deepen us in what we identify in the Eucharist liturgy as “the mystery of Faith.”  This not a Gospel to be believed as a historical fact because by itself, it makes little sense as such.

The Gospel John was never meant to be a stand-alone Gospel. It’s an in-house Gospel written for those who know the story of Jesus’ ministry, his teachings , and his parables as found in the Synoptic Gospels.  If you don’t know them, you be  or should be asking the questions Thomas and Phillip are asking and that’s the point the Gospel of John is making when Jesus says, “You know the way,” and “From now on you know [the Father].  It’s a quiz of sorts - what do we know and what of that knowledge applies to what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel lesson.

For the next three chapters of John’s Gospel Jesus explains not only his relationship with Father and the Spirit, but also our connection and involvement  in that relationship. 

In John 15 Jesus says, “I am the vine and you are the branches” and throughout this entire Eucharistic supper discourse, without ever making direct reference to Holy Communion, Jesus explains Holy Communion  in the most intimate terms in which we come to find ourselves intimately connected to Jesus and by extension intimately connected to God. 

It ends in John 17 with Jesus saying to our heavenly Father, “The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one,  I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Given the relational pathway Jesus establish throughout this Eucharistic discourse, let’s return to Jesus’ original answer to Thomas, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” 

Given the context of this Eucharistic meal where Jesus tells us not let our hearts be troubled, there is one word that stands out and is used time and time again  throughout this discourse. 

And that word is love. 

One cannot understand any of Jesus’s “I am” statements in the Gospel of John without referencing that word, “Love.”   

The way of Jesus is, as our Presiding Bishop Michael Curry calls it, the Way of Love.  The truth of Jesus is that God in Christ Jesus truly loves us, and not just us, but every one, even those who don’t know Jesus or who don’t have faith in Jesus as implied in today’s Gospel lesson.  The Life of Jesus, as demonstrated in all the Gospels, is the Love of God poured out for the whole world. 

Love is what calms the troubled waters of life.  Love is what eases our aching hearts and embraces us even when distanced and apart from each other. 

When I asked Toot’s friend, Jennifer A., if Toot’s daughter Pam would be okay with sharing the news of Toot’s passing, she responded, “Sure. Tell the church!!! She loved us just like we loved her.”   Indeed she did, and indeed we do.

LOVE IS THE WHOLE OF IT.  GOD IS LOVE.

Love shows us the Way.  Love speaks the Truth.  Love give us Life.

Gracious Father, we know you through the love you have shown us in your Son, our brother Jesus. Calm our troubled minds and our aching hearts during this time of separation.  Give us vision to know the way, hearts that seek to hear the truth, and lives lived in love, through the same Jesus Christ who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit.

Amen

Hymn

    Love divine, all loves excelling, joy of heaven, to earth come down.

    fix in us thy humble dwelling, all thy faithful mercies crown,

    Jesus, thou art all compassion, pure, unbounded love thou art;

    visit us with thy salvation, enter every trembling heart.

 

    Come, almighty to deliver, let us all thy life receive;

    suddenly return, and never, nevermore thy temples leave.

    Thee we would be always blessing, serve thee as thy hosts above,

    pray, and praise thee without ceasing, glory in thy perfect love.

 

    Finish then thy new creation; pure and spotless let us be;

    let us see thy great salvation perfectly restored in thee:

    changed from glory into glory, till in heaven we take our place,

    till we cast our crowns before thee, lost in wonder, love, and praise.

  (Charles Wesley 1707-17880

 

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE       

Pray for those in our parish family; for Phyllis and Bernard Kubal and Pat and Bev Ann Christensen and those you hold in your hearts. On this day, we pray for Mary Ann Anderson who has been admitted to Sr. James for therapy due to a broken pelvis.

 

Pray for those celebrating birthdays: Steven Tacke (May 13), Quinn Sayler (May 16), and Gary Bares (May 16).

 

Pray for those celebrating anniversaries:  Maxine and Ernest Haberman (May 16)

 

Pray for those affected by Covid-19; for healthcare workers around the world; for those who provide essential services; for the leaders of all nations, for all governmental officials every where, and for all those making decisions in this time of crisis.

 

Pray for those who have lost their jobs, those who are financially stressed, and those who are need of assistance; that their needs are met and that they find comfort in the support of others.

 

Pray for those who have died.  On this day we pray for Toots Marchand and those who mourn her passing.  May her soul and the souls of all the departed rest in peace.

 

Praise and give thanks to God who in Christ Jesus raises us to new life.

 

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

 

May God be with us.

Let us lift up our hearts and give thanks to the Lord our God; for it is right to God thanks and praise.

 

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth through Jesus Christ our Lord. But chiefly are we bound to praise you for the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who was sacrificed for us, and has taken away the sin of the world. By his death he has destroyed death, and by his rising to life again he was won for us everlasting life. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

 

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory. Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

 

The Commemoration

 

Holy and Gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent forth Jesus to share our human nature,

 to live and die as one of us and to be one with us, so that we may be reconciled to you, the God and Father of all.

On this day, we celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, offering our praise and thanksgiving by recalling Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Sanctify us, we pray, that we may faithfully serve you in unity, constancy, and peace: and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom. All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ. 

 

By him, and with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever. Amen.

 

As our brother Jesus has taught us we now pray,

 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name,

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the Feast. Alleluia!


A Prayer for Spiritual Communion

My Jesus, I know that you are present in the Holy Sacrament.

I love you above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.

Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally come spiritually into my heart. I embrace you as if you were already there and unite myself whole to you.

Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen

— A prayer by St. Alphonsus (1696-1787) as used at the Washington National Cathedral

 

 God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament has left us a memorial of his passion: Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of his redemption; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, for ever and ever. Amen

 

May the almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless us and keep us. Amen

 
 

The picture at the beginning of this devotion is a phone of the back of our church’s festive chasuble which is worn during the celebration of the Eucharist on such festivals a Christmas and Easter.

 

The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.

The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979

 

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The Fourth Sunday of Easter
May 3, 2020
I came that they may have life, 

   and have it abundantly!

 

HYMN OF PRAISE

 

      All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small

      all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

 

      Each little flower that opens, each little bird that sings,

      he made their glowing colors, he made their tiny wings.

 

      The purple-headed mountain, the river running by,

      the sunset, and the morning that brightens up the sky.

 

      The cold wind in the winter, the pleasant summer sun,

      the ripe fruits in the garden, he made them every one.

 

      He gave eyes to see them, and lips that we might tell

      how great is God Almighty, who has made all things well.

 

      All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small

      all things wise and wonderful, the Lord God made them all.

 

(Cecil Frances Alexander 1818-1895)

 

 

Lord, open our lips and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

 

 

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!

THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

 

Come, let us sing to the Lord;

    let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

    and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

 

For the Lord is great God.

    and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

     and the heights of the hills are his also.

The seas is his, for he made it,

    and hands have molded the dry land.

 

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

    and kneel before the Lord our Maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his nature and the sheep of his hand.

    Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Psalm 23

Dominus regit me

1 The Lord is my shepherd; *

I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie down in green pastures *

and leads me beside still waters.

3 He revives my soul *

and guides me along right pathways for his Name's sake.

4 Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil; *

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5 You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me; *

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, *

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

 

THE FIRST LESSON

 

1 Peter 2:19-25

It is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God's approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

He committed no sin,

       and no deceit was found in his mouth.”

 

When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.

 

THE SECOND LESSON

 

John 10:1-10 [11-18]

Jesus said, Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.” Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them, Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.”

[ I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away—and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me,  just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.”]

 

 A REFLECTION ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

By Norm Wright

 

+In Name of Jesus+

 

Today’s gospel lesson addresses the difficulty of living in an world of vast difference and division where thieves, robbers, and unreliable hired hands come to us today in the form of bamboozlers, snake oil salesmen, fear mongers, and those out to make a quick buck at the expense of others; those who prey on the vulnerable and seek to lead the naive, the willfully ignorant, and the self-assured astray by specters of fear and glitter.

 

The Gospel of John underscores the importance of hearing Jesus, following his instructions (his teachings), and listening to his voice that speaks within each of our hearts. 

 

Today’s gospel lesson points to the importance of our faith communities which keeps us anchored in hope. [Hebrews 6:9]  It is in our church homes where sanctuary should be found from all that would lead us astray.  It is in our church homes where our minds should be set at ease from all that divides and where we can seek and find the unifying mind of Christ. [1Corinthians 1:10]

 

Jesus is the good shepherd who knows us better than we know ourselves; because Jesus has experienced our life fully  Jesus understands our moments of trial, our moments of suffering, and our moments of dying.  It is Jesus who knows that there is more to life than this transitory life.  It is Jesus who lives again and raises up us with him in the abundance of life that is the Love of God.

 

Amen

Hymn

 

      Shepherd of souls, refresh and bless they chosen pilgrim flock

      with manna in the wilderness, with water from the rock.

 

      We would not live by bread alone, but by thy word of grace,

      in strength of which we travel on to our abiding place.

 

(James Montgomery 1771-1854)

 

 

THE COLLECT OF THE DAY

 

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

THE  PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Pray for those in our parish family; for Phyllis and Bernard Kubal, Toots Marchand, and Pat and Bev Ann Christensen and those you hold in your hearts.

 

Pray for those celebrating birthdays: Norm Wright (May 3).

Pray for those celebrating anniversaries:  Bernard and Phyllis Kubal (May 2) and Steve and Jennifer Adamson (May 5)

 

Pray for those affected by Covid-19; for healthcare workers around the world; for those who provide essential services; for the leaders of all nations, for all governmental officials every where, and for all those making decisions in this time of crisis.

 

Pray for those who have lost their jobs, those who are financially stressed, and those who are need of assistance; that their needs are met and that they find comfort in the support of others.

 

Pray for those who have died.

 

Praise and give thanks to God who in Christ Jesus raises us to new life.

 

THE LORD’S PRAYER

 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name,

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

MAY THE LORD BLESS US AND KEEP US.  

MAY THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE TO SHINE UPON US AND BE GRACIOUS UNTO US. 

MAY THE LORD LIFT UP HIS COUNTENANCE UPON US AND GIVE US PEACE.  AMEN

       

Picture is a photo of one of the parish’s pear trees behind the Olde Rectory this past week.

 

The Bible texts of the Old Testament, Epistle and Gospel lessons are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the USA, and used by permission.

The Collects, Psalms and Canticles are from the Book of Common Prayer, 1979.

 

 

 

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THE  THIRD  SUNDAY  OF  EASTER
April 26, 2020
 

What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?

I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.

A

lmighty God to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen

 Hymn of Praise

 

        Love’s redeeming work is done, for the fight, the battle won.

        Death in vain forbids him rise; Christ has opened paradise.

 

        Lives again our glorious King; where, O death, is now thy sting?

        Once he died our souls to save, where thy victory, O grave?

 

        Soar we now where Christ has led, following our exalted Head;

        made like him, like him we rise, ours the cross, the grave, the skies.

     (Charles Wesley 1707-1788)

PSALM 116

Authorized King James Version

 I love the Lord, because he hath heard my voice and my supplications.

          Because he hath inclined his ear unto me, therefore will I call upon him as long as I live.

The sorrows of death compassed me, and the pains of hell gat hold upon me: I found trouble and sorrow.

         Then called I upon the name of the Lord; O Lord, I beseech thee, deliver my soul.

Gracious is the Lord, and righteous; yea, our God is merciful.

         The Lord preserveth the simple: I was brought low, and he helped me.

Return unto thy rest, O my soul; for the Lord hath dealt bountifully with thee.

          For thou hast delivered my soul from death, mine eyes from tears, and my feet from

          falling.

I will walk before the Lord in the land of the living.

         I believed, therefore have I spoken: I was greatly afflicted: 

I said in my haste, All men are liars.

        What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?

I will take the cup of salvation, and call upon the name of the Lord.

         I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.

Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

        O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast

        loosed my bonds.

I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord.

        I will pay my vows unto the Lord now in the presence of all his people.

In the courts of the Lord's house, in the midst of thee, O Jerusalem. Praise ye the Lord.

 

A REFLECTION ON THE PSALMS

By Norm Wright

One of my favorite psalms is the psalm for today, Psalm 116.   Today, I want to take a moment to reflect on the psalms and their importance in our lives. We say them or a portion of them every Sunday.   Personally speaking, when things get really tough or when I find myself not knowing where to turn and in need of an outlet to express what’s going on inside of me, I can turn to the Psalms and find a psalm like today’s psalm that speaks to my soul and speaks for my soul. 

If the Gospel of John is the most quoted book in the New Testament, the Psalms are the most quoted book in the entire Holy Bible.  The psalms may have been written by others who were thinking about something entirely different than what is going on in our lives, but within all of them resides a human imprint, universal to all. The psalms are an outpouring to God of the vast array of the human condition experienced throughout all ages. 

If one is trying to find words to express what going on inside of oneself, the psalms do not disappoint. As Psalm 55:22 invites, Cast thy burden upon the Lord and he shall sustain thee.”  There are psalms that express the depth of our despair and woe; just as there are psalms expressing our unabashed joy and happiness which exceeds our capacity to do so adequately; causing the psalmists to invite the entire universe to join in expressing our joy and praise.

My favorite version of the Book of Psalms is the King James Version simply because of its lyric language that sings even when it is said.  It captures in its poetic language the expression of human emotion that takes one’s raw feelings and converts them into the language of worship.  Yes, anger as worship, depression as worship, sorrow as worship, joy a worship, and praise as worship. 

Worship is meant to be a kenotic act, a pouring out of whatever is inside of us.  Worship is where we empty ourselves of our small self to make room for the SELF of God; to engage with and participate in God’s creative will.

This past Wednesday, Earth Day, Kathy and I decided to take a walk to Nebraska from our house (about a 4.5 mile round trip) on what turned out to be one of the nicest days of the year.  It was a journey into a psalm of praise as expressed in bird song, a gentle breeze, and the swirling dance-movement of the Missouri River we crossed over to get to Nebraska. 

One of the lessons being learned during this pandemic is that as the human world has had to slow up, healing of the Earth is taking place.  Air quality has vastly improved in cities that have not experienced clean air for decades. Rivers that have been heavily polluted are cleaning up on their own.  What does this tell us about the impact we humans have on our environment?

In the midst of so much human suffering and death, we see God renewing life. In earth’s recovery is an important message we should not dismiss in our haste to return to the recent normal we knew before this pandemic started 

During this pandemic, we are being given an opportunity to evaluate what is truly important about life.  We are being given an opportunity to heal our brokenness, to bring ourselves closer to each other as individuals, as families, as communities, as nations, as a world, and to bring us closer to all other life forms we share this planet home with.

While this pandemic is not God’s will, God’s will is always done in whatever occurs.  God works with and through the acts of nature, just as God acts with and through our actions or the lack of them. We can see God’s will manifested in the contours of life shaped by its steady flow and in its outpouring of new life and love.  At times such as these, we are reminded that we are not above nature but are a part of it.  If we harm it, we harm ourselves. If we try to impose our will against the gentle but steady flow of God’s will, God’s will shapes whatever is attempting to block it to God’s purpose. 

In the creation story of Genesis, we are called to be stewards of nature and care for our planet home, which we often fail to do and has resulted in devastating effects on the ecology of our terrestrial home.  Nevertheless, there is hope that from this experience a better world, a healthier world, and a kinder world will emerge. 

While much sadness and loss of human life continues as a result of this pandemic, today’s psalm assures us that those who have passed away and those who mourn their passing are, “Precious in the sight of the Lord.”  God does not treat the death of anyone lightly. Nothing (nobody) is lost in the love of God.  

God brought us into life and God will claim us as his own at its end.  “We are his for he made us,” Psalm 100 reminds us.  As poetic and as lyrical as the psalms are, they keep us grounded in what is true and lasting.  They are our soul-songs; created from the depths of woes and the heights of ecstatic joy  

Psalm 116 reminds us of the importance of recognizing God who is with us in our moments of strife and who walks us through them. It reminds us that that no one is above “the simple;” that in moments of general strife, we find ourselves on a simple, level playing field that is given voice in the responsive refrain heard throughout the world today, “We’re in this together.” 

Psalm 116 reminds us that such things as we are now experiencing should not result in a rush to judgement of others; that we must bear with patience the impatience of others.  It reminds us that we must trust in our better angels and in the potential goodness within every person. 

Above all, we are reminded on this third Sunday of Easter to trust in God who, having raised Jesus from death to life, will raise us up also.

The psalmist asks the question we should not avoid asking in a trying time, “What shall I render for all for a God’s benefits towards me?  

The psalmist answers, “I will take the cup of salvation and call upon the name of he Lord.  I will pay my vows in the presence of all people.”

The “cup of salvation” is often understood by Christians to mean Holy Communion, but there is an older meaning to the idea of taking the cup being offered.   It also means accepting and conforming to the will of God, as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when he said, “Not my will but thine be done.” In taking the cup of salvation, we agree to participate in God’s salvific will for all creation; and in doing so recognize that it is God who saves us and not ourselves.   

The psalmist reminds us to pay our vows before all people.  

We can read it as referring to our baptismal vows to be the Body of Christ in our world or to be true to our human calling as the caretakers of creation.

The psalmist concludes this psalm with a realization:  “O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.”

As was true for the psalmist, the time will come when the bonds of our isolation and social distancing will be loosened. 

The time will come for us to gather and take the cup of salvation as an offering of thanksgiving.

The time will come for us to pay our vows in the presence of all people.

The time will come for us to call upon the name of the Lord in God’s house of worship.

 

Gracious God, grant rest to our weary souls and deliver us from all fear; instill in us a confident and enduring faith that when the bonds of this pandemic are loosened we can gather together in joy, take up the cup of salvation, and call upon your Name.  All this we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Amen.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO LUKE:

Luke 24:13-35 as translated in the Authorized King James Version

 

And, behold, two of them went that same day to a village called Emmaus, which was from Jerusalem about threescore furlongs. And they talked together of all these things which had happened. And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them. But their eyes were holden that they should not know him. And he said unto them, What manner of communications are these that ye have one to another, as ye walk, and are sad? And the one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answering said unto him, Art thou only a stranger in Jerusalem, and hast not known the things which are come to pass there in these days?  And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people: and how the chief priests and our rulers delivered him to be condemned to death, and have crucified him. But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, today is the third day since these things were done. Yea, and certain women also of our company made us astonished, which were early at the sepulchre; and when they found not his body, they came, saying, that they had also seen a vision of angels, which said that he was alive. And certain of them which were with us went to the sepulchre, and found it even so as the women had said: but him they saw not. Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.

And they drew nigh unto the village, whither they went: and he made as though he would have gone further. But they constrained him, saying, Abide with us: for it is toward evening, and the day is far spent. And he went in to tarry with them. And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? And they rose up the same hour, and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven gathered together, and them that were with them, saying, The Lord is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon. And they told what things were done in the way, and how he was known of them in breaking of bread.

 

A HYMN REFLECTING TODAY’S LESSON FROM THE GOSPEL OF LUKE

The hymn “Abide with me” was written by Henry Francis Lyte (1793-1847).   It begins with the the words of the two disciples, when they invited Jesus to spend the evening with them.  The following verses of this hymn reflect the arrangement used in the Church of England. 

The following link: https://www.kings.cam.ac.uk/choir/listen/webcasts will take you to a beautiful arrangement of it being sung by King’s College choir in Cambridge UK.  Go to the play list and find  “A Deeper Listen for April 23.”  These are time limited offerings.  It will provide you with more background to this well-known hymn.

 

  Abide with me: fast falls the eventide; the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:

  when other helpers fail and comforts flee, help of the helpless, O abide with me.

 

  Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day; Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

  Change and decay in all around I see; O Thou who changes not, abide with me.

 

  I need thy presence every passing hour; what but thy grace can foil the tempter’s power?

  Who, like thyself, my guide and stay can be? Through cloud and sunshine, abide with me.

 

  I fear no foe with Thee at hand to bless; ills have no weight and tears no bitterness.

  Where is death’s sting? Where grave, thy victory?  I triumph still if Thou abide with me!

 

  Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes’ shine through the gloom , and point me to the skies.

  Heaven’s morning breaks, and earths vain shadows flee; in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

 THE COLLECT OF THE DAY

 O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

 

THE  PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Pray for those in our parish family; for Phyllis and Bernard Kubal, Toots Marchand, and Pat and Bev Ann Christensen and those you hold in your hearts.

 Pray for those affected by Covid-19; for healthcare workers around the world; for those who provide essential services; for the leaders of all nations, for all governmental officials every where, and for all those making decisions in this time of crisis.

 Pray for those who have lost their jobs, those who are financially stressed, and those who are need of assistance; that their needs are met and that they find comfort in the support of others.

 Pray for those who have died.

 Praise and give thanks to God who in Christ Jesus raises us to new life.

 

THE LORD’S PRAYER

 Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name,

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

MAY THE LORD BLESS US AND KEEP US.  

MAY THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE TO SHINE UPON US AND BE GRACIOUS UNTO US. 

MAY THE LORD LIFT UP HIS COUNTENANCE UPON US AND GIVE US PEACE.  AMEN

         

The liturgy is taken from “The Book of Common Prayer” The Church Hymnal Corporation, New York 1979

 

 

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THE  SECOND  SUNDAY  OF  EASTER

Alleluia!  Christ is Risen!

 Lord, open our lips and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

 Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

 

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!

THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

 Come let us adore him:

 

Alleluia.

 Christ our passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast,

  Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,

  but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  Alleluia.

 

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

  The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

  So also consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord. Alleluia.

 

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

  For since by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

  for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  Alleluia.

 

Psalm 16

 Conserva me, Domine

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

   I have said to the Lord, "You are my Lord,

   my good above all other."

2 All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land,

   upon those who are noble among the people.

3 But those who run after other gods

   shall have their troubles multiplied.

4 Their libations of blood I will not offer,

    nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.

5 O Lord, you are my portion and my cup;

    it is you who uphold my lot.

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

   indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7 I will bless the Lord who gives me counsel;

   my heart teaches me, night after night.

8 I have set the Lord always before me;

   because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

   my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

     nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

     in your presence there is fullness of joy,

     and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

 THE FIRST LESSON

 1 Peter 1:3-9

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he has given us a new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who are being protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you rejoice, even if now for a little while you have had to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith-- being more precious than gold that, though perishable, is tested by fire-- may be found to result in praise and glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Although you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, for you are receiving the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

 THE SECOND LESSON

John 20:19-31

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, 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. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

 

A HOMILETIC STUDY AND REFLECTION ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

By Norm Wright

STUDY

The story of  “Doubting Thomas” only occurs in the Gospel of John and as long as I can remember, Thomas’ story has always intrigued me.  Hearing this story as a small child, I always felt bad for Thomas because the story makes it appear he was left out when Jesus met with his disciples for the first time after his resurrection.  Thomas wasn’t at the surprise party the other disciples had experienced; as such, there appears to be more than a tinge of resentment in his reaction when he suggests that, perhaps, they were making things up or that the experience they were so excited about was just a matter of wishful-thinking.

There is more to the story, more than just casting Thomas in the role of a Missourian from the “Show-me” state.  In fact, the “Doubting” Thomas portion of today’s Gospel lesson can easily hide an important event that was taking place. It is easy to overlook that the author of John places the Pentecost moment as occurring on the same day as Jesus’s resurrection; not fifty days after the resurrection or occurring on the Jewish feast of Pentecost, which is when the Christian day of Pentecost occurs in the Acts of the Apostles.

In John’s version, Jesus appears behind the closed door of the place where the other ten disciples had gathered on the evening of Easter.  Jesus says to them, “Peace be with you,”  and shows them the wounds left by the nails in his hands and the wound where a spear pierced his side. Jesus says again, “Peace to with you” and breathes on them saying, “Receive the Holy Spirit. As the Father sent me, so send I you. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” Thomas, not being present for this event, presents a conundrum. 

If Thomas wasn’t there, did he receive the Holy Spirit?  As we shall see, Thomas demonstrates his receiving the Holy Spirit as John’s narrative moves along.

Thomas plays a prominent role in the Gospel of John.  He is the one who in the story of Lazarus being raised by Jesus makes the cryptic comment about heading to Judea to die with him (Lazarus).  He is also the disciple whose question, “Lord, we dont know where you are going, so how can we know the way,” leads Jesus to reply, I am the way and the truth and the life…” [John 14:5-6a]

If you are wondering what Thomas was doing during those seven days before meeting with the other disciples, the simple answer is we don’t know.  As I mentioned in last Sunday’s homily, something left undefined is defining.  Being a late-comer to the resurrection appearance casts Thomas as the representative of all late-comers; such as, ourselves and, in particular, those who remain skeptical and unconvinced about Jesus’ resurrection.

In spite of his skepticism, Thomas remains friends with Jesus’ other disciples. Their faith in seeing Jesus suggests that amid his skepticism there is a nagging doubt residing in Thomas that will lead him to faith. While Thomas is with the other disciples, Jesus appears to them and says, “Peace be with you.” Then Jesus invites Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe” to which Thomas responds, “My Lord and my God.”  

Let’s pause a moment.   What’s missing in the above paragraph?

The common assumption is that Thomas does what Jesus directs him to do, but does he? 

John’s authors does not say that he did.  John’s author, who is good at editorializing an event to make sure we understand what is going on, is suggestively silent on the subject.

What is confusing with Jesus’ invitation to have Thomas touch him is that in verse 17 of this same chapter, Jesus directs Mary Magdalene not to “hold” (touch) him because he had not ascended to his Father. 

Given the context of this chapter and the fact that John does not specifically say Thomas touched Jesus, one is compelled by the lack of  clear evidence to say Thomas did not physically touch Jesus’ wounds.  In addition, on hearing Jesus’ invitation, Thomas immediately responds, “My Lord and my God.” In turn, Jesus immediately says, “Have you believed because you have seen (not touched) me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.”

One might question whether Thomas touching or not touching Jesus’ wounds matter. 

It does.

Throughout the Gospel of John a pattern is developed that addresses two types of  perception: seeing what things appear to be through our physical senses of sight, sound, and touch, and perceiving things as they truly are, through faith. In John the only way to perceive Jesus as the Incarnate Word and the Risen Christ of God is when Jesus reveals himself as such. The first type of perception relates to believing through intellectual assent.  The second type of perception is through faith, as trust in who Jesus reveals himself to be. 

This literally gets lost in translation because in John the word believe is primarily use to translate a verb form of the original Greek word used in the original text, which is faith.. To illustrate the difference, I translated this passage from the original Greek to demonstrate that what we understand as belief or believe (as intellectual assent) is not what the original text is talking about. 

Translating πίστις (faith) as faith, the conversation between Jesus and Thomas goes like this, “Then he (Jesus) said to Thomas, ‘Bring your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side.  Be not faithless, but faithful. Thomas answered, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus says to him, “Because you have seen me you have faith? Blessed are the ones who have not seen and have faith.”  In other words, John is saying to us, “Don’t feel bad if you weren’t in on the original surprise party. Faith is better than sight. Paul put it this way, “We live by faith, not by sight.” [2 Corinthian 5:7]

 While the story of Thomas does not directly answer the conundrum of whether Thomas received the Holy Spirit, it is implied in both the approach of Jesus to Thomas and in Thomas being enabled to declare, “My Lord and my God.”  As Paul stated in his first letter to the Corinthians, “No one can say Jesus is Lord, except through the Holy Spirit.”[1 Corinthians 12:3]

 RELFECTION

It is unfortunate, at times, that lectionaries break up the scriptures into bite size pieces.  What can be lost in that process is the continuity of the message.  The story of Thomas mirrors the story of Mary Magdalene we heard last week.  Like Mary, Thomas experiences a nagging doubt that prompts her to take a second look at things that leads her to faith. 

John’s Gospel, being a later Gospel, suggests that by the time it was written, its author understood that the return of Jesus as a militant messiah who would arrive with the hosts of heaven to defend Jerusalem and the Temple not only didn't happen but would not happen.  Jesus is the Messiah, but Jesus is not a militant messiah nor will there ever be that type of messiah, according to the Gospel of John.  In fact, John’s author goes to some length to point out that Jesus stands above ice-thin surface of this world’s illusionary expectations and reality.  “My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus declares to Pilate during his trial. [John 18:36] 

In the Gospel of John, Jesus first appears on this world’s stage as the Incarnate Word (λόγος, logos) of God, the Word made flesh; as something that could have been perceived through the human faculties of sense and could have been grasped by reasoning minds but wasn’t.  John puts it this way, He (Jesus) was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him (as first sight-nw). He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” [John 1:10-11]   The early Jewish followers of Jesus would have seen this as a reference to those Jews who did not accept Jesus as the Messiah, but it is also a reference to humanity in general.

Ironically, in the Gospel of John it is the second time Jesus appears, the second time Jesus approaches as the Resurrected Christ of God that Jesus is recognizable for who he truly is, the Incarnate Word made flesh.

In John, it is those prompted to take a second look at the empty tomb by a nagging yet hopeful doubt seeking to know where Jesus is who Jesus approaches.  It is they who are given faith to accept him as the Resurrected Christ of God.

The ones who experiences the depth of God’s love in Christ for us in John’s Gospel, are Mary Magdalene and Thomas.   Yes - the doubter gets it because Jesus invites Thomas into his glorified wounded SELF.  It’s not that Thomas touches Jesus’ wound to make sure it really is Jesus standing in front of him, but rather that Thomas is touched by the truth of Jesus’ wounds within the core of his being. 

To touch the wounds of Christ is to feel the wounds of Christ in one’s being.

As such, Jesus’ invitation for Thomas to be touched by his wounds is an invitation for all of us to be touched by the wounds of the one who emptied himself on the cross to make room for us; the one who brings healing and new life to a wounded world.  As the prophet Isaiah said, “And by his wounds we are healed.” [Isaiah 53:5]

Jesus, being one of us and one with us, knows our wounded nature.  The Messiah did not come in his incarnation and at his resurrection as a militant warrior to establish and earthly kingdom.  That many continue to look for a militant messiah to fix this world’s problems is not only illusionary it is delusional.  

The Gospel of John, as mysterious as it is at times, has taken on a deeper meaning during this time of a pandemic.  The beauty of all Scripture is in its ability to shed light on a situation and provide understanding we normally would not consider, until it is presented within the context of a shared experience.

In this doubt-ridden time, there is an anxious desire born of expediency to get life back to its “normal;” a desire that avoids taking a deeper, second look at what is happening.  Such a desire is understandable. 

We all want this pandemic to go away, but our shared experiences in it contain deeper meanings, and it is hoped that we learn from these experiences; that we become more compassionate, more understanding, the we are more driven by faith in God than the ideological beliefs that are born from the ice-thin surface of an illusionary reality.

Doubt-ridden times, as we have seen demonstrated in the Gospel of John, can give rise to that nagging doubt about our surface experiences; a doubt born of a hopeful desire to take a second, deeper look at things in order to see things for what they and not for what they appear to be. 

Doubt-ridden times as these can produce a hope that leads to faith by which to experience the Risen Christ in all of this.  

The story of Thomas has particular relevance at this time. We hear in Jesus’ invitation to Thomas to experience the imprint of the nails on his hands and to probe his wounded side an invitation for us to do the same. 

Like Thomas, we can experience within the wounds of Jesus the healing power of that love poured out for the world; a love manifested throughout the ages in the compassionate care given by so many in times like these.

Like Thomas, we can discover a faith that assures us that all things are in God’s loving and caring hands; that our fears and our doubts are hidden in the wounds of Jesus so that we can acknowledge with confidence the Risen Christ in our midst and declare with Thomas, “My Lord and my God. 

May the glory of Christ’s Paschal Light illumine a path to a deeper faith in this doubt-filled time; that all may come to experience the love of God through Christ Jesus our Lord.

Amen.

HYMN

   We walk by faith, and not by sight; no gracious words we hear

    from him who spoke as none e’er spoke; but we believe him near.

 

    We may not touch his hands and side, nor follow where he trod;

    but in his promise we rejoice; and cry, “My Lord and God.”

     Help then, O Lord, our unbelief; and may our faith abound,

    to call on you when you are near, and seek where you are found:

     That, when our life of faith is done, in realms of clever light

    we may behold you as you are, with full and endless sight.

         (Henry Alford 1810-1871)

THE COLLECT OF THE DAY

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

THE  PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

Pray for those in our parish family; for Phyllis and Bernard Kubal, Toots Marchand, and Pat and Bev Ann Christensen and those you hold in your hearts.

Pray for those affected by Covid-19; for healthcare workers around the world; for those who provide essential services; for the leaders of all nations, for all governmental officials every where, and for all those making decisions in this time of crisis.

Pray for those who have lost their jobs, those who are financially stressed, and those who are need of assistance; that their needs are met and that they find comfort in the support of others.

Pray for those who have died.

Pray for those celebrating birthdays: Jennifer Adamson (April 19) and Brice Sayler (April 23)

Praise and give thanks to God who in Christ Jesus raises us to new life.

 THE LORD’S PRAYER

 Our Father, in heaven, hallowed be your Name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as in heaven.  Give us today our daily bread. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.  Save us from the time of trial, and deliver us from evil. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and for ever. 

Amen.

 MAY THE LORD BLESS US AND KEEP US.  

MAY THE LORD MAKE HIS FACE TO SHINE UPON US AND BE GRACIOUS UNTO US. 

MAY THE LORD LIFT UP HIS COUNTENANCE UPON US AND GIVE US PEACE.  AMEN

*   The liturgy and Psalm is taken from “The Book of Common Prayer” The Church Hymnal Corporation, New York 1979

** From The Episcopal Lectionary & our parish bulletin insert which uses the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the national Council of Church of Christ in the USA

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EASTER  SUNDAY  DEVOTION
 
 
ALLELUIA !  HE IS RISEN.
 ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!

THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

 

Hymn

 

        The day of resurrection! Earth, tell it out abroad;

        the Passover of gladness, the Passover of God.

        From death to life eternal, from earth unto the sky,

        our Christ hath brought us over with hymns of victory

 

        Our hearts be pure from evil, that we may see aright

        the Lord in rays eternal of resurrection light;

        and listening to his accents, may hear so calm and plain

        his own “All hail! and, hearing, may raise the victor’s strain.

 

        Now let the heavens be joyful, let earth her song begin,

        the round world keep high triumph, and all that is therein;

        let all things seen and unseen their notes together blend,

        for Christ the Lord is risen, our joy that hath no end

 

    (John of Damascus - 8th century; tr. John Mason (1818-1866)

         

 

Lord, open our lips and our mouth shall proclaim your praise.

 

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

 

ALLELUIA! CHRIST IS RISEN!

THE LORD HAS RISEN INDEED!  ALLELUIA!

 

Come let us adore him:

 

Alleluia.

 

Christ our passover has been sacrificed for us; therefore let us keep the feast,

  Not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil,

  but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.  Alleluia.

 

Christ being raised from the dead will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.

  The death that he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.

  So also consider yourselves dead to sin, and alive to God in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Alleluia.

 

Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

  For since by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead.

  for as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.  Alleluia.

 

THE FIRST LESSON

 

Colossians 3:1-4

If you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.

 

THE SECOND LESSON

John 20:1-18

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb. The two were running together, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first. He bent down to look in and saw the linen wrappings lying there, but he did not go in. Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.

But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb; and she saw two angels in white, sitting where the body of Jesus had been lying, one at the head and the other at the feet. They said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping?” She said to them, “They have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” When she had said this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not know that it was Jesus. Jesus said to her, “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you looking for?” Supposing him to be the gardener, she said to him, “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her.

A HOMILETIC STUDY AND REFLECTION ON THE GOSPEL OF JOHN

By Norm Wright

STUDY

On this holiest of days, we turn to the story of Jesus’ resurrection as told in the Gospel of John. I wasn’t planning on a study portion for this day but as I started writing, it became apparent that I needed to.  The Gospel of John is not my favorite Gospel to preach on because it is difficult to unravel this complex Gospel within an eight to ten minute homily without resorting to platitude. 

 

Personally speaking, there is nothing easy about Easter.  I avoid watching all the movies or documentaries trying to replicate this deep mystery or explain it, which, in my opinion, merely end up reducing the inexplicable to a “dramedy” or a one-off phenomenon that holds no relevance to our world today.   The Resurrection of Jesus is perplexing.

 

To start with, the resurrection of Jesus presents the greatest conundrum of all.  All of the Gospels have their own way of presenting it and before getting into John’s presentation, I feel compelled to demonstrate this conundrum by way of how the  resurrection of Jesus is presented in the earliest Gospel, the Gospel according to Mark. 

 

The earliest known manuscripts of Marks’ Gospel end oddly:

 

As they [the women] entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. [Mark 16:5-8] 

 

That’s it.  That’s how the earliest manuscripts end.  Hardly the joyous occasion we think of as Easter.  It was a terrifying experience, and all of the Gospels in their own way capture a sense of this terror but none as explicitly as Mark. 

 

Why terror?

 

Because the Resurrection presents a conundrum, and it is not a conundrum involving Jesus only, it is conundrum involving us. 

 

The Gospel of John cannot be dealt with in a piecemeal fashion.  It has to be taken and understood as a whole; as an intricately interwoven, theological work.  To get at the meaning of Easter found in John 20, we must turn to John 2.  John 2 begins with the story of Jesus turning water into wine at the wedding  feast at Cana.  After that event, Jesus goes up to Jerusalem and cleanses the Temple, which, in the Synoptic Gospels, takes place immediately before the Last Supper, located near the end of those Gospels. In John, this event takes place early on and is used to set the stage for Jesus’s resurrection. 

 

After Jesus turned over the money changers’ tables, those present ask him for a sign of his authority to do so.  Jesus cryptically replies, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it up in three day.”  Just so we get the meaning, John adds an editorial comment that Jesus was talking about the temple of his body, which brings us to today’s Gospel lesson.

 

To review, the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD was experienced as an extremely disorientating event by all Jews; those who followed Jesus and those who didn’t.  In this resurrection story, we find that the temple is revealed in the resurrected presence of Jesus as the Christ.  This is the context in which John casts Jesus’ resurrection.

 

Everything said in the Gospel of John has a meaning behind it. In today’s lesson, we start with who is involved, Mary Magdalene (mentioned in all the Gospels), Peter, and an unnamed disciple described as the disciple Jesus loved.  Most Biblical scholars and theologians cast this unnamed disciple as the namesake of this Gospel, Jesus’ disciple John, but we shouldn’t be too hasty with that conclusion.

 

The fact that this disciple is left unnamed is suggestive. Just when one thinks one knows what John is talking about or where John’s author is leading us, unless the author is presenting an editorial clue, things left undefined are defining.  This beloved disciple suggests anyone called to be a disciple of Jesus, a catechist for instance, might be considered beloved of Jesus and in that suggestion find him or herself a participant in this story.

 

What is interesting in this Gospel is that these three individuals approach the tomb with a certain degree of reticence.  The tomb is found open by Mary who runs to tell Peter.  There is a suggestion that Mary was not alone; that there were other women present as implicated in her comment to Peter, “… we don’t know where they have laid him.”  

 

Peter and the unnamed disciple run to the tomb.  The unnamed disciple reaching it first does not enter.  Peter bends down (a sign of reverence) and then the unnamed disciple follows. Then Peter enters the tomb followed by the unnamed disciple.  This supports the suggestion the unnamed disciple is symbolic of the (as yet unbaptized) catechist who cannot fully understand the mystery of Christ Jesus and merely follows the example of the fully initiated symbolized by Peter.

 

What Peter and this unnamed disciple see is merely an empty tomb and the burial cloths lying on the stone slab where Jesus’ corpse was placed, noting that the cloth covering his face was rolled up in a place by itself.  That’s it.  Once again, John points out that sight, as mental comprehension, is not sufficient by itself to grasp the mystery of the empty tomb, the mystery of the Risen Christ. 

 

An opened tomb, in itself, may result in a reticent approach, but one suspects that mention of it here is meaningful.  What all three individuals cannot (understandably) conclude at that point is that Jesus is risen.  There is always another step in this process, according to John:  Jesus must approach and reveal himself.

 

What is stressed in all of the Gospel accounts is that women are the first to arrive and are the first receive and believe the message that Jesus is risen.  This is not meant to be sexist.  Rather, what we see are two principles at work in these Gospels; and in particular, the Gospel of John. 

 

Pragmatism is frequently portrayed as a male principle; the seeing-is-believing type of reasoning, whereas intuition, insight, and wisdom are frequently portrayed as a female principle where, in Christian theology, understanding is apprehended through faith rather than intellectual belief.  We see both principles played out in all the Gospels.

 

What brings Peter and the (not fully sure of himself) unnamed disciple to the tomb is curiosity which appears satisfied with the certainty of the fact that Jesus is not there.  What brings Mary back to the tomb is uncertainty and a nagging doubt about the facts filtered through the dim hope of finding out where Jesus is.  In essence, John is explaining that there is an element of doubt essential to faith.

 

When Mary Magdalene bends over to look in the tomb, things become extremely mysterious as she sees two angels sitting on the slab of stone, one where Jesus’ head was and one where his feet were. What is being described is something that would have been familiar to Jesus’ early Jewish followers.  Two angels one at the head and one at the feet is a description of the Ark of the Covenant where, on the lid of the Ark, were seated two angels facing each other, one at each end of the Ark

 
The space between them was known as the Mercy Seat, where the presence or glory of God dwelt, in Hebrew the glory of God is called the Shekinah.  Notice that in this resurrection story, the angels speak in unison, with one voice.

 

With regard to the cloth that had covered Jesus’ face being “rolled” up and put in its own place, two possible meanings come to mind:  The rolled up cloth is reminiscent of a scroll representing the Torah or the scrolls of the Tanakh, the Hebrew Scriptures; as in, the law and the prophets are fulfilled.  It is also reminiscent of the veil Moses used when he left the Holy of Holies of the Tabernacle, where the Ark of the Covenant was kept, to hide the glow of God’s glory on his face. In this context, the rolled up cloth signifies that the glory of God is revealed in the face of Jesus; that there is no need to hide that glory because, as Jesus remarked in John 17, Jesus is bestowing that glory on his disciples.

 

When the angels sitting on the empty slab where Jesus’ body was laid see Mary weeping, they ask with one voice, “Why are you weeping?”  She responds, “They have taken my Lord away and I don’t know where they have laid him.”  No one in John’s Gospel gets things immediately.  They must be drawn into understanding slowly because in John’s presentation things are not as they seem to be; that life on the surface is an illusion.

 

Mary then turns away from this mysterious encounter and sees Jesus standing there, but does not see him as Jesus but as a gardener - a suggestive reference to Jesus being the new Adam tending a new creation.  Again, for a second time by the supposed gardener, Mary is asked, “Why are you weeping?” Mary again gives a similar answer as she did to the angels, but with an ironic twist, suggesting the supposed gardener of taking Jesus’ body away, which in a paradoxical sense is true, in part.  It is only when Jesus says her name, “Mary” that she recognize him.

 

It is only when Jesus reveals himself in a direct approach that individuals can identify him as the Christ.  As we have seen before, when things happen in pairs in John’s Gospel we encounter a unifying principle, used here as a form of transference of the Shekinah residing on the mercy seat of the Ark of the Old Covenant to Jesus who is the New Covenant, the resurrected Temple of God.

 

John ends this account as mysteriously as he started it.  When Mary realizes Jesus’ presence, there is an implication that she reaches for him as suggested in Jesus’ command, “Do not hold on to me because I have not ascended to the Father.”  The fact is we don’t know if Mary tried holding on to him.  That Jesus makes a point of not trying to hold on to him, implies that the risen Christ is not something that can be grasped in a physical/rational sense, and is suggesting that the presence of the resurrected Christ will be transferred (upon his ascension) to those called to follow him, as revealed in the final chapter of John’s Gospel.

 

REFLECTION

 

LIFE FROM DEATH"

 

The death and resurrection of Jesus casts this life; life lived on the ice-thin surface of an illusionary reality, in a parabolic light; as in, things not being what they seem to be.  As such, I find the earliest manuscripts of Mark’s Gospel that end with the women being seized by terror at the discovery of an empty tomb and hearing that Jesus had risen a credible portrayal of what it must have been like for them and what it would have been like for us in that situation. 

 

In John’s Gospel, the Resurrection is depicted in what mystics and theologians like Rudolph Otto describe as the “wholly other;” a mysterium tremendum et fascinans, a mystery that both terrifies and fascinates. (Rudolph Otto was German theologian and philosopher who wrote “The Idea of the Holy” in 1917)

 

In John’s Gospel, we approach the empty tomb of Jesus as Mary Magdalene did a second time; with the dread of uncertainty and a nagging but fascinating element of doubt that things are not what they seem to be, which paradoxically opens the eyes of faith.

 

Life is not as it seems.  The moment life emerged from death eliminated the conundrum of Jesus’ death and burial and cast Jesus’ resurrection as being a deeply parabolic moment; exposing the paradoxical reality presented in this life that could not have been grasped without its occurrence:  Life comes from Death.

 

Life from death is not easily grasped.  The risen Christ is not easily recognized in an illusionary reality that blinds us to the truth that we are part of something much larger than any one of us can comprehend; something larger than the whole of us and larger than the whole of creation. We cannot conceive of such things by our own power and strength. 

 

In Jesus, we see the power and the glory of God’s creative, kenotic love in action; that love poured out in the act of creation, in what we experience and see with the naked eye as the universe; that incomprehensible reality that can only be appreciated and viewed partially through the dark lens of night.

 

By God’s grace and love, Jesus became our exemplar. “What is true for Jesus is true for us!”  In Jesus’ story, I find my story. In Jesus’ story I find our story.  That Jesus lives means I live!  That Jesus lives means that we live and that there is more to life than this life.

 

At a time when the world is walking through the valley of the shadow of death; dealing with the conundrums caused by a pandemic, we find ourselves, on this day, peering reverently into an empty tomb and hearing the words, “He is not here. He is risen.” 

 

In the midst of this uncertain time, we are reminded that there is a lifeline running through the valley of the shadow (the illusion) of death we call faith and hope in the love of God, whose covenantal promise is to raise up a new creation in the Resurrected Christ, in whom we are embodied and who we embody as Body of Christ on earth. 

 

On this day, we see the terror of death replaced with the tremendum et fascinans of an empty tomb

 

As Paul said in our first lesson, “Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth, [Get beyond the surface story of life] for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God [that Being in which we live, move, and have our being - Acts 17;28]. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.”  [What is true for Jesus is true for us.] (Italics my paraphrase -nw)

 

May the Love of God experienced in the Risen Christ shield us from the illusions of this world and preserve us from all fear and hopelessness.

 

AMEN

********** *

PRAYERS OF THE PEOPLE

 

Pray for those in our parish family; for Phyllis and Bernard Kubal, Toots Marchand,  and Pat and Bev Ann Christensen and those we hold in your hearts.

 

Pray for those affected by Covid-19; for healthcare workers around the world; for those who provide essential services; for the leaders of all nations, for all governmental officials every where, and for all those making decisions in this time of crisis.

 

Pray for those who have died. On this day we pray for Dean Carda, the husband of Mother Pat White Horse-Carda.

 

Pray for those celebrating birthdays: Dylan Neubauer-Keyes (April 15), Andrea Wright (April 15), Toot Marchand (April 16), and Marilyn Wilson (April 17)

 

Praise and give thanks to God who in Christ Jesus raises us to new life.

 

 

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

May God be with us.

Let us lift up our hearts and give thanks to the Lord our God; for it is right to God thanks and praise.

 

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth through Jesus Christ our Lord. But chiefly are we bound to praise you for the glorious resurrection of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; for he is the true Paschal Lamb, who was sacrificed for us, and has taken away the sin of the world.  By his death he has destroyed death, and by his rising to life again he was won for us everlasting life.  Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

 

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.

The Commemoration

 

Holy and Gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent forth Jesus to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us and to be one with us, so that we may be reconciled to you, the God and Father of all.

 

On this day, we celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, offering our praise and thanksgiving by recalling Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.  Sanctify us, we pray, that we may faithfully serve you in unity, constancy, and peace: and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom.  All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ.  By him, and with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever.  Amen.

 

As our brother Jesus has taught us we now pray,

 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name,

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven

Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses,

as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. 

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

 

 

Alleluia! Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the Feast. Alleluia!

 

 

 

A Prayer for Spiritual Communion

 

My Jesus, I know that you are present in the Holy Sacrament. 

I love you above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.

 

Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally come spiritually into my heart.

 

I embrace you as if you were already there and unite myself whole to you.

 

Never permit me to be separated from you.  Amen

 

 — A prayer by St. Alphonsus (1696-1787) as used at the Washington National Cathedral

 

 

Hymn

 

         Father, we thank thee who hast planted thy holy Name within our hearts.

         Knowledge and faith and life immortal Jesus thy Son to us imparts.

         Thou, Lord, didst make all for thy pleasure, didst give us food for all our days,

         giving in Christ the Bread eternal; thine is the power, be thine the praise

 

         Watch o’er thy Church, O Lord, in mercy, save it from evil, guard it still,

         perfect it in thy love, unite it, cleansed and conformed unto thy will,

         As grain, once scattered on the hillsides, was in this broken bread made one,

         so from all lands thy Church be gathered into thy kingdom by thy Son.

 

 

 

God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament has left us a memorial of his passion:  Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of his redemption; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, for ever and ever.  Amen

 

 

 

 

May the almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless us and keep us.  Amen

 

 

The picture at the beginning of this devotion is a photograph of a portion of Christ Episcopal Church’s Resurrection window. It was installed with the inscription “To the Glory of GOD and in Memory of Eugenie Boyles Andrews Dec. 30. 1869-April 26. 1892.

 

*   The liturgy is taken from “The Book of Common Prayer” The Church Hymnal Corporation, New York 1979

** From The Episcopal Lectionary & our parish bulletin insert which uses the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the national Council of Church of Christ in the USA.           

       

 

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GOOD FRIDAY DEVOTION

Blessed be our God.

Forever and ever.  Amen.

 

Let us pray:

 

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

THE OLD TESTAMENT LESSON

 

Isaiah 52:13-53:12

 

See, my servant shall prosper;

he shall be exalted and lifted up,

and shall be very high.

Just as there were many who were astonished at him

--so marred was his appearance, beyond human semblance,

and his form beyond that of mortals--

so he shall startle many nations;

kings shall shut their mouths because of him;

for that which had not been told them they shall see,

and that which they had not heard they shall contemplate.

 

Who has believed what we have heard?

And to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?

For he grew up before him like a young plant,

and like a root out of dry ground;

he had no form or majesty that we should look at him,

nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.

He was despised and rejected by others;

a man of suffering and acquainted with infirmity;

and as one from whom others hide their faces

he was despised, and we held him of no account.

 

Surely he has borne our infirmities

and carried our diseases;

yet we accounted him stricken,

struck down by God, and afflicted.

But he was wounded for our transgressions,

crushed for our iniquities;

upon him was the punishment that made us whole,

and by his bruises we are healed.

All we like sheep have gone astray;

we have all turned to our own way,

and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

 

He was oppressed, and he was afflicted,

yet he did not open his mouth;

like a lamb that is led to the slaughter,

and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent,

so he did not open his mouth.

By a perversion of justice he was taken away.

Who could have imagined his future?

For he was cut off from the land of the living,

stricken for the transgression of my people.

They made his grave with the wicked

and his tomb with the rich,

although he had done no violence,

and there was no deceit in his mouth.

 

Yet it was the will of the Lord to crush him with pain.

When you make his life an offering for sin,

he shall see his offspring, and shall prolong his days;

through him the will of the Lord shall prosper.

Out of his anguish he shall see light;

he shall find satisfaction through his knowledge.

The righteous one, my servant, shall make many righteous,

and he shall bear their iniquities.

Therefore I will allot him a portion with the great,

and he shall divide the spoil with the strong;

because he poured out himself to death,

and was numbered with the transgressors;

yet he bore the sin of many,

and made intercession for the transgressors.

 

 

 

Psalm 22

 

Deus, Deus meus

 

1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

   and are so far from my cry

   and from the words of my distress?

2 O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;

   by night as well, but I find no rest.

3 Yet you are the Holy One,

   enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

4 Our forefathers put their trust in you;

   they trusted, and you delivered them.

5 They cried out to you and were delivered;

    they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

6 But as for me, I am a worm and no man,

    scorned by all and despised by the people.

7 All who see me laugh me to scorn;

   they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,

8 "He trusted in the Lord; let him deliver him;

    let him rescue him, if he delights in him."

9 Yet you are he who took me out of the womb,

   and kept me safe upon my mother's breast.

10 I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born;

     you were my God when I was still in my mother's womb.

11 Be not far from me, for trouble is near,

     and there is none to help.

 

 

THE EPISTLE LESSON

 

Philippians 2:3-11

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves. Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God

    as something to be exploited, but emptied himself,

    taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form, he humbled himself

    and became obedient to the point of death—even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name

    that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus

    every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 

and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

 THE GOSPEL LESSON

 Luke 23:13-49

 Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people, and said to them, “You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.” Then they all shouted out together, “Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!” (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, “Crucify, crucify him!” A third time he said to them, “Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.” But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

 As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed.’ Then they will begin to say to the mountains, ‘Fall on us’; and to the hills, ‘Cover us.’ For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?”

 Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him.  When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!”  The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!”  There was also an inscription over him, “This is the King of the Jews.”

 One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, “Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” He replied, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

  It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon, while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.” Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, “Certainly this man was innocent.” And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

 Hymn

 

      Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

      Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

      Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,

      Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

 

      Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

      Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

      Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.

      Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?

 

      Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

      Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

      Oh! Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,

      Were you there when they pierced him in the side?

 

      Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

      Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

      Oh!  Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble,

      Were you there when they laid him in the tomb?

 

Afro-American spiritual

 

A HOMILETIC REFLECTION

By Norm Wright

“Experiencing Jesus  - Kenosis”

 +In the name of Jesus, our Brother+

 As some of you know, when Lent started this year, we began a series of mid-week devotions focused on “Experiencing Jesus.”  I personally found the two devotional services we were able to hold very interesting as they allowed time for us to look at a piece of scripture and talk about how something Jesus experienced was reflected in our life experiences. 

 On this Good Friday, I invite those reading this devotion to think in terms of how the story of Jesus’ passion; how his suffering and death is experienced in our lives.  As I mentioned during these Wednesday meetings, it is my personal creed that “What is true for Jesus is true for us, and what is true for us is true for Jesus also.” 

 Jesus is one of us and Jesus is one with us.  

 The Gospels, in various ways try to make this point, sometimes struggling to juggle between keeping Jesus’s two feet on the ground while maintaining Jesus as God’s beloved Son.  For me the story of Jesus’s last supper, his going off with some of his disciples to pray in the Garden of Gethsemane, his betrayal, his arrest, his trial, and his crucifixion are among the most human moments depicted in Jesus’s life.  By the end of that first Good Friday, Jesus ends up being stripped of his humanity (our shared humanity) in graphic detail - demonstrating how human Jesus is. 

 Paradoxically, in this process of being totally stripped of physical life and as he is dying in a most cruel manner, Jesus fully lives into being the beloved Son God said he was at his Baptism.  This fully living into his being God’s beloved Son is captured best in Luke’s Gospel account of these events, but I would quickly add that all the Gospel accounts add a dimension to this paradox and are worth reading and meditating on while we await the great mysterious story of Jesus’s resurrection.

 Mentioned in many of my homilies is a term that I would like to explore more fully in this reflection, “Kenosis.”  This Greek word simply means pouring out or emptying out.  While the well-known Christological hymn of Paul in today’s Epistle Lesson uses the term kenosis in the context that Jesus “did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited,” I see Jesus’s emptying himself of his “self” on the cross to make room for our “selves.”

 At the last moment when fully depleted of life, Jesus, with his last breath, commends his spirit to our heavenly Father.  Upon doing so, Jesus enters the embrace of that SELF that is GOD whose essence makes up our spiritual DNA as declared in Genesis.

 The question for us today, utilizing our Lenten theme of experiencing Jesus, is when have we engaged in kenosis, in emptying our selves to make room for others, to make room for God?

 When have we experienced, an “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani” moment - a “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me” moment (described in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark)? 

 When have we felt abandoned by friends and relatives and feeling and left hanging?

 When have we experienced kenosis as moments of feeling so emptied out that we let go and let God?  

 Kenotic moments are transfiguring moments.  

 Many times they serve as launching pads into a new way of life or a new way of experiencing life.  We may see things differently, and we may actually appear differently, like the blind man in John 9 was; as in that “There’s-something-different-about-you” way.

 In Luke’s account of Jesus’s crucifixion, we see Jesus ever concerned about the needs of others as he makes his way to Golgotha to die.  In my mind, the “Eloi, Eloi… statements of Jesus found in Matthew and Mark are melded with Luke’s account.  That is how this tragic moment in Jesus’s life bubbles up in me - perhaps because my own kenotic experiences seem to come when I feel at a loss and feeling lost. 

 It seems to me that Jesus, in the moment of his utmost sense of abandonment, sees things as they are, sees the very people who put him on that cross as the same as he is; beloved children of God, sees things as God our Father sees things; transfiguring his loss as their loss, and feeling in his inability to physically embrace anything a desire to embrace everything. 

 And so Jesus forgives as he has always done.  

 Jesus embraces the entirety of us with the spiritual embrace that is forgiveness.  He forgives all.  “Father forgive them because they have no idea what they are doing.”

 Let’s face it.  We don’t know what we’re doing even when we think “we’ve got this;” that expression of the illusionary state of mind that comes with living on the ice-thin surface of existence.

 Today we are in a collective moment in which kenosis is being played out in a real time during this pandemic; in which our illusions of “we’ve got this” are being stripped away.  There are some who will undoubtedly exemplify those who Jesus identified as having no idea what they are doing.  Jesus forgives them and so must we.

 Then there are those who exemplify what Jesus did on this Good Friday, who are emptying themselves of self; who are willing to tread on the unknown turf that is the valley of the shadow of death, making room for other “selves,” being open to the Self of God; opening their hearts to the needs of others at tremendous personal risk and potential cost to themselves - May God bless and protect them!

 We are experiencing a crossroads moment, a crucifixion moment.   Life as we know it is changing, and in such moments as these we have a chance to see life differently, to understand life more deeply, to embrace life more fully, to forgive those we share life with more intentionally; to experience Jesus more fully.  

 Amen.

 THE SOLEMN COLLECTS

 Dear People of God:  Our heavenly Father sent his Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved; that all who believe in him might be delivered from the power of sin and death, and become heirs with him of everlasting life.

 We pray, therefore, for people everywhere according to their needs.

 Let us pray for the holy Catholic Church of Christ throughout the world; that God will confirm his Church in faith, increase it in love, and preserve it in peace

 Silence

 Almighty and everlasting God, by whose Spirit the whole body of your faithful people is governed and sanctified:  Receive our supplications and prayers which we offer before you for all members of your holy Church, that in their vocation and ministry they may truly and devoutly serve you; through our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

 Let us pray for all nations, and peoples on earth, and for those in authority among them; that by God’s help they may seek justice and truth, and live in peace and concord.

 Silence

 Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for the nations of the earth; that in tranquility your dominion may increase, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of our love; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 Let us pray for all who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind; that God in his mercy will comfort and relieve them, and grant them the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the will and patience to minister to their needs.

 Silence

 Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of all who suffer:  Let the cry of those in misery and need come to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ; that God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to faith and obedience.

 Silence

 Merciful God, Creator of all the peoples of the earth and lover of souls:  Have compassion on all who do not know you as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel be preached with grace and power to those who have not heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 Let us commit ourselves to our God, and pray for the grace of a holy life, that, with all who have departed this world, and have died in the peace of Christ, and those whose faith is known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown of life in the day of resurrection.

 Silence

 O God of unchangeable power and eternal light:  Look favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry out in tranquility the plan of salvation; let the whole world see and know that things which were cast down are being raised up, and things which had grown old are being made new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Hymn

    O sacred Head, now wounded, with grief and shame weighed down,

    Now scornfully surrounded with thorns, Thine only crown.

    O Sacred head, what glory, what bliss, till now what Thine!

    Yea, tho’ despised and gory, I joy to call Thee mine.

 

    My burden in Thy Passion, Lord, Thou hast borne for me,

    For it was my transgressions which bro’t this woe on Thee.

    I cast me down before Thee; wrath were my rightful lot.

    Have mercy, I implore Thee; Redeemer, spurn me not!

 

    What language shall I borrow to thank Thee, dearest Friend,

    For this Thy dying sorrow, Thy pity without end?

    Oh, make me Thine forever! And should I fainting be,

    Lord, let me never, never, outlive my love for thee.

 

Paul Gerhardt, 1665

Based on a text by Bernard of Clairvaux d. 1153

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.

 *   The liturgy and Psalm is taken from “The Book of Common Prayer” The Church Hymnal Corporation, New York 1979

** From The Episcopal Lectionary & our parish bulletin insert which uses the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the national Council of Church of Christ in the USA.

 
---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- ---------- -------
MAUNDY SERVICE
April 9, 2020 
 

Since we cannot meet on this evening to commemorate the Last Supper and participate in Holy Communion, this devotion will diverge from the usual liturgical format for this service and engage in what is known as “Spiritual Communion. “

 O Lord, make speed to save us.

O Lord, make hast to help us.

 Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit; as it was in the beginning is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

 A Prayer For the Human Family

 O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son:  Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish you purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 FROM PSALM 86

Inclina, Domine

 1  Bow down your ear, O Lord, and answer me,for I am poor and in misery

2  Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful save your servant who puts trust in you.

3  Be merciful to me, O Lord, for you are my God; I call upon you all the day long.

4  Gladden the soul of your servant, for to you, O Lord, I lift up my soul.

5  For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving, and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

6  Give ear, O Lord, to my prayer, and attend to the voice of my supplications.

7   In the time of my trouble, I will call upon you,for you will answer me.

8   Among the gods there is none like you, O Lord, nor anything like your works.

9   All nations you have made will come and worship you, O Lord,and glorify you Name.

 

10 For you are great; you do wondrous things; and you alone are God.

11 Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth; knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

12 I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name for evermore.

 

SELECTED SCRIPTURE PASSAGES**

 From the Book of Exodus:

This is how you are to eat (the Passover meal): with your cloak tucked into your belt, your sandals on your feet and your staff in your hand.  Eat it in haste; it is the Lord’s Passover. This is a day you are to commemorate; for the generations to come you shall celebrate it as festival to the Lord - a lasting ordinance (12:11&14)

 From the First Letter of Paul to the Corinthians:

I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me." In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. (11:23-36)

 From the Gospel according to John (selections from the Supper Discourse):

Then he (Jesus) poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, "Lord, are you going to wash my feet?" Jesus answered, "You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand." Peter said to him, "You will never wash my feet." Jesus answered, "Unless I wash you, you have no share with me." Simon Peter said to him, "Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!" Jesus said to him, "One who has bathed does not need to wash, except for the feet, but is entirely clean. (13:5-10a)

I am the true vine, and my Father is the vine-grower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing. (15:1-5a)

As you, Father, are in me and I am in you, may they also be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. The glory that you have given me I have given them, so that they may be one, as we are one, I in them and you in me, that they may become completely one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (17: 21b-23)

A HOMILETIC REFLECTION

“A Doorpost, a Lintel, and a Fifth Cup”

By Norm Wright

 Maundy Thursday is a feast day commemorating Jesus instituting Holy Communion after a Passover seder (ritual) meal. On this evening of April 9th, Jews around the world are celebrating the seder meal of Passover. What I am sure comes to many Christian and Jewish minds, as we “hunker down” behind the closed doors of our homes, is Israel’s final moments in Egypt; the night of Passover when the Angel of Death passed through Egypt like an overnight epidemic; killing the first born of those who had not taken measures to protect themselves.

Like those early Israelites, we find ourselves in a time of passover, waiting behind closed doors, taking measures to avoid the spread of COVID-19; hoping, praying, and waiting for this deadly virus - this twenty-first century version of the Angel of Death - to pass over us; to pass us by. In the passages from Exodus, Moses tells the people of Israel to commemorate this day and celebrate it as a festival of the Lord - a lasting ordinance.

Fast-forward some fourteen hundred years later to the Last Supper where, in the Synoptic Gospels, Jesus and his disciples are doing what Moses commanded the Israelites to do; commemorate the Festival of the Passover by participating in the seder Passover meal. After finishing the Passover meal, Jesus ends the evening’s celebration with the establishment of an additional rite and the initiation of a new covenant.

The earliest account of this new rite is recorded in Paul’s First letter to the Corinthians. Paul, like Moses, frames this new seder meal we call Holy Communion in terms of commemorating that evening’s event by bringing it into the present every time it is celebrated.

In our Christian understanding, this meal of haste underscores the imminent release from the bondage of sin that comes through the kenotic act of Jesus opening himself to the world on the cross; that is, of pouring himself into these symbols of bread and wine as his body and blood; giving himself as something to ingest; implying as in the old saying goes, "We are what we eat” so that we can become his forgiving and redeeming presence to the world.

The act of Holy Communion by its very nature is a communal act - a sharing of these elements of bread and wine as a means of demonstrating our participation in Jesus’s redemptive act; our taking on the very body and blood of Christ. This meaning has often been hidden under the more egocentric understanding that Holy Communion forgives “me” of “my” sin and that is why “I” need to take it every week or as often as it is offered so that “I" can be assured of going to heaven. 

Scripture points us in a different direction on this topic. This seder meal is about us sharing together the life of Christ; of our being Christ’s resurrected presence in the world. 

 In both Paul’s letter and the Synoptic Gospels’ rendition of the Jesus’s words of institution, emphasis is placed on the “this cup” as a “(new) covenant.”  What goes unnoticed and unmentioned is that in the Passover Seder meal there are traditionally four cups of wine.   Jesus is adding a fifth cup. Not to belabor the significance of numbers in the New Testament, but to mention the number five, a number containing a five in it, or five of anything in the New Testament was used to signify grace, which symbolically establishes “this cup” as symbolizing the Covenant of Grace. 

The Gospel of John, which has been used throughout the season of Lent and which is the appointed Gospel for this Maundy Thursday does not talk about the Last Supper as a Passover meal but rather as a meal held the evening before the start of Passover. In John’s Christological view the ultimate Passover occurs when Jesus is crucified on the door post and lintel of the cross.

John’s depiction of Jesus’ discourse with his disciples in this Gospel’s presentation of the Last Supper does not include the Words of Institution. Rather, in John’s description of this supper we encounter a lengthy theological conversations between Jesus and his disciples; in which the disciples periodically ask questions about the meaning of this (as yet unrealized at the time) new Passover event in terms of where Jesus is going and how they are to survive without him.

 The implication is clear in the metaphors Jesus uses throughout this discourse that Jesus is speaking sacramentally; in that, that wherever we go Jesus is with us. As such, the questions asked in this discourse also serve as a means to bring the uninitiated; the catechist, into a fuller understanding of what takes place in this sacrament; much like the questions asked by children during the Jewish Passover seder regarding its meaning.  I would invite readers of this homily to spend some time reading John, chapters 13 through 17 to gain a fuller appreciation and understanding of this Gospel’s presentation of life in Christ as a communal eucharist.

The entirety of John’s Gospel is a depiction of sacramental life from Holy Baptism through Holy Communion or, to put it in the metaphorical language used in the story of the Wedding Feast at Cana (John 2:1-12); from taking water (Baptism) and turning it into wine (Eucharist).

In reading John’s account of the last supper, we encounter a common foot washing that a household’s servants would have done for guests as they entered their host’s home. This has become a traditional ceremony done in many churches on Maundy Thursday to recall the servant role that Jesus was demonstrating for the sake of his disciples and us to do likewise. But notice how Peter, the enthusiast, is initially offended that Jesus would stoop to wash his feet and then is quickly told by Jesus (in obvious baptismal terms) that what Jesus washes, cleans the whole person.

Implied in Jesus washing the feet of his disciples is that our feet, being sanctified in baptism,  designates the ground we tread on as Holy Ground, where the presence of God is manifest through us in each and every step we take.  So tread humbly or as the prophet advises, “Walk humbly with our God.”  [Micah 6:8]

Jesus’s supper discourse ends with what is commonly referred to as Jesus’s High Priestly Prayer. This prayer defines the purpose of communion as bringing us into union with God the Father - “I in them and you in me.”  John’s mystical approach to sacramental theology portrays the entire ministry of Jesus as initiating his disciples into becoming co-redemptors of the world with him. John’s Gospel tells us that the work of the Incarnate Word and the Resurrected Christ of God is to be carried out in our lives; as those who have died and are raised with him in Baptism and are nourished with the Bread of Life [John 6] and are sustained as branches of his sacramental vine.

While we cannot share in this important ritual meal, this seder meal of the New Covenant with each other on this evening, we are reminded to “Keep the Feast” in our hearts and minds, to partake of this sacrament, spiritually, as we await the day when we can come together as a family of faith to celebrate this feast.  Amen.

HYMN

    Soul, adorn thyself with gladness, leave behind all gloom and sadness;

    Come into the daylight’s splendor, there with joy thy praises render

    Unto Him who grace unbounded hath this wondrous supper founded.

    High o’re all the heavens he reigneth, yet to dwell with thee he deigneth.

 

    Human reason, though it ponder, cannot fathom this great wonder

    that Christ’s body e’re remaineth though it countless souls sustaineth

    and that He His blood is giving with the wine we are receiving

    These great mysteries unsounded are by God alone expounded.

 

    Jesus, Sun of Life, my Splendor, Jesus, Thou my Friend most tender,

    Jesus, Joy of my desiring, Fount of life, my soul inspiring

    At Thy feet I cry, my Maker, let me be a fit partaker

    of this blessed food from heaven, for our good, Thy glory, given.

 

(Johann Frank, 1618-1677 tr. Catherine Winkworth 1827-1878)

SPIRITUAL COMMUNION

May God be with us.

Let us lift up our hearts and give thanks to the Lord our God; for it is right to God thanks and praise.

It is right, and a good and joyful thing, always and everywhere to give thanks to you, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth through Jesus Christ our Lord. For our sins he was lifted high upon the cross, that he might draw the whole world to himself; and, by his suffering and death, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who put their trust in him. Therefore we praise you, joining our voices with Angels and Archangels and with all the company of heaven, who for ever sing this hymn to proclaim the glory of your Name:

Holy, holy, holy Lord, God of power and might, heaven and earth are full of your glory.
Hosanna in the highest.
Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.
Hosanna in the highest.

 The Commemoration

Holy and Gracious Father: In your infinite love you made us for yourself; and, when we had fallen into sin and become subject to evil and death, you, in your mercy, sent forth Jesus to share our human nature, to live and die as one of us and to be one with us, so that we may be reconciled to you, the God and Father of all.

On this night, we celebrate the memorial of our redemption, O Father, offering our praise and thanksgiving by recalling Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension. Sanctify us, we pray, that we may faithfully serve you in unity, constancy, and peace: and at the last day bring us with all your saints into the joy of your eternal kingdom. All this we ask through your Son Jesus Christ. By him, and with him, in the unity of the Holy Spirit all honor and glory is yours, Almighty Father, now and for ever.  Amen.

 As our brother Jesus has taught us we now pray,

 

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy Name, Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven
Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

 Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us, therefore, let us keep the Feast.

 


 

A Prayer for Spiritual Communion

 My Jesus, I know that you are present in the Holy Sacrament.
I love you above all things, and I desire to receive You into my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment receive you sacramentally come spiritually into my heart.
I embrace you as if you were already there and unite myself whole to you.
Never permit me to be separated from you. Amen

 — A prayer by St. Alphonsus (1696-1787) as used at the Washington National Cathedral

 Lamb of God, come take our burdens.
Lamb of God, come take our cares,
Lamb of God, grant us the freedom to bring the world your peace.

   (Agnus Dei from the Piano Mass, Norm Wright 2014)

God our Father, whose Son our Lord Jesus Christ in a wonderful Sacrament has left us a memorial of his passion:  Grant us so to venerate the sacred mysteries of his Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within ourselves the fruit of his redemption; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit one God, for ever and ever.  Amen

Keep watch, dear Lord, with those who work, or watch, or weep this night, and give your angels charge over those who sleep. Tend the sick, Lord Christ; give rest to the weary, bless the dying, soothe the suffering, pity the afflicted, shield the joyous; and all for your love’s sake. Amen.

 May the almighty and merciful Lord, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, bless us and keep us. Amen

 *   The liturgy and Psalm is taken from “The Book of Common Prayer” The Church Hymnal Corporation, New York 1979

** From The Episcopal Lectionary & our parish bulletin insert which uses the New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989 by the Division of Christian Education of the national Council of Church of Christ in the USA.