Now does the dance begin…

  

Opening

Now is the shining fabric of our day
Torn open, flung apart,
Rent wide by Love.
Never again
The tight, enclosing sky,
The blue bowl,
Or the star-illumined tent. 
We are laid open to infinity,
For Easter Love
Has burst
His tomb and ours.
Now nothing shelters us
From God’s desire
Not flesh, not sky,
Not stars, not even sin.
Now Glory waits
So He can enter in.
Now does the dance begin.

–Elizabeth Rooney

Geoff used this as a prayer of adoration on Easter morning at St. A’s. And I have to admit, I haven’t been able to get that last line out of my head ever since. 

This week is thought of as “oh, maybe I can get caught up on some sleep” week among clergy. Holy Week has taken its toll. We are tired and lacking energy. We need recovery time. 

And that’s not a bad thing. It means we worked hard, gave our all, spent the energy we had stored up in making sure that Easter was meaningful and inspiring. We SHOULD be tired.  

But we should also be looking forward. As Rooney says, “now does the dance begin!” Easter isn’t the end, it’s a beginning. Our celebration of it each year should have us fired up and ready to move forward into the future to which God is calling us. A future in which we are the hand and feet of Christ. A future in which we share what we have been given and spend our time in this world reaching out with the boundless, endless, steadfast, redeeming love that God has revealed to us in the celebrations of Holy Week. 

My friends, now does the dance begin. May you always dance to the eternal tune played by the Lord of the Dance. May you be freed and empowered by the sacrificial love of God to live for others, to honor the ways of Christ and to be a blessing to all you may meet. 

God has given each of you a gift from his great variety of spiritual gifts. Use them well to serve one another. Do you have the gift of speaking? Then speak as though God himself were speaking through you. Do you have the gift of helping others? Do it with all the strength and energy that God supplies. Then everything you do will bring glory to God through Jesus Christ. All glory and power to him forever and ever! Amen.

1 Peter‬ ‭4‬:‭10-11‬ NLT

Easter Sunday

He is risen! He is risen, indeed! 

In Christ Alone (Watch this video, it is worth the 5min or so of your time!)

Saturday evening, when the Sabbath ended, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome went out and purchased burial spices so they could anoint Jesus’ body. Very early on Sunday morning, just at sunrise, they went to the tomb. On the way they were asking each other, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” But as they arrived, they looked up and saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled aside. When they entered the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a white robe sitting on the right side. The women were shocked, but the angel said, “Don’t be alarmed. You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead! Look, this is where they laid his body. Now go and tell his disciples, including Peter, that Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you before he died.” The women fled from the tomb, trembling and bewildered, and they said nothing to anyone because they were too frightened. Mark‬ ‭16‬:‭1-8‬ NLT

I love the ending of Mark’s Gospel. It leaves us on a cliff hanger. It leaves us uncertain. As to what will happen next. Some things are so big and so wonderful they become frightening. The poets used the world “sublime” to describe something so beautiful that it was frightening to behold. 

The Ressurection is sublime. 

There are no words. This day we remember the very center of our faith: that on the third day, he rose again. He broke the bonds of sin and death forever. If God had never granted another prayer, never healed another body, never again made a way where there was no way, this day would be more than enough reason to praise him for eternity. 

We are an Easter people. We are a people of the ressurection. And that means that even on our worst day, we know alife that triumphs over death, a light that shines in the darkness and a hope that will not be kept down. 

May your Easter celebration be beautiful: full of life and light and joy and love. May you know the source of all life and may you know that on this day, as on every day, He is making you new. 

  

  

  

  

 

 

Lent Project: Holy Saturday 

    

  

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it.
Matthew‬ ‭27‬:‭62-66‬ NLT

The tomb is sealed. The enemies of Jesus have won. 

It’s over. All of the ministry, all of the healings, all of the miracles. The teaching that surprised everyone. The words of wisdom and of challenge and of love. The way he ate at table with prostitutes. The way he welcomed tax collectors. The way he made room for the outcast and the downtrodden. It’s over. 

Isn’t it?

The disciples must have thought so. How could they have faith on this day? Jesus was dead. Judas had betrayed him. Peter had denied him. The rest had scattered. 

It was all in ruins. It was all a terrible mess. And they were in shock, grieving. 

But if only they’d remembered. If only they’d thought back to the thing he said. If only they could see that he truly is the Son of the Living God, as Peter named him. 

I’m not saying that it wouldn’t have hurt. But maybe they’d have had a thin thread of hope to cling to during the long, silent Saturday.

Because in Jesus was life.  And not even the grave, not even death, could defeat the power of life and light that flowed through him. 

This Holy Saturday, May you await the ressurection in silence, but may you also know that nothing will keep Sunday morning from dawning and Jesus from rising again.  

   

  Candles placed by pilgrims at the site of the empty tomb. 

 Luke prays at the anointing stone – believed to be the stone on which Jesus’ body was laid as they prepared him for burial. 

   An empty tomb under the church of the Holy Sepulcher, like the tomb where Jesus would have been laid. 

 

The church in the church. Inside the Holy Sepulcher, this church houses and protects the empty tomb. 

Lent Project: Good Friday

 

 

Then Pilate had Jesus flogged with a lead-tipped whip. The soldiers wove a crown of thorns and put it on his head, and they put a purple robe on him. “Hail! King of the Jews!” they mocked, as they slapped him across the face.

 Then Pilate turned Jesus over to them to be crucified. So they took Jesus away. Carrying the cross by himself, he went to the place called Place of the Skull (in Hebrew, Golgotha ). There they nailed him to the cross. Two others were crucified with him, one on either side, with Jesus between them.

 Jesus knew that his mission was now finished, and to fulfill Scripture he said, “I am thirsty.” A jar of sour wine was sitting there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put it on a hyssop branch, and held it up to his lips. When Jesus had tasted it, he said, “It is finished!” Then he bowed his head and released his spirit.

 John‬ ‭19‬:‭1-3, 16-18, 28-30‬ NLT

This is the hardest day. 

The things that were done to Jesus today are terrible. The pain he suffered, the suffering he endured. Many people stay away from church today. It’s just too hard. It’s just too upsetting. 

 And I suppose I can understand that. But I choose not to stay away. I choose to go. To look fully upon my crucified Lord. To hear the way he was treated and the final words he said. I choose to witness. 

Not because I’m callous and can deal easily with it – I will shed my tears as the Scriptures are read, I will have a tough time holding it together as the choir sings, I will have a tough time holding it together as I preach – I go because Jesus did this for me. 

 As much as I love Easter Sunday, I am convinced I cannot fully experience Resurrection joy unless I’ve spent my time mourning at the cross. 

 It is terrible that the powers of this world crucified Jesus. It is terrible that he was beaten and whipped and crowned with thorns and given sour wine when he was thirsty. It was all a terrible, terrible mess. 

 But it was also a choice. It was a choice He made for me. It was a choice He made for you. It was a choice because his love for us outweighed the pain that he would suffer. And that is saying quite a lot. 

 This Good Friday, may you know that love has come for you. That love bled for you. That love died for you. That love made THAT choice, for you (and for me, and for all). May you be touched anew by the power of sacrificial love. And though you may weep, may you also know that you are not alone in your weeping, and that the promise has been made that your weeping will be turned to dancing.

   

  

 Three of the stations of the cross on the Via Dolorosa (the way of  Sorrows) in Jerusalem. 

  The Church of the Holy Sepulcher, which houses Golgotha and the place of the Empty Tomb. 

  Crosses carved into the walls of the church by pilgrims over the centuries. 

 Luke touches Golgotha – the place of the crucifixion in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. 

     

 

Nails in the door and crosses carved in the doors to the Holy Sepulcher – marks of pilgrims over the years. 

    

  

The archway over the staircase leading up to Golgotha.  

Lent Project: Maundy Thursday

And now the plot continues in earnest. The ball is rolling now. The cross will not be avoided. They will kill Jesus. They will make it brutal and torturous in their fear and anger.  

As they were eating, Jesus took some bread and blessed it. Then he broke it in pieces and gave it to the disciples, saying, “Take this and eat it, for this is my body.” And he took a cup of wine and gave thanks to God for it. He gave it to them and said, “Each of you drink from it, for this is my blood, which confirms the covenant between God and his people. It is poured out as a sacrifice to forgive the sins of many. Mark my words—I will not drink wine again until the day I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom.” Then they sang a hymn and went out to the Mount of Olives.
Matthew‬ ‭26‬:‭26-30‬ NLT

And yet, in the midst of the  gathering storm, Jesus sits down for a little supper with his friends. I find this immensely comforting. Despite the gathering darkness and chaos, despite the pain and suffering to come, despite the betrayal that lurks in the air, Jesus still takes time for dinner with his friends. 

And as with all things when it comes to Jesus, dinner isn’t just dinner. This is the Last Supper, the Holy Communion,  the Eucharist. A teachable moment that the Teacher uses to full effect.  Jesus breaks bread and passes the cup encouraging his disciples to be still and know that he is God. Mandating a sacrament which will be observed around the world, in many different denominations, in many different ways and traditions, for thousands of years to come.  

As I write this blog entry, I am getting ready to leave for the Maundy Thursday service with my congregation. We will hear the stories, we will sing the songs, we will pass bread and dip it in wine. We will consume the elements and remember the body of Christ broken for us, the blood of Christ, poured out for us. We will know, despite the gathering darkness that we are safe in the steadfast love of the Lord which never slumbers nor sleeps. 

Whether or not, in your observance of Holy Week, you consume bread and wine as part of a Maundy Thursday service this evening, may you know this day that even in times of distress, Jesus gathered with friends for dinner. Mayor know the comfort of his everlasting love and may you trust in the action he has taken on your behalf. 

  

Eunice, a member of St. Andrew’s reads from the Psalms in the “pit” where Jesus was likely impeosoned on Maundy Thursday as he awaited his trials on Good Friday. 

  

St. Peter in Gallicantu is the church on top of Caiaphus’ house, which holds the pit where Jesus would have been imprisoned. 

 

Some of our pilgrims in the Upper Room – the place where the Last Supper happened. 

   

Sign leading in to The Upper Room. 

  

Our pikgrims in the Upper Room. 

Dormitory Abbey – where the Upper Room is housed.  

 

Service taking place in the grotto of Gethsemane. It was here Uesus was praying for God to take this cup from him. It was here that Judas betrayed him and he was arrested. 

   

To the Grotto – a sign en route to Gethsemane. 

Lent Project: Holy Wednesday

On Holy Wednesday, the plot grows darker. 

Now the Feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called Passover. And the chief priests and the scribes sought how they might kill Him, for they feared the people. Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve. So he went his way and conferred with the chief priests and captains, how he might betray Him to them. And they were glad, and agreed to give him money. So he promised and sought opportunity to betray Him to them in the absence of the multitude.
Luke‬ ‭22‬:‭1-6‬ NKJV

  

Jesus continues to teach in the Temple, and the Devil lurks in the background.  The life of Jesus is bought for a few coins. One of his closest friends chooses betrayal. The powers that be actively plot to kill him. 

If it were just a movie, this would be the point where I’d want to turn away. To stop watching. This would be the point where I’d hope that this time, just this once, it would all go differently. 

But it’s not just a movie. This is the story of God’s saving grace. This is the story of Life triumphing over death. This is the story of how dearly, how deeply, God loves each of us. Enough to stand back and watch as his Son is betrayed, and then beaten, and then crucified, because He wanted to save us. The way, though dark, will lead to endless light. 

So I do not turn way. For I must witness this. I must realize that this – all of this – was the terrible, horrible, exhorbitant cost for my soul to be saved. For your soul to be saved. 

And Jesus – God in the mortal flesh and blood – chose to pay it. For me. For you. 

So I do not turn away. 

This Holy Week, may you also choose to witness this. May you realize that God loves you enough to pay an exhorbitant price to save you. 

   

Sandra, on of St. A’s pilgrims, reads passages of the Scriptures that place Jesus at the Temple, on the Temple steps. 

  

Sitting on the Temple Steps as our pilgrims gather (with the bag that my Aunt made for me).

  

Mom, Dad and I with our hands on the unrestored section of the Temple steps. Jesus was here, for us.