When I was about 9 years old the Sunday-School I attended offered an incentive for memorizing Bible verses; a Bible with imitation leather cover. One of the first verses I learned was the opening verse of today’s Gospel reading; John 3:16. “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” I am not sure how much of it I really understood at 9. I knew at least that God loves the world, and he gave his only Son.
I had some idea that believing in Jesus would save us from perishing and give us eternal life, whatever that meant. At least it was an important promise that someday I would come to understand. Continue reading
We are celebrating today the Feast of St. Mark the Evangelist, the author of what many scholars believe to be the earliest of the four gospels, the Gospel of Mark. Mark’s account of the life of Jesus is usually dated around the year 70 C.E., approximately forty years after Jesus’ death. As a way of exploring its significance, I’d like to pose three questions: First, what is a gospel? Second, what is unique about Mark’s gospel? And third, what does this say about our gospel?
Mark is the only one of the Evangelists who refers to his account of the life of Jesus as a “gospel” – and he does this right from the start. His opening words are “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (1:1). The word “gospel” means “good news,” which is how it is translated in the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, from which we read tonight. Mark has “good news” to tell his readers and us about Jesus, whom he refers to as the Christ, the Son of God. Continue reading
The apostle Thomas has been branded “Doubting Thomas,” but that’s unfair, and it’s inaccurate. The opposite is true. There are two scenes in the Gospel prior to what we’ve just heard that shed light on the apostle Thomas. One scene is when Jesus was trying to say “good-bye” to his disciples, just prior to his being seized in the garden at Gethsemane. Jesus said, “Let not your hearts be troubled…. I go to prepare a place for you… and you know where I am going….” No. Not so. Not at least for Thomas. It seems only Thomas has the courage to admit that he is clueless. “My Lord,” Thomas says, “We don’t have the slightest idea where you are going! How can we know the way?” (1) (It’s a good question; an honest question for us, too. How can we know the way, especially when the path is dark and the risks are many, and the fear is great, and the route is unsure?) “How can we know the way?” Quite. Continue reading
A musical selection from this year’s Holy Week liturgies.
Great Vigil of Easter
John 20: 1-18
I read once that the great Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe used to put on court robes when he went into his observatory. For Tycho, gazing out into the heavens was a great occasion, and being from an aristocratic family, he had court robes to wear. His great contribution to science was a new level of accuracy in measurements and reliance on empirical observation. His geo-centric cosmology gave way to the heliocentric scheme of Copernicus, but Tycho, along with Kepler and Copernicus and Galileo, remains one of the fathers of modern astronomy. I don’t know if Kepler or Copernicus or Galileo ever wore court robes to go to their observatories.
But today the Church puts on hers. It’s a great occasion; it’s the greatest occasion. If there’s ever a day to create a sense of great occasion with damask, brocade, flowers, incense and beautiful music, it is today. Today is the greatest occasion because God has addressed our worst fears and our highest aspirations—“the hopes and fears of all the years”, as one of our Christmas carols puts it. This is the occasion of all occasions, the day of all days. The “court robe” that I’m wearing, this cope, was hand crafted as an ordination gift from my parents, who live now in resurrection light. It fit a little better 20 years ago when I was an inch taller. Continue reading
Eastertide icons gallery
Click on Icons for larger view.
Resurrection: The four gospels speak of the women who came to Jesus’ tomb to anoint his body. They are greeted by an angel: “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised….” Matthew 28:5-6
New Life: The resurrected Jesus is depicted with a halo of light inscribed with the Greek letters ὁὢν: literally, I Am that I Am. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created….” Colossians 1:15-16
Victory: The Apostles’ Creed affirms that Jesus “descended into hell.” Here Jesus, teeming with light and love, awakens those imprisoned in hell, inviting them to the heavenly banquet. Book of Common Prayer, pp. 53-54.
Embodiment: Jesus is baptized in the River Jordan by his cousin, John the Baptist. The Gospel according to Matthew, Mark, and Luke record, then “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.’” Matthew 3:17; see also Mark 1:11 and Luke 9:35
Conversion: Following the crucifixion, some disciples, among them Peter, returned to the familiar waters of Galilee to fish. The resurrected Jesus awaits them ashore with breakfast on a charcoal fire. Jesus has a thrice-repeated question for Peter: “Do you love me?” John 21:1-19
It’s Easter! Alleluia! Today is the glorious culmination of these days of Holy Week. Today, our Lord Jesus Christ has been raised gloriously from the dead: Alleluia.
It was still very early in the morning, Matthew tells us, with just the first streaks of dawn, when Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. They had been there, in that garden, on Friday Evening. They had witnessed Joseph of Arimathea wrapping their beloved Jesus’ body in a clean linen cloth. They saw him lay the body in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. And they watched as he rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb. The two women had seen it all, perhaps through tear-stained eyes. Matthew tells us that on that dark Friday the two of them, the two Marys, were sitting there, opposite the tomb. They had seen it all, remembered every detail. Continue reading
To help celebrate Holy Week here is the forth of four short videos by the SSJE Brothers reflecting on todays service: Holy Saturday, Liturgy of the Word
Dear Friends in Christ,
Today we are invited to take our stand at the foot of the Cross, joining the small company of Jesus’ friends who are already gathered there. We stand there together, under a dark and threatening sky, to witness the suffering of our Savior, to be with him in his hour of immense pain and desperate need, to feel with him the weight of the suffering and sin of the world, to bear that pain in our bodies as well. Our hearts are breaking with love – it hurts us to see him suffer in this way – and at the same time they are filled with awe at the magnitude of his self-offering, and with gratitude for what he accomplished for us here.
There stands with us Mary, his mother, living out in these terrible moments the bitter prophecy given by Simeon in the temple: “a sword will pierce your own soul, too” (Luke 2:35). And John, his beloved disciple and friend, who remains with him to the end. We stand with them, and with other lovers of Jesus, being drawn ever deeper into his love as we watch him “lay down his life for the ransom of many” (Mark 10:45). Continue reading
To help celebrate Holy Week here is the third of four short videos by the SSJE Brothers reflecting on todays service: Good Friday, Liturgy with Veneration of the Cross.
John 13:1-17, 31b-35
“Love one another as I have loved you.” At the Last Supper, Jesus teaches that our life is all about love. Jesus teaches with many words in a long speech and most powerfully in two actions.
He shows love made visible, edible, and tactile in washing feet and breaking bread. Love touching deeply, feet first.
Feet are sensitive subjects. We tend to adorn and display our feet or to hide them. Feet may reveal privilege and pampering, may be a source of pride. A wound to our feet can debilitate the body, while warmth or a massage for them can soothe the whole person. Feet are often embarrassing: battered, unkempt, unsightly. They bear our weight. They get very dirty and stink. Continue reading
To help celebrate Holy Week here is the second of four short videos by the SSJE Brothers reflecting on todays service: Maundy Thursday, Liturgy with Foot washing
Judas is a complicated person. (Aren’t we all.) We know, of course, that Judas had been invited by Jesus to be among his twelve closest followers and friends… and we experience Jesus to be a very keen judge of character. What did Jesus originally see in Judas? What did Judas see in Jesus? We’re not absolutely clear. We do know there was subsequent jealousy among these twelve apostles: who was the greatest. (1) The one nicknamed “the Beloved Disciple” seemed to have the greatest intimacy with Jesus and was the target of some jealousy. (2) Judas seemed to have the greatest… greatest something in Jesus’ eyes – greatest power? greatest stewardship? greatest accountability? we don’t know – because he was entrusted to carry the money. With that responsibility, Judas’ reputation became mixed. Though he upbraided Jesus with the other disciples about their self-indulgence in the face of the poor, he was known to steal money from the common purse. (3) Continue reading
To help celebrate Holy Week here is the first of four short videos by the SSJE Brothers reflecting on todays service: Tenebrae, Wednesday in Holy Week.
It’s spring after a long, cold, raw winter. Things are finally beginning to warm up. The flowers are blooming. People are beginning to emerge and the shops and markets are doing a booming business ahead of the holiday that is just around the corner. The city is filling up with visitors and there is a sense of excitement and anticipation in the air as folks look forward to seeing friends and family that they haven’t see in months. But mixed with this excitement is a foreboding dread of what might happen. Each year it is the same: excitement mixed with dread; dread mixed with excitement.
I could be talking about Boston as we approach this year’s Marathon Weekend, but I am actually talking about Jerusalem nearly 2000 years ago. The city was filling up with pilgrims and tourists ahead of the Passover holy days. Things were getting busy in the shops. And in all directions pens of lambs ready for the slaughter could be seen. What was troubling however, were the armed soldiers. They were everywhere. And more were on the way. Continue reading