Sunday, April 12, 2009

Two New Photo Albums

Just uploaded to Facebook...

Easter at Two Saints
Bishop Singh's Visitation

Celebration of Resurrection is defining event for faith, history of Christianity

From today's D&C...

The Rev. Julie Cicora has seen the promise of Easter each time she has been with someone at the moment of death.

'Every one of the 26 people I have been with,' she says, 'has reached out or called out to someone — often a spouse or a parent. They see someone. And something happens to them.'

That 'something,' Cicora says, is central to the promise of the Resurrection — not just a new life in the spirit, but life in a resurrected body, a glorified body, just as the resurrected Jesus is described in the gospels. Right before death, and right after, many people seem to glimpse the resurrected life that awaits them, perhaps seeing the resurrected figures of those they love, or of Jesus, she adds.

Cicora, the pastor of St. Stephen's Episcopal Church in Henrietta, acknowledged that Christians rarely talk about the resurrection of the body, but that promise is why Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection, is the defining event of Christian history and faith. Without it, the idea of a Messiah who has triumphed over sin and death would be meaningless.

Julie is actually the rector of St. Peter's Henrietta. Click here to read the rest!

Allan Cuseo As A Shinto Priestess

Recently, the seniors in our Education For Ministry class studied world religions. Each of them were asked to write and perform a short monologue about the beliefs and practices of someone from another faith tradition. Allan Cuseo assumed the persona of a Shinto priestess. You can watch his sketch in this 12-minutes video....



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Thursday, April 9, 2009

Maundy Thursday

John 17:1-26
vv. 20-21 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.

In John's Gospel, Jesus has much to say at the "Last Supper," preparing his disciples for what is to come, not only his death, but also his coming absence. How are they to continue his message without him? The teaching goes on for three chapters (14-16), the keystone of which is the promised gift of the Holy Spirit who will "lead you into all truth." He ends this time with prayer, which constitutes chapter 17. It is sometimes called "the high priestly" prayer, because it is seen as not only a prayer in that present moment, but an eternal prayer, made constantly in the presence of God.

The crux of the prayer is contained in the words above: "that they all may be one." This is so critical for Jesus that he says it will be the primary basis for how others in the future will come to believe. They will be converted by the oneness shown by Jesus' followers.

Anyone who has ever been part of the church knows how difficult that oneness is to achieve. We are, after all, human beings who make up the church, and so many things get in the way of our being one. And, as Jesus predicted, others are often so scandalized by our internal conflicts that they stay away from us--who wants to be a part of that? It makes it all the more important that we strive with all our might to reach across our differences, constantly practice reconciliation, and, when we do disagree, do so with a great deal of humility.

And remember that Jesus is praying for us. To remember that someone is praying for you is a powerful thing. It brings strength and courage, persistence and hope.

The experience of Holy Week and Easter is one of those things that can bind us more closely together. Let it be over the next four days. And let us remember that we do not walk this way alone. Jesus is praying for us.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Wednesday in Holy Week

John 12:27-36
v. 32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

We say that Christ died "once for all;" it is not a sacrifice that must be repeated. What Jesus says in this morning's Gospel is also "once for all:" "I will draw all to myself."

We are constantly being drawn to God in Jesus Christ. The miracle of this is that it is true even when we "draw back." God's drawing us in, drawing all people in, is a universal constant. This is the God of infinite second chances, the God of the cross, the God of the resurrection.

Some ancient manuscripts of John's Gospel read "all things" instead of "all people." That is a marvelous image, of the whole creation being drawn to God. Nothing is outside the embrace of the arms of Jesus on the cross. Nothing is outside the power of his resurrection.

Today let us be grateful for this "drawing power" of God, and let us succumb a bit more to it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Tuesday in Holy Week

John 12:20-26
v. 26 Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant b also. Whoever serves me the Father will honor.

This week above all others we walk with Jesus the way of the Cross. For him it was the way of death, death that had to be undertaken so that death itself could be defeated. For us it is the way of service, service to Jesus and service to the world.

This way of servce is its own death, a "death to self," we traditionally say. But we must be careful when we say that. What do we mean here by the "self" which must die? We do not mean the negation or annihilation of our lives. God made us and wants us to have life, abundant life, Jesus says. But it does mean a control of self, especially what we would call our egos, our insatiable need for anything and everything to give us self-worth other then God. And it does mean knowing myself to be a self among other selves, of no greater importance then the next person, striving to live in a community of equals.

To live my life in service to others is the highest goal of this healthy understanding of self. Sometimes this will feel like a kind of death, as I let go of my own selfish need in order to lift up the need of another. The good news is that we are called to live in a community of servants, so that I can trust my true needs will be met as well as we live a life of mutual service.

Are you ready to renew your walk with Jesus, the way of the Cross? Are you ready to renew your life of service?

Monday, April 6, 2009

Monday in Holy Week

John 12:9-19
v. 13 So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting, "Hosanna! Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord--the King of Israel!"

All four gospels record some sort of procession of Jesus into Jerusalem with great crowds in attendance. It is no wonder that the religious and political authorities found a way to do away with him. This was a very dangerous situation. Any popular uprising needed to be crushed and crushed quickly.

In St. Simon's Chapel there hangs an icon entitled "Jesus of the People." (You can find it at www.janetmckenzie.com). It is a reminder that the Jesus movement was "of the people," the ordinary people of Galilee and Judea, attracted to this man, both his preaching and his actions. He gave them hope that the authorities over them could not give. Jesus had to know, almost from the start, that this would land him into deep (probably fatal) trouble. And certainly entering Jerusalem the way he did at the time of the Passover, when the city was full of people and the authorities were especially nervous, was akin to passing his own death sentence.

All the more reason to stand in awe of Jesus' strength and courage, the depth of his commitment to humankind, a commitment unto death. It is that commitment we remember especially this week, and renew our awe. All this was done for us, for you and for me, and the countless others through the millenia, Jesus' brothers and sisters, for wom he was willing to die.

The depth of love here is simply staggering. Can we receive it in our own depths?

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Saturday in Lent 5

John 11:28-44
v. 44 Jesus said to them, "Unbind him and let him go."

The raising of Lazarus is an emotionally powerful and moving story. Jesus himself is said to be "deeply moved," and weeps openly. Then there is Jesus' simple but electrifying command, "Lazarus, come out!"

The words above end the story, somewhat abruptly, "Unbind him and let him go." I have always found these the most moving words of all in the story. I think this is because I have always heard them in a much broader context. This is what Jesus wants for each and every one of us, to be free of whatever binds us.

This is our resurrection in the here and now. We are all bound up by something, either something thrust upon us or something of our own making. There is some way in which we are not free. Jesus comes and offers to unbind us, if we will but believe in his power to do so. There isn't anything that is binding us of which we cannot be free in the power of his love.

The freedom is spiritual in nature. We may not be set free from the literal thing that binds us: an illness, a relationship or some other circumstance of life. But the thing can no longer control us, no longer determines the health of our spirit. No longer can it keep us sealed in a tomb of despair or anger.

How do you need to let Jesus unbind you?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Friday in Lent 5

John11:1-27
vv. 25-26 Jesus said to [Martha], "I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in me, even though they die, will live, and everyone who lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

As we near Easter this is a fundamental question for us. We are about to celebrate the resurrection and renew our belief in it. And the resurrection that we will celebrate is not only Jesus' resurrection long ago, but our own, and our own not only in the future but right now.

What is our resurrection "right now?" It is our hope right now that life triumphs over death, that we can live right now as if God is present with us despite all signs to the contrary. It is our commitment right now to being the triumph of life over death for others in our servant ministry. It is our confidence right now that life, our life, matters, and that we can trust God with it, again, no matter what.

We have all been witness to, or experienced ourselves, the worst that life can bring, seeming denials of these things we hold to be true, moments when death seems to have been victorious. Mary and Martha had experienced such a trial in the death of their brother, made worse by Jesus' seeming lack of concern (he did not rush to their side when they sent word that their brother was ill). Jesus "in spite of" question, "Do you believe [I am the resurrection and the life]?" was itself a trial of their faith. It is for ours a well. There's no getting around the "leap of faith" that they had to take and that we must as well. It all comes down to another question, "How much can we trust God?"

These are good questions to ponder as we make our final preparations to celebrate Easter.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Thursday in Lent 5

John 10:19-42
vv. 27-28 My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand.

This is bottom-line good news. It is akin to those magnificent words from baptism: "You are sealed by the Holy Spirit in baptism and marked as Christ's own for ever." The news doesn't get any better than this.

But (and it's sometimes a big "but") we still have to believe it. Faith is required and there are some pretty steep mountains to climb. Death, for one. We have to believe "they will never perish" despite the fact that they seem to do just that. Suffering, for another. We have to believe "no one will snatch them out of my hand" even when it seems that God is nowhere in sight.

Faith is a tall order. It isn't easy to come by some days. As I've said before in these reflections, it is a good thing that it is a) a gift from God and b) something we have together. The good news is that we are not alone, not even in the struggle to have faith.

The question for me today is can I allow these incredible words from Jesus to soak into my soul, to know deep within that they are about me as well as the next person. I cannot be snatched away from Jesus.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Wednesday in Lent 5

John 10:1-18
v. 10-11 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.

Today we have one of the most beloved of images from the Bible: the good shepherd. It is an image of ultimate care, of nurture and protection.

But I want to focus on the "abundant life" Jesus promises us. What does this abundant life look like? It is different from what one might expect--a life of ease. It is, instead, a life lived in perfect love-which may not be easy at all. It wasn't, after all, for Jesus. It called him to lay dow his life.

To live abundantly is to love fully. In John's Gospel Jesus leaves his disciples with the "new commandment:" love one another as I have loved you. This is the way to abundant life and its symbol is the towel. Jesus enacts this love commandment by taking the role of the most menial of (usually female) servants and washing the feet of the disciples.

You'll recall that as Jesus washes the disciples' feet, Peter strenuously objects. This is not his idea of abundant living. I would suggest that we are more like Peter than we care to admit. Abundant living and servanthood seem almost oxymorons to us. Yet Jesus says to Peter, "If I do not wash you, you have no part in me." This is serious business.

The great truth here is that I can only live abunantly when I live outside of myself.

Who am I called to serve today? How can I live more abundantly?