Saturday, April 11, 2009

He is risen! Alleluia?

“Terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone for they were afraid.”

It’s not exactly the “happily ever after” ending we want it to be, is it? But if you hark back to the first Sundays of this liturgical year, you will recall that the beginning of Mark takes us by surprise as well. He jumps right into the story declaring, “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ the son of God." There is no genealogy, no birth narrative, no laying out of plot.
In fact, there are two things that characterize Mark’s gospel more than any others. He uses the word “immediately” a lot; and Jesus is always telling people to keep quiet about what he has done for them and who he is.

The ending of his gospel, then, seems to be in keeping with the rest of it. Of course, the young man dressed in white does give the women a message for the disciples: “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.”
And it is that last phrase – just as he told you – that is the key to it all.

Jesus had already told them exactly what was going to happen as well as that, when it did, he would wait for them in Galilee. And how do we hear, how do we see what happened when the disciples found him there? Because that’s what we want, isn’t it, to be flies on the wall when the disciples see the risen Christ?

Well, we have to go back and begin reading the Gospel of Mark again. “Jesus came to Galilee,
proclaiming the good news of God.” Now that we have seen the crucifixion, read the ministry and teaching of Jesus again.

“What do we see when we read the Gospel of Mark again, this time with post-resurrection eyes,” asks theologian Tom Long? “We see Jesus healing and teaching and casting out demons,
but always being misunderstood, even by those closest to him. In other words, Mark is telling
us that the saving action of God in the world is always hidden, ambiguous, sealed off from the obvious explanation. We go back to Galilee, and the second time around every story in the Gospel of Mark is a post-resurrection appearance. What we see is a God who surprises us at every turn in the road, a God whose power is expressed finally in weakness.”

The Gospel of Mark begins with a bang and it ends with a whisper. But, oh my, how that whisper changed the world. And if I had to guess, I’d say that those women couldn’t stay quiet for long. Because the good news of Jesus Christ simply has to be told. We can no more keep it quiet than anyone in the Gospel managed to. Whether we shout it or whisper it, the good news demands to be told.

And when we’ve said our alleluias and passed the peace, then the Gospel demands one more thing. We have to go out into the world and proclaim the gospel in everything that we do.
We have to leave the comfort and safety of that upper room and head for Galilee. Because Jesus is there waiting for us and I’ll bet he’s even made lunch.

(thanks to Thomas Long's sermon "Dangling Gospel"

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Palm and/or Passion Sunday

I have wondered most of my adult life why we give a cursory wave to the triumphal entry that Palm Sunday celebrates before we rush to the crucifixion in the very same service. Surely, said my hopeful self to my cynical self, the only reason is not because most everyone stays home during the week and would thus miss the Good Friday events if we didn't include them on Sunday. More often than not, my cynical self wins that argument, by the way.

Our Lenten program this year was reading the last five plays of the radio series A Man Born To Be King, by Dorothy Sayers. We really got into it, even those who were sure they would never read in public were asking for parts. The plays helped us "be" in that time, living the events with Jesus, the disciples, the Sanhedrin and everyone who was in Jerusalem that fateful week. It made me begin to think about time.

Have you ever noticed how time can stand still and rush by seemingly at the same time? Of course, time is terribly regular with every hour having sixty minutes and every day having 24 hours but sometimes a day can seem about six hours longer than normal and other days don't seem to have nearly enough hours. And the 24 allotted to that day often seem about 30 minutes long.

I remember when my dad was dying, time went by too fast but there were parts of the day that seemed to drag. When I remember those ten weeks, they seem about a month long. Do you suppose that's what it was like for the disciples and Jesus? Were there hours in those last five days that seemed interminable while others flew past and then - suddenly! - dinner was over an the guards were arresting the Master?

I think that's part of why we rush to crucifixion on Palm Sunday. It would be so easy to relax into the celebration of palm branches waving and people cheering, to want to stay in those moments as long as possible. But Jesus' reality was never the Hosanna parade and always the parade to the cross, complete with jeers and cries of "Crucify!"

The same thing is true about our Christian life. We cannot spend it all at the font with a - hopefully - smiling baby. We cannot relax into confirmation and the good feeling of taking our baptismal vows ourselves. We have to put down the prayer book with our name on the front and the Bible with the page in the front that says, "This Bible was given to_____ in honor of her confirmation." We have to have our hands free for the moment when we will pick up our cross, free to take and drink out of the same cup our Lord did.

So as much as we need to celebrate that wonderful day when Jesus rode into Jerusalem, we simply have to spend more time focusing on the part of the week that shaped our life in Christ. It is good for us to hear the Passion Narrative read more than once, maybe even three times! Hearing it on Palm Sunday does not excuse us from our obligation to continue walking through every day of that last week, the one we now call Holy. It may seem strange to begin the journey by hearing about the end of it, but then time does strange things, doesn't it?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday Five - Holy Week sanity

Today's Revgalblogpals asks these five questions as we continue to prepare for a busy week. For me, it is ten days beginning with a prayer vigil by the youth group tonight. So here are my answers.

1. What restores you physically?
If the weather cooperates, I will spend a fair amount of time walking, with or without the dogs.

2. What strengthens you emotionally/ mentally?
Reading something totally unrelated to Holy Week helps. Sitting in silence does too but happens less often as my mind is usually churning with last minute stuff. Fortunately, my secretary is highly organized and has the bulletins all done so I have fewer last minute fears. Leaves more time for wondering what God would have me say about these lessons we read every single year!

3. What encourages you spiritually?
Singing! Holy Week is full of opportunities to chant and sing wonderful hymns. And I am practicing the Vaughn Williams Mass for the Civic Chorale concert, a truly glorious piece.

4. Share a favourite poem or piece of music from the coming week.
It is hard to choose just one or even two. I suppose Ah, holy Jesus and Were you there are my favorite hymns of Holy Week. I'll have to think about the poems.

5.There may be many services for you to attend/ lead over the next week, which one are you most looking forward to and why? If there aren't do you have a favourite day in Holy week if so which one is it?
We are doing a full Tenebrae service again this year. Being a little better at it than last when we made some last minute vocal substitutions - I hadn't planned to sing half the psalms! - I am looking forward to experiencing the service more and leading it less.
But my favorite service of the week is probably Good Friday. The solemn collects, walking the way of the cross, emptying the aumbry of reserve sacrament. It is a day when all of the symbols seem to speak louder, be more visible.
And I would be remiss if I didn't mention the little liturgy for Holy Saturday, the time when the tomb is sealed and no one is there except the guards. It is the quietest time of the church year and reminds me of the silence of exhaustion after the birth of the one sealed in that tomb.