Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday Grace

At breakfast this morning with my kids, Kathryn and Dan, we were saying grace. Our habit is to pray pretty informally, with people adding whatever they want to offer God after the one leading the prayer has finished. Today, as we remembered various things related to Good Friday, Dan had this to offer: “Please help Jesus with the memory of his death.”

I stopped short, first at the paradoxical notion that the resurrected Son of God might need help with anything, and then at the depth of the theological insight. Without exactly realizing it, Dan was taking very seriously two important Christian doctrines that sometimes seem to conflict: incarnation and ascension. With the doctrine of incarnation, we make the scandalous claim that God became human in Jesus Christ -– not just pretending to be human, or adopting a few of our limitations, but becoming fully human, even to the point of suffering the worst death I can imagine (as we remember so vividly today). And with the doctrine of the ascension, we proclaim that the resurrected Jesus returned to the Godhead, bringing with him the experience of being fully human, complete with all our joys and all our sorrows. And, as Dan’s prayer extrapolated it, complete with traumatic memory, too -– memory that needs ongoing healing, as all our traumas do.

So this Good Friday, I join my son in praying for Christ’s tears. Through them, may the God who is Three in One bring to mind the mysterious connection with our humanity made deepest on this good and horrible day; and may Jesus indeed continue to find healing in the depth of our gratitude for his pain.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Question Time

Here's a Holy Week poem (which I also posted last year but is revised below). Sometimes, the mysteries of the faith lend themselves less to exposition and more to poetry ... and the Cross certainly falls into that category. Blessings to you for this week.

Question Time

Imagine Christ comes by to sit with you,
To share a coffee, or a glass of wine;
And then, our sovereign Lord offers a gift:
“It’s question time,” Christ tells you. “Ask away.”

Without a chance for much deep thought, I’d say
The thing that seems forever on my mind:
“So just what do you want from us? It seems
I always strain to hear your voice. And when
The question’s hardest, all I get are soft
Whispers of love. Give me a key that I
Can turn inside confusing locks –- and live.”

Christ smiles and takes a sip and says, “Think back.
It took a flood to cleanse the world of sin.
It took a wilderness of death to bring
Israel into the Promised Land. It took
An exile, generations long, before
God’s own could turn their hearts again and live.
It took a cross to point the way of life.
Do not fear death, but give yourself away;
For sometimes choosing death is how we plant
The seed that springs into full bloom next day.”

I know you’re right, my Lord, but still I wait
And hope you’ll show another, smoother road.
Instead, you finish up your drink and slip
Away. The cross was not the thing I had
In mind when we sat down. But love requires
Us both to die so that the world might live.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

April 10, 2011 – St. Andrew’s Saves the World

I have to say, this past Sunday was one of my favorite days at St. Andrew’s, ever.

Why? Because we spent the day turned outward, toward this world Christ loves enough to have laid down his life for it.

First, here’s the headline from our Fools for Christ’s Sake fundraising dinner: The wonderfully generous people of St. Andrew’s dug deep to fund the lunch program at our partner school, St. Augustine’s, in Maniche, Haiti. We needed to raise $20,000 to ensure we could feed all 150 kids every day of the week during the next school year. That seemed like a tall order –- we’re still in a recession, after all. But when the pledges were tallied, the total stood at $25,000, enough to feed our kids and repair part of the school building damaged by last year's earthquake.

None of the kids of Maniche have ever been to St. Andrew’s, but they seem like part of the family anyway. At this point, we aren’t simply helping anonymous hungry people. When we saw the video clips Sunday night, we could recognize the faces of children from cards we bought at the Advent card sale. We could see their gratitude as we watched them pray before lunch. The missionaries’ videos and stories make this distant place come to life and show how hard it is to leave after spending a week there.

We don’t just have a partnership with a school. We have family in Haiti -– and on Sunday, our folks took a giant step toward helping to ensure that their brothers and sisters will have enough to eat next school year.

The fundraiser would have been enough on its own. But we began last Sunday with another joyful step into the mission God has given this congregation.

We Episcopalians are supposed to be standoffish and unsure of our connection with God and our church. Any visitor to St. Andrew’s will tell you otherwise. But on Sunday, we proved it to ourselves, too. People from 75 households took home yard signs after church on Sunday –- yard signs inviting neighbors and passersby to join us as we celebrate Easter at St. Andrew’s.

Demonstrating our faith “out loud” isn’t the easiest thing for many of us. It may not seem as polite as we usually like to be. But we’ve got a good story to tell about what’s going on in our congregation. And when you’ve got good news, it’s not so hard to share it after all.

This week, as we mark Palm Sunday and enter into the deep mystery of Holy Week, we’ll have more yard signs waiting for our folks to take home and proudly plant in their lawns. It's good not to be “the frozen chosen” after all.

So I’ll remember April 10 as a day when St. Andrew’s helped to save the world. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday.