Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates: A Review


I question whether I even have the right to review this book. My initial thoughts after finishing it is that humanity as a long ways to go yet before we are living in the Kingdom of God. Coates is challenging and thought provoking in this memoir/story to his son.

Myself, growing up in a predominantly white town that was at one time a destination point for the KKK in Michigan brought me a childhood that was white and sheltered from diversity. My first real glimpse of true diversity was when I went off to college. While, I don’t consider myself racist, I know that I can have a natural tendency at looking at others differently because of my white upbringing. I may have been blind to the white privilege that I have encountered throughout my life and am now starting to understand it to a small degree.

The world that Coates shares in Between the World and Me is one that is foreign to the world that I grew up in, yet one that I feel compelled to help change as a leader in the church. This book will take many reads to truly start to soak into my sense of understanding, so instead of trying to analyze or criticize, I believe that it is best that we just listen. In that frame of mind, here are a couple excerpts:

referring to the death of Prince Jones, “When it came to her son, Dr. Jone’s country did what it does best–it forgot him. The forgetting is habit, is yet another necessary component of the Dream. They have forgotten the scale of theft that enriched them in slavery; the terror that allowed them, for a century, to pilfer the vote; the segregationist policy that gave them the suburbs. They have forgotten, because to remember would tumble them out of the beautiful Dream and force them to live down here with us, down here in the world.”

“I do not believe that we can stop them, Samori, because they must ultimately stop themselves…But do not struggle for the Dreamers. Hope for them. Pray for them, if you are so moved. But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all.”

It is not an easy read, however, I believe that it should be a necessary reading, or has the recommendation on the front cover by Toni Morrison says, “This is required reading.” Not just for people of color, but for all people. It is time that we move beyond race, nationality, sex or sexual orientation, disability, and embrace all people as children of God. I know, easier said than done. Let us pray!

Jesus Prays for Us!

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John 17:20-26

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

We find ourselves in the midst of Jesus’ farewell discourse as he is in prayer for those things he has done, yet to do, and for those that will carry the gospel message forward after he is crucified, resurrected, and ascended. The disciples together are one group waiting for what their next step may be in their journey with Jesus. Jesus encourages that oneness in his prayer on the night before his arrest.

I have to admit that the gospel of John in the past has been my least favorite of the gospels. Why, you may ask. Because, I like the down and dirty Jesus that is working in and among the people, healing, bringing good news and hope, and is doing so, humbly with little to no fanfare. The gospel of John has the tendency to lift up the glory of Jesus and ultimately his divinity. Not just towards the end of the gospel, but from the very beginning. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God (John 1:1-2). The divinity of Jesus is paraded boldly, so much to the point that Jesus says, “You are from below, I am from above; you are of this world, I am not of this world” (8:23).

Isn’t it amazing how different parts of scripture can affect us differently given where we are at in on our lives or what is going on around us. Personally, I have experienced John’s gospel in a new and profound way this Easter season. The deep theological rifts that run through the gospel have become more alive. This is the Living Word of God, acting in our lives and breathing into us new signs of hope and inspiration. Scripture speaks of times past, roughly 2000 years ago, but it does not stay there. God’s Word comes to us in the here and now!

The problem 2000 years ago was that the World did not know God. Jesus came into this world proclaiming a message that angered people and fell onto deaf ears. Jesus reached out to those that were in need of healing and were struggling. He spoke to the outcasts of society and brought them God’s peace in a time when their voices were not being heard. He also lifted up their voices so that they could be heard by those that were in positions of power. It is was in these actions that he was condemned.

Jesus’ message brought conflict to a world that was already divided by race, class, culture, and sex. The conflict that occurred confirmed that there was still much growth to be had between “the world” and “the Word.” As we look around today we can see that that conflict still exists.  There are Christians that complain that the voice of the church does not have the same power that it once did. That the “world” is overtaking the Word of Jesus.  As society evolves and changes, we too must be willing to evolve and change as the Word of God is still just as provocative and prophetic today as it was thousands of years ago.

Jesus was well aware of the issues and conflicts that the disciples would encounter as they began to spread the gospel throughout the world. He knew that the world did not know God, yet it was through Jesus that others would come to know God. “I made your name known to them, and I will make it known, so that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them” (17:26). It is this oneness that brings Jesus to pray for the disciples and his desire for all to know that glory that God has given to him, that they can be a part of. It is Jesus’ prayer for oneness that starts to break down the walls of division and bring about a greater unity among people of faith. It is prayer that connects the disciples of Jesus to us in our time today. Here and now!

The prayers that are lifted up in this farewell discourse flow down through time through the Word that is alive and well and breathing today to touch upon our lives. How does that make you feel to know that we are connected to those first disciples through the sharing of the Word and Jesus’ prayer? For Jesus prayed not just for his current disciples. He prayed for those that would come to believe in him through the Word that we read this morning and pour over in our own prayers and devotions. As I pray for each one of you during the week, my prayers stem from those prayers Jesus prayed 2000 years ago.

Jesus’ prayer this morning is for us! IT IS FOR US! How powerful to know that the Words of Jesus’ prayer flow down to us and wash over us in his desire for us to be one with God and to share in the love that he has showered upon all. Like a mother praying for her children when they go out the door until their return, Jesus always has us in his prayers. It is in his prayer for us to be one that we come together communally, not under dogma, but under that own desire in our hearts to be in relationship with others. Our mission is to keep this experience of faith alive in the community, so that we can offer it to a broken and fractured world.

May we embrace Jesus’ prayer for us before he took up the cross and suffered. May we be in unity with him when we are called to bear our own cross.

Let us pray…

Help us accept each other as Christ accepted us; teach us as sister, brother, each person to embrace. Be present, Lord, among us, and bring us to belief. Amen.

The Little Price by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: A Review

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A beloved classic that is very simple yet can speak to our world even today. Saint-Exupéry served during World War II as a pilot and wrote this classic during that time. He would go missing on a mission in 1944 to never be seen again.

The Little Prince can be seen as a way into our inner-childhood where we are looking for just the right thing. As the Little Prince makes his way through his own story of finding his way to earth and the different people he encounters I was reminded of the different personalities that we have in the presidential race this year. Much like the Little Prince, we want to move on from them to find what it is we are truly looking for.

There are so many riches within this story that it is truly hard to sift through those that are speaking to you the most. At one instance it is a simple children’s tale meant to entertain and possibly help a child get to sleep at night, perhaps skipping the ending to avoid nightmares. It is in the beauty and care that the Little Prince shows for everything that speaks to me. Caring for his rose on a daily basis as well as the volcanos on his little planet, perhaps he could relate some to the Franciscans.

If you have never read it, or have not read it in some time, it is a quick read and one that could lead your mind in many different directions.

A Festival of Wealth

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Where do I even start?

It has been a couple of weeks since this great Festival and it has taken some time for me to digest all that occurred.

This was my first trip to the Festival of Faith & Writing. Honestly, it was all that I could have imagined and some. The comment was made during the festival that the one thing that people look forward to is the surprises. I experienced the surprises, not just around me in the people that I had an opportunity to meet and converse, I also had the opportunity to be surprised by the things that arose within me.

My interest in poetry was piqued as I listened to both Christian Wiman and Scott Cairns share some of their stories and process of writing poetry. I have dabbled a little with poetry in the past and am now wondering what it could mean for my contemplative life and sermon preparation as I sit with scripture to pen my own poetry.

The authors represented at the festival ranged across the spectrum of genre and the ones that I had an opportunity to listen to, each had a little nugget to share. I had the opportunity to hear from many people, including Janise Ray, M.T. Anderson, Zadie Smith, Tobias Wolff, David Kim, and many others. One person that drew me to the festival was Nadia Bolz-Weber, a colleague in the ELCA. Her message is transforming for many that hear it and is a reminder that God is at work through all people. Her openness to say what she is thinking is a blessing and unfortunately frowned upon in some areas in the church. This is the world though and we are all living in it. As she said, “The jagged edge of humanity is what connects us to one another.”

During the morning of the third day I looked around and realized what a “white” conference this truly was. Honestly, it was not surprising, given that it was hosted at a Reformed college and attracted many other protestants. Cindy Brandt shared this in a post, and she can reflect it much better than me.

Overall, it was a great three days, and I look forward to seeing the lineup in two years as I contemplate to fit it into my schedule once again.

Peace I Leave with You

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John 14:23-29

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

“Dearly Beloved, we are gathered here this day to get through this thing called life.” Prince

Let’s admit it, life can get pretty rough. We are confronted with situations in our lives that are not what we expected and we have to learn how to handle them. We gather together in family and communities to love one another through those trying times as the lyrics of Prince’s song Let’s Go Crazy state.

As we listen to the gospel lesson this morning, there has to be a part of us that is left reeling from the words Jesus speaks to Judas and the other disciples. A word of accusation for those that do not keep Jesus’ words. Those that do not keep his word, do not love him! In this we are accused anytime that we do not keep Jesus’ words, and should be compelled to seek repentance of the things that we know we have done wrong and those that we are not fully aware.

The scary thing is the realization that we know we have personally been there at one time or another not following the words of Jesus and his instruction that he has left for us. While the disciples may be feeling much of what we feel when we here Jesus’ first words here, they are also scared for an additional reason. Life in ministry as they have known it since Jesus called them roughly three years earlier is one where Jesus has been beside them, guiding them, and correcting them when they make many of their mistakes. They are now confronted with the reality that Jesus is leaving them. They are scared and unsure of what will happen next. They are in denial that Jesus is going to leave them and they are not quite ready to accept this news.

I am sure that we can all think of a time when we have been left feeling empty and abandoned in our own lives. Thus, another reason for us to come together with family and community. Anytime you move to somewhere new there is a sense of abandonment as you leave behind the familiar. Anytime you have a friend move is also a time where you are felt feeling empty. Leaving an old job can bring about these feelings, whether it was your choice or not. Death is by far one of the times that we are left feeling empty and abandoned. This is what is striking to the disciples, Jesus is not only talking about leaving, he is foretelling his own death. It is in his death that we experience resurrection and in that promise of resurrection he brings hope.

Jesus has an antidote to the disciples and our empty feeling and sense of being abandoned. He not only promises to send the Holy Spirit, in this he leaves his peace. And as he tells us, he does not give peace as the world gives. We may look for things that give ourselves peace in times of conflict, such as running, knitting or crocheting, reading, or the newest thing to rise in popularity, coloring. Now, don’t get me wrong, you may very well find Jesus in these moments of calm and relaxation. These very well may be where you can at times find Jesus, willing to listen and giving a word of advice. Without Jesus, these activities are simply just that. Activities to keep us occupied in our daily lives.

David Lose in his commentary on this gospel shares how, “Jesus gives differently than the world. Jesus gives freely, with no expectation of return, only the hope that transformed by this peace, we might pass it on, giving others the gift we have received.” Too often we have accepted what the world offers as peace only to discover it was a counterfeit promise. The peace of Jesus is not something we can go looking for or grasp, it is something that we receive in our own time. That peace of Jesus comes right into our communities, families, and right into our own hearts.

On occasion I like to see how Eugene Peterson has translated the Bible in The Message. Quite often it will speak to us in terms that may make more sense than what we hear in our usual translations. Here is John 14:22-24:

Judas (not Iscariot) said, “Master, why is it that you are about to make yourself plain to us but not to the world?” “Because a loveless world,” said Jesus, “is a sightless world. If anyone loves me, he will carefully keep my word and my Father will love him–we’ll move right into the neighborhood! Not loving me means not keeping my words. The message you are hearing isn’t mine. It’s the message of the Father who sent me.”

Using the gospel, Peterson speaks to our place in time as we look around and see a lack of love in all that transpires over the course of a week. It is the peace of Jesus that moves right into our own neighborhood. It is the peace of Jesus that speaks into our lives when we feel empty and abandoned. Nothing can replace the peace of Jesus as we gather to get through the thing called life.

The peace that Jesus brings us does not require anything from us. Like God’s grace it is given freely. May you always be open to receiving that peace. And as you receive it, may you share it.

 

Story

whats_your_story_000

Acts 11:1-18

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

This morning we are immersed into story! The Book of Acts is a collection of stories of those first disciples that began to preach and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ as they witnessed it and received it in their hearts. Story is what connects us to our ancestors and others of previous generations. Historians share with us the stories that they have pieced together from various resources and research.

Each and everyone of us has a story to share. I truly enjoy sitting down and getting to talk and listen to you so that I get to know your stories and what you are passionate about. All of our stories collectively connect to the broader story which is Trinity Lutheran Church.

It is possible at times to get so connected to our stories that we have a hard time letting go, or we simply take the story at its word and do not question it. Society and culture changes overtime and sometimes the old stories must shift or change as well. We have the ability to be overwhelmed with stories in our current time. Not only do we have stories spread by word of mouth, stories are also spread through print, television, social media online. If you would like, your life could be filled with a constant stream of stories. And at many times those stories conflict with one another.

It is the believers in the Acts lesson this morning that struggle with the story that they are hearing from Peter. Peter confirms what they have heard about eating with Cornelius and several Gentiles in Caesarea. It goes much farther than this, as they receive and accept the word of God. This story does not sit well with those believers in Jerusalem. They are connected with the story of their ancestors and the laws that were presented to them in Leviticus. Laws that they believe are not to be challenged or changed. It is with story that Peter explains his actions.

Peter has to be just as surprised as those that he is now explaining his story to in Jerusalem. For an Orthodox Jewish man to be receiving a vision of animals that are considered unclean and to be told to kill and eat would be shocking and almost like a nightmare. This happens in the typical Peter way, receiving the instructions of God three times and responding in the negative until he finally gets up and fully understands what God is telling him to do. “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.”

Peter is not the first one to be confronted about eating with Gentiles and those that are not quite like the Jewish people. If you recall in Luke, “the Pharisees and the scribes were grumbling and saying, “This fellow welcomes sinners and eats with them.”” This fellow that they are speaking of is Jesus. If you ask me, this is pretty good company that Peter finds himself in.

This story can be seen as the pivot point for the rest of the book of Acts. It is here that the mission of the disciples changes course and the Good News of Jesus Christ becomes a good news that can be shared with all people.

Peter learned some things while breaking bread at the table of Cornelius and his family. He learned their story and where they came from and how God has had an impact upon their lives. This story of Peter sharing the good news beyond the Jewish believers is essential to our faith today. It is important, if not necessary, to engage with others that are different from ourselves. We are encouraged to do so as we worship together with our ecumenical partners. We are encouraged when we welcome all people into our loving community with open arms and a bright smile. Still the reality is that the ELCA is one of the least diversified denominations within the United States. How do we go about changing this? How do we reach out to those that are different from us?

It all starts with story. Peter shared his story of the visions from God to the believers in Jerusalem and they believed! We’ll look beyond the issue that he had to explain himself in the first place. The story that he shares is one of inclusion and love for the neighbor. Mirroring our gospel lesson this morning as Jesus instructs the disciples, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I do not hear Jesus saying to just love your Jewish brothers and sisters. He is calling for the disciples to love everyone.

Are we sharing our stories with one another? Are we sharing the stories with our spouses, children, parents or others of how we experience God in our lives? Are we sharing those stories of how God has changed our minds, guided our path, or opened new horizons for us? As we share these stories, others will begin to see God in ways that they may have never expected.

Let us pray, God, you come into our lives through story to shake up our complacency and comfort. You speak into our lives in ways that we could never imagine. May we be bold to share our stories with those that are in need of hope and love. May they experience you the way we do. AMEN

 

Belonging

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John 10:22-30

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

What a wonderful reminder for us in this Easter season. A reminder that we are living in a post-Good Friday World and are people of the resurrection. We are Easter people, not just in this season of Easter, but throughout all of our lives. This is easily forgotten though. We fall into our own humanness. We come to the realization that we are broken people living in a broken world and try to cover it all up and pretend that everything is alright or we at times fall into a depression and hopelessness. Within this though is a longing! A longing and desire to move from a point where we feel broken to a point where we can be healed. A longing to be with others that are experiencing the same thing in life that we are. A longing to be in relationship and through that relationship to experience God in a deeper and hopefully more profound way. The God within us is hungry to embrace the God that is outside of us.

The Jewish people that are talking to Jesus in John’s gospel this morning are longing for the scripture to be fulfilled. They don’t want to be kept in suspense any longer. As we will come to find out, Jesus does not fit their expectation of a messiah. In their longings, they are still hesitant to believe and follow.

In our longings we reach out to make connection with those that will welcome us and those that we have familiarities. It is easy for us to connect with those that are of the same gender, same race, or same nationality. We then find that it is easy to set up these divisions among ourselves. However, this can create a sense of tribalism which tends to pit one tribe against the other. This seems to be the story of humanity from the dawn of time.

Our longings can also attract us to those things which steer us even further away from God. Why do you think we have gangs within our society? Why are we compelled to do those things that we know deep down in our hearts are not the right thing? I could go on and on. It all comes down to our own individual longing to be part of something greater; to be recognized by another human, even if that recognition is not healthy. Truly though, within that deep longing, is the desire to belong to something greater; something that gives some sense of purpose to life.

These past few days I have had the opportunity to be with writers, readers, and those of faith at Calvin College in Grand Rapids. I was there for the Festival of Faith and Writing. It fulfilled the longing within me to learn from others that write and to maybe grasp some inspiration and guidance from those that have been successful. At times I felt that I did belong there and honestly at others times I felt that I was way out of my league when talking to others that share their creative gifts.

So, what does it mean to belong, beyond our personal identities of gender, race, or nationality? There are many things that we can belong to. We can choose to belong to our local service clubs, the Rotary or Lions. We can choose to belong to certain groups in our social media lives on Facebook. We belong to the group of people that we work with as we are a group of employees working together to accomplish the same objective. We can also belong to those things that may be just a little more personal as well. We belong to a family, whatever shape or form that that may resemble. We belong to a church, a congregation, that we can come to in times of uncertainty for support and love.

We belong to something much greater. We belong to Christ. It is in his words this morning that we are reminded that we are part of a family much greater than we can ever imagine. We have sisters and brothers beyond our wildest imaginations. We are much greater than what we surround ourselves with in our day to day lives. We have brothers and sisters that are spread out all around the world and it is here that are longing can be fulfilled. Are we ready to welcome that into our lives and be a part of it? Within that belonging we are embraced with a love that is immeasurable.

While Jesus is in God’s hands, we are in the hands of Jesus, being cared for and loved more than we could ever realize. This scripture is not about who is in or out this morning, it is about how great God’s love is that is shown to us through Jesus.

Jesus could be in the hands of the emperor, or in the hands of death. Yet, we are Easter people and death has been conquered once and for all. So as we long to be part of something greater, know that you already are there. We are not in the hands of those that are in authority, or those that think they can have dominion over us. For, we are in the hands of Jesus.

As we reflect that abundant love that is shown for us through Christ, who are we willing to truly hold on to and share that same love?

Let us Rejoice and Laugh!

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John 20:19-31, Holy Humor Sunday

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

Easter is a time of surprises and unsurmountable joy! The women that visited the tomb first were clearly surprised that they had found it empty. Then their hearts were lightened with joy as they realized that the promises Jesus had made before his death had come true, he was raised on the third as he had said he would be. We have the choice to be full of piety and take everything seriously, or we can truly celebrate with joy. To quote William Shakespeare, “Whether its nobler in the mind to control the impulse and maintain decorum, or to give in and enjoy this day is totally up to you!”

Holy Humor Sunday is an opportunity to continue in our joyous Easter Celebration and proclaim the Risen Christ! The history of Holy Humor Sunday goes all the way back to the fifteenth century when priests would share funny stories and jokes with their parishioners the second Sunday after Easter. The celebration gained momentum again in the late 1980’s when the Fellowship of Merry Christians and The Joyful Noiseletter began sharing it.

G.K. Chesterton once wrote, “Angels can fly because they take themselves lightly. Never forget that the devil fell by force of gravity. He who has the faith has the fun.” It is because of our faith in Christ and the resurrection that we are able to laugh and have a fun time. The resurrection brings hope and a promise to our lives and in that hope we rejoice with one another praising God in various ways; singing, dancing, and laughing to name just a few of them. Sometimes we forget that when we are in church while we are trying to focus on getting everything just right. In our joy there aren’t much better ways than to share laughs with one another.

Did you hear about the church member that was baking cookies last Saturday for Easter? A gentleman came to her door looking for some work and she had been meaning to paint her back porch. She told the gentleman that there was 2 gallons green of paint to paint the porch out back. He was excited to have a job and make a little money. He came back after awhile and told her the job was completed, however, he told her “That is not a porsche, that is a mercedes.”

Laughter truly does give us new life and restores us when we are feeling down and even when we are in need of healing. As much celebration and joy that went into last Sunday, we are still confronted with the realities around us. We still have violence and senseless deaths around the world that we fail to understand. At times it seems as though it would be easier to be like the disciples and lock ourselves up in our houses in fear. It is the surprise of Jesus coming to be in their presence that they slowly start to understand and our eventually restored with new life.

They disciples were living in fear of what may happen to them if they were to share with others that they are followers of Jesus. There is a proper time for mourning, yet as Jesus appears to them there is also a time for rejoicing! What do you think that rejoicing looked like behind those closed doors? Was there singing? Was there dancing? Was there laughter? I like to believe that there was probably a little bit of all of them.

Jesus brings the peace of the Lord to them when they need it most, in their mourning and desolation wondering where they were going to go from there. Jesus’ peace means so much more though. The peace that Jesus shares with them is meant to bring peace to their past and all of the things that have transpired in their lives and ultimately on cross. It is also a peace that comes to them in their current dwelling of questioning. The peace Jesus shares also speaks to their future as they will go out proclaiming the good news that they have now received, rejoicing in the risen Lord.

In that peace Jesus brings hope to a broken world and knowing now that he lives, we live in that peace too. This gives hope to us for a future with Christ present by our side in all we do. “Peace be with you,” makes a difference for all of us and it marks our life with a purpose, meaning, and a new direction as we look towards the risen Christ.

Psalm 150 this morning encourages us to Praise the Lord! We are to praise God in the sanctuary, which we do every Sunday. We praise God for all of creation and the resurrection of God’s son, Jesus Christ. We praise God by playing our instruments with joy and celebration and lifting our voices up to the Lord. We praise God by dancing. We praise God by laughter and having fun. It is all of creation that praises the Lord and we join in with all of creation in doing so.

This Easter season we celebrate God’s creation by surrounding ourselves with it and being intentional in witnessing God’s promise in our lives. Let us Praise the Lord!

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

 

 

Pilgrim Road: A Benedictine Journey Through Lent by Albert Holt: A Review

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What a blessing to be able to have a year long sabbatical in which to travel the world and experience places that you have always wanted to experience. That was the beginning of Albert Holtz’s, O.S.B., journey to the writing of this book. After spending close to three decades in his order he looked forward to taking a sabbatical from teaching and learning from others.

The culmination of his journey is Pilgrim Road. What a pleasure it was for him to invite the reader along the journey with him. I felt as though I was right by his side when he described the various places he had visited and even more so by providing his personal drawings of certain cathedrals and various places. What a gift that he has shared with those that choose to go on a Lenten journey and are inspired to journal their progress. His reflections at the end of each day give ample time for you to contemplate and pray about what the story of the day means to you and reflect upon it.

The journey does not go in chronological order, but that is ok. Each week has a loose theme with it and the stories that he chooses to share with the reader are quite fitting for the day and the specific task of reflecting during Lent. While this version of the book was published as a Lenten journey, it would be possible to pick it up at any time and start your own 40 day journey of contemplation and prayer. I appreciated the prompts that got me to reflect and encouraged me to journal, which at times is not consistent.

He Has Risen!

HeisRisen

Easter Sunday, Luke 24:1-12

Grace and Peace to you, from God, our creator, and our Lord Jesus Christ.

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!

Our journey to Easter Sunday began more than 40 days back as we came together as a community to mark the beginning of Lent with the sign of the cross marked on our own foreheads in ash, reminding ourselves that we are dust and to dust we shall return. A sign of that very same cross that Jesus was crucified on Friday morning. We have experienced the temptations and the suffering, some of us more so than others. We have walked through heartache and we have dwelled in the valley of the shadow of death.

It is for this day that we have walked through the desert and wilderness. It is for this day that we have endured through all of the pain and suffering. It is for this day that the disciples have came to the tomb to ensure Jesus is prepared properly in his burial, only to find the tomb empty!

First, the women come to the tomb, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and others that are not named. The women are the first to truly know what the empty tomb signals. They are reminded of the words of Jesus by the two men in dazzling clothes who spoke words of comfort and reassurance that what Jesus said was going to happen truly did. It is in the resurrection that their belief grows stronger and they experience the hope and promise of the empty tomb. Their response is one that we should all be able to support and follow in our own path. They respond by breaking their own silence of grief and mourning to speak the truth that they now know. This is what God expects and asks of them, and it should also be an example for us.

Even though the women return speaking the truth that they now believe deep down in their hearts, there is still doubt and confusion among those that have not seen for their own eyes. Perhaps Mary is the first one to preach a sermon proclaiming the risen Christ, “I have seen the Lord.” In all honesty, do we need to say anything more than that on Easter?

This first sermon seems to fall on deaf ears. Luke goes as far to say that the other disciples do not believe their “idle tale.”  The disciples more accurate response to the women was that the story of the empty tomb was pure nonsense, or garbage if you want to put it in other terms. They doubted the word of the women and it was guilt-ridden Peter, whom had denied Jesus, that was the first that had to get up and run to see for himself. He leaves the tomb amazed, yet maybe still not fully comprehending what he has just experienced.

What has your experience been this Lent and Holy Week? Has it been one of repentance and forgiveness? Has it been one of contemplation and prayer? It is even possible that you have just went with the flow of the season and have not thought too much about it.

More importantly, have you seen the Lord? Have you witnessed God’s promise? Maybe it was in the love shown to you by a loved one or even possibly a stranger. Maybe it was in the action of others as they went beyond expectations to help their neighbors. Maybe it is in the joy and celebration that we encounter today in the resurrection. Christ is present in all of the above. I had the opportunity to witness the Lord Thursday evening as people came forward for the foot washing and was reminded of the actions of Jesus during that last supper as he bent down to wash the feet of all of his disciples, most likely even Judas. It was again on Friday as I was folding the towels used during the foot washing after they had been washed. I was reminded of the feet and hands that they touched and the love that a community has for one another through Christ.

In all of this God’s promise shines through with a dazzling brightness that is first proclaimed through the men that appear to Mary and the other women in the empty tomb, “He is not here, but has Risen!”

Alleluia! He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed! Alleluia!