Saturday, March 30, 2013


It's not over...  It's only begun.

Holy Saturday

From this morning's Gospel reading:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, `After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, `He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

The day that had been was like few ever experienced on this blue orb circling the sun. Outside the city walls of Jerusalem, a cosmic collision of the temporal and eternal took place, affixed to a cruel Roman cross. In the eyes of some, it may have appeared as the death of a desperate hope of throwing off the yoke of Imperial Rome. To others, it represented the messy death of a wide-eyed Sophist. Still to others, it appeared as the timely demise of a troublesome meddler who was bent on usurping a culture and religious system. Irrespective a body, now still and lifeless, hung between heaven and earth. The eyes that stare in from outside of our timeline saw something completely apart. To these eyes, there on Golgotha's hill hung the only propitiatory offering that could satisfy a Holy and Just God. Just moments prior, this God-man suspended above the earth cried out "Tetelestai"! The debt for sins ancient and future were paid. The God-man then stepped out of our timeline and willingly yielding his life back into the hands of the Father.

Those who were devoted to the decedent now had approximately three hours to see to the matter and in doing so, would render themselves ceremonially unclean for the coming feast Yet in their devotion, they sought the body of Jesus who might have otherwise been cast into the burning garbage dump outside of the city walls, gehenna. Instead of becoming food for carrion, the remains of the Christ were lovingly laid in a rich man's tomb.

Now, on the next day, the Jewish priestly aristocracy was nervous. They knew that in spite of the Christ's resounding declaration, that this was far from over. With the Roman governor's approval, the tomb was sealed with the signet of Imperial Rome. This seal was a dire warning to would be hoaxers that should they attempt to steal Christ's remains, they would suffer the same fate as the one lying on the other side of the stone.

From the standpoint of the Apostolic band, this had to be a crushing day. One of their own had handed Jesus over to the authorities and was now dead by his own hands. Their "class president" made a profanity-laced denial of their Master and was now living with the disgrace. The rest were hiding somewhere in the city, for fear that perhaps after the feast, they would be next.

Yet, we soon learn just how one day changes everything.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Good Friday II

From the Gospel of St. Matthew:
Now from the sixth hour there was darkness over all the land until the ninth hour. And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, "Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?" And some of the bystanders, hearing it, said, "This man is calling Elijah." And one of them at once ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine, and put it on a reed and gave it to him to drink. But the others said, "Wait, let us see whether Elijah will come to save him." And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up his spirit. And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, "Truly this was the Son of God!"

Good Friday

Praying this Morning's Collect:
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.

Were the weather on that dire day anything like the weather experienced in Jerusalem this afternoon, it would have been clear with temperatures in the low 80’s. This would certainly been warm enough to take the chill out of the air experienced before dawn when St. Peter made his fireside denial. So its no wonder that that St. Luke, physician and keen observer of history, made specific reference to the preternatural darkness that descended over Jerusalem for three hours. Perhaps, as it is in the case of modern executions, this was the LORD's way of closing the curtain in order to shield creation from the agony of its creator. Perhaps. What is known however is that the very icon, or expression of the inexpressible God was now suspended between earth and the heavens. The very fact that the Christ was still alive at this point was its own miracle.

Jesus had now been awake for close to thirty hours. During this, he had suffered crushing emotional distress to the point that the capillaries feeding his face ruptured, allowing holy blood to leech out of his pores. He had been pummelled and beaten in the facial areas to the point that most did not recognize him. At the hand of the Roman cohort, he received a brutal beating that few survived. Then, after carrying a 100 pound plus beam out of the city, he was then nailed to a Roman cross. (And we whine over a paper cut?)

Suspended, He endured the mocking of the many, ranging from those sharing his fate, to those in the religious establishment. The one who could have mustered heaven's power to shatter the earth into space dust, simply interceded for his tormentor's forgiveness. Naked, he was robbed of all his rightful heavenly splendor as the sins of humanity fell on his shoulders with the force of a pile driver. In the midst of this agony, he sensed the absence of the Heavenly Father as he quoted Psalm 22.

Some point before 3:00 PM, Christ raised himself on the nails that impaled his hands and declared "It is finished!" Moments later and rising on the nails one last time, he commended his spirit into the Father's hands. What did Mary or John see? What did the other women observe? Whatever it may have been was punctuated by the violent shaking of a planet in mourning.

Perhaps God cried...

Thursday, March 28, 2013

On Holy (Maundy) Thursday

From this morning's Gospel:
"Now before the festival of the Passover, Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart from this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. The devil had already put it into the heart of Judas son of Simon Iscariot to betray him. And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he 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. And you are clean, though not all of you." For he knew who was to betray him; for this reason he said, "Not all of you are clean."

After he had washed their feet, had put on his robe, and had returned to the table, he said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord--and you are right, for that is what I am. So if I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you. Very truly, I tell you, servants are not greater than their master, nor are messengers greater than the one who sent them. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them."

I'm thoroughly arrested by this unfolding moment. The Christ is mere hours away from enduring the most hellish ordeal ever endured by one clothed in human flesh. The spotless Passover lamb would soon have the sins of the vilest offenders laid upon his shoulders. It's at moments of reflection, such as now, my casual sins and respectable little murders become a foul, fecal stench in my own nostrils.

I don't imagine the scene as a loud, or boisterous affair. No, somehow, imagine that the Master is speaking in a hushed tone and his disciples are leaning in to attend to their teacher. The moment is punctuated by Christ's chilling revelation that one in their midst is a traitor. This is followed be a moment of shallow self-examination and chest puffing. Christ pulls out a straight pin to pop their collective bubble. It's not to be about whom has the biggest chest full of medals or the biggest "I love me" wall. Greatness in Christ's unfolding kingdom will be measured by a far different standard. Jesus draws imagery from a lowly house servant or slave, perhaps recalling the foot washing recalled by St. John.

Slaves, in their contemporary culture, came in all varieties. Anyone from the wisest mathematician to the lowliest child could be counted among the enslaved. Where the former are remembered in history, the latter are generally forgotten. These were those who washed the master's feet after a dusty day on the road. These were the ones who were at the beck and call to fetch whatever the master needed or desired. These were the models for greatness within the kingdom of God.

Our LORD has no need or use for strutting popinjays who seem to pervade the vast spiritual and cultural wasteland. The "No Fear" Crowd does little more than stir His holy wrath. He saw all of these traits in His onetime anointed cherub, and threw both him and his fallen me-monkey angels down from Heaven. He seeks something quite the contrary.

Consider on this Maundy Thursday... Our Lord seeks those who've grasped the concept that in the greater scheme of things, they're truly of no account. They've got nothing to bring to the table. These are the ones whom the Master can fill with HIS GREATNESS, and may well use them to turn the world on its head.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Wednesday in Holy Week

From this morning's Gospel:
At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples-- the one whom Jesus loved-- was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

St. John paints an interesting picture of the unfolding betrayal. Of the eleven faithful disciples, only St. Peter and the evangelist are initially aware of that Judas, the man from Kerioth, is about to betray the Master. In fact, the remaining nine seem to thing that the Teacher has sent their brother out on a charity, or chow run. No, this was hardly the case.
Judas, according to Matthew's account, had in fact already agreed to throw the master to his enemies and was paid well for the deed. Now, he simply had to work out the logistics of making sure that Caiaphas's goons would make it to the garden in time to collar the Christ.

There are volumes of apologetic works explaining or conjecturing just why Judas betrayed the Master but in truth, these are little more than thin whitewash. Both scripture, and Judas' own conduct would tell us a different story. Mr. Iscariot was motivated by the same things that tweak fallen humanity today: greed, recognition, fleeting fame, the list goes on.:

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Tuesday in Holy Week

From this morning's Gospel reading:
"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

So much had happened in a few dozen hours; a man dead four days was walking among the living, the words of Zechariah 9:9 had been fulfilled and now the voice of God the Father was rolling like thunder. Doubtless, many of those gathered in Jerusalem for the passover may have sensed in their hearts that they were on the cusp of something epic, something that was paradigm-shifting. Yet for all of this, the Christ is standing center stage, with a heart that grows heavier with each beat.

A heavy heart is not an enviable possession and I have to confess that I have known those seasons of heavy heartedness in my life, but this thought isn't about me and I digress.

What weighed on Christ's heart? Was it the knowledge that in less than 72 hours, he would become the recipient of 15 hours of hell on earth? Was it knowing that the city where he stood would be leveled and her residents the recipients of imperial genocide? I suspect that what was occurring at present was certainly a cause for sorrow. At this point, the city was swelling and surging as pilgrims filled Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover. The lion's share of those coming for the Lamb of Passover would ultimately reject the Lamb of God.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Monday in Holy Week

Today's somewhat short collect from the prayerbook:
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and peace; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

I was taken by the Gospel reading (John 12:1-11) in today's lectionary. John, the beloved disciple provides us with the account of one who was there in the room, perhaps even standing there besides the Master. The emotions of St. John seem to drip off the page of his account (sparing nothing towards the Iscariot). From his up-close vantage point, the Evangelist provides a very visceral picture of the sincere worship of one devout woman.  Saint John wasn't alone in recounting this moment in Bethany; the account is recorded across all four Gospels.  So, since this episode was important enough to be covered by the four Evangelists, what is the point of it all?

  • Worship is Costly
  • Worship is Visceral
  • Worship is Fragrant

Mary opened a one pound jar of ointment. This wasn't your aveeno or vaseline intensive care. No, this was a priceless item by contemporary standards that cost nearly an entire year's wages. Imagine if you can, a $48,000.00 beauty product. The essential elements of the perfumed ointment came by caravan from as far as Nepal, and was highly treasured by contemporary Romans. Even the jar itself would have been considered a treasure as it was likely from the ancient Egyptian city of Alabastron and carved by hand from native Oriental alabaster. The jar was broken and poured out onto the master, both head and feet received the rich, aromatic perfume. In moments, and to the chagrin of many in the room, the Rabbi was now covered in costly nard.  Mary offered up her most treasured possession in this act of worship. It was her nest egg and would not be replaced in this lifetime. This was second only to her own life when it came to value and the act of adoration was harrumphed by thief and super-saint alike.

This was no casual, detached act on Mary's part. No, this wasn't like your typical foot washing given by servants to guests of that day.  The thick nard was spreading across the Master's feet as Mary doffed her head covering, then used her own hair to make sure that no drop was wasted or no part of Christ's feet were missed. Mary worshipped, body, mind and soul.

Mary's act of worship filled the entire house that day. Everyone, detractors not withstanding, were effected by her sincere, unfeigned act. The fragrant aroma of the nard quickly spread from the object of her adoration (Jesus), and wafted onto every corner of the home where they met.

So... How does this stack up against the pathetic whiny me-monkey prayers that we're so wont to offer up? Something to ponder this Holy Week.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Reverie on a Wednesday Evening

Before Coffee

From the Daily Office:
O God, the King eternal, whose light divides the day from the night and turns the shadow of death into the morning: Drive far from us all wrong desires, incline our hearts to keep your law, and guide our feet into the way of peace; that, having done your will with cheerfulness while it was day, we may, when night comes, rejoice to give you thanks; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Mornings remind me of the renewing and transformational love of the Almighty.  Its a pause pointing to the fact that we've been given a new opportunity to live our lives in a way that glorifies the Godhead, and another chance to live out our faith in ways to touch and impact the lives of those around us.

Before the Divine encounter, my mornings were that sense of "Once more into the breach".  They were the time to be thrown back into the struggle after a brief and fleeting respite of sleep.  But now, rather than quoting the Bard, its a time to quote Prophet and Hymn writer in declaring "Morning by morning, new mercies I see"!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

At Noonday

From the Daily Office (Sext)...
Lord Jesus Christ, you said to your apostles, "Peace I give to you; my peace I leave with you:" Regard not our sins, but the faith of your Church, and give to us the peace and unity of that heavenly city, where with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, now and for ever. Amen.
The Blood of Christ and the Peace of Christ are intrinsically woven together and if we lack either, we are truly lost.  In this peace, we hear the whisper of the Holy Spirit as he comforts us with the words Ego te absolvo (I forgive you).  Its through this peace that we're also empowered to forgive others and of equal importance, the power to forgive ourselves.


Monday, March 11, 2013

Living forever

Yes I do, and yes we will...  All who love the Lord and his appearing.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

On the 4th Sunday in Lent

From Today's Lectionary:
On the tenth day of the first month the people went up from the Jordan and camped at Gilgal on the eastern border of Jericho. And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. And Joshua set up at Gilgal the twelve stones they had taken out of the Jordan. tell them, 'Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.' For the LORD your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The LORD your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the LORD is powerful and so that you might always fear the LORD your God." ... Then the LORD said to Joshua, "Today I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you." So the place has been called Gilgal to this day. On the evening of the fourteenth day of the month, while camped at Gilgal on the plains of Jericho, the Israelites celebrated the Passover. The day after the Passover, that very day, they ate some of the produce of the land: unleavened bread and roasted grain. The manna stopped the day after they ate this food from the land; there was no longer any manna for the Israelites, but that year they ate the produce of Canaan.  (Joshua 4:19-24; 5:9-12 NIV)

This Sunday, we crossed the midpoint in this Lenten season on our journey from Ash Wednesday to Easter Sunday and before we know, we'll be loudly proclaiming "Alleluia, Christ is Risen!"  All of this said, I find this morning's readings to be especially poignant.

If we were to consider today's readings, OT, NT and Gospel, we might see a picture of us taken in the past, present, and future.  (Those readings were the aforementioned, Luke 15:1-3;11-32 and 2 Corinthians 5:16-21.) 

Everyone of us, from our fallen birth were rebels and enemies of the Almighty.  Like the younger brother in the Gospel, we disparaged our Father wanting his bounty while wishing him dead.  We lived life on our own terms and soon found ourselves enslaved and eating pig slop.  We turned our eyes towards home and while trying to renegotiate rapprochement on our terms, the Father threw his arms around us and brought us back into his home.  

Like Israel in entering the land of God's promise, we're reminded of God's care in our desert wanderings.  We see his provision at every turn.  That provision carried Israel all the way from the clay pits of Goshen to the plains of Jericho.

Saint Paul in writing to the Corinthians reminds us why we've been redeemed; to remind us how   
For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
Words to consider on a warm Sunday in March.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Remembering Hess... When we walked in Fields of Gold

Think for a moment; do you remember a place that no longer exists?  Some may recall a house or a store or tavern or the like, but I'm speaking about something bigger...  an Air Station and American community.

Hessisch-Oldendorf Air Station, or Hess, was a plot of ground on the north slope of a saxon hillside, about 25 miles southwest of Hanover in what was then, West Germany.  It was far removed from the "Little America" that existed in places like Ramstein-Kaiserslautern or Frankfurt.  It was populated by what I've referred to as the "truck driving  air force" people who worked on fog-shrouded mountains and trained in the mud for a conflict that mercifully never happened.  It was a place where your boots were bloused and Air  Force blue was a rare sight.

For all that Hess was, today it is a fading memory in the minds of most.  The facility was closed in 1990 and now outside of it's street grid, few artifacts exist pointing  to its existence.  There are young adults in the town who have lived their entire lives without hearing the rumble of M-35s lumbering down Lang Strasse.  What they do know, they've learned from parents or older family members who lived with, worked or played with, or possibly even loved the young Americans who were posted to their town. For those of us who were there though, it was the time of our lives.

Hess is gone, but it will live on as long as we remember it.  For me now, Memories of Hess conjure up the imagery in Sting's "Fields of Gold".

Wednesday, March 06, 2013


It took almost an entire winter, but now Suburbia Majora is blanketed in its first truly measurable snow.

I find it interesting how a blanket of snow affects the immediate world around you.  Funny, but the only time I'm able to hear a train whistle is when it snows.