Easter Devotions 2006

The journey to Easter has ended. We now re-new our walk from the grave into the world. Take this set of Easter Devotions along with you, courtesy of Emergent Malaysia and Sivin Kit’s Garden. From the foreward:

What happens when a bunch of friends comes together? They talk. They talk about things that matter to them. And as they talk, there is an overflow from this conversation into other facets of their lives. And soon, other people too are affected by this conversation.

It is in such a spirit that this series of Easter Meditations was written. It represents the heartbeat of a group of people who identify themselves as friends. This writing is their invitation for you to “eavesdrop” on the subjects of their discussion as people who are constantly discovering what it means to be friends of God.

Much time and effort has been poured into this simple piece of work. It is as simple as are our conversations and our friendships. It is our hope that you too will find your place in this conversational symphony. Join us as we seek to love the world and be loved in the Spirit of Christ. Have a blessed Eastertide. (link)

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Passover Liturgy

By now regulars know how much I enjoy reading Velveteen Rabbi. Rachel also blogs at Radical Torah, a group blog exploring what I’ll call the Jewish lectionary. Always thoughtful, and beneficial to my own walk as a Christian.

Well, Rachel had added a PDF resource there: a Haggadah for Pesach, or a Passover Liturgy. It’s thoroughly Jewish and thoroughly Velveteen. Given the deep connections between the Passover and Easter, I wanted to highlight the PDF for my readers.

And Rachel: Thanks for the gift.

RCL: Year A: Proper 6 (11)

[Link to this week's Lectionary Readings]

[ASIDE: Can someone tell me what the number in parentheses refers to? I'm guessing it is a count of weeks since Easter, whereas the first number is a count of weeks since Pentecost, but I'm not certain. Thanks in advance for satiating my curiosity.]

An odd thing happens in the Genesis passage, and I’m not referring to post-menopausal pregnancy in in individuals who should be becoming great-grandparents and not parents. Somewhere between verses 10 and 13 it became clear that one of the strangers was God. Look at it. In verse 10 we read:

Then one [of the strangers] said, ‘I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah shall have a son.“

In verse 11 we are reminded of Abraham and Sarah’s old age, and in verse 12 Sarah blows milk out her nose because she’s laughing so hard at the thought of becoming pregnant. (OK, the milk out the nose is an embellishment, but I can see it happening.) Finally we come to verses 13 and 14:

The LORD said to Abraham, ”Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the LORD? At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.“

The language used by the stranger-cum-God is almost identical, so we’re clearly talking about one speaker who repeats himself. Yet, there is nothing in the passage to this point to indicate that the speaker was God. Sure, verse 1 tells us that ”the LORD appeared to Abraham,“ but this sounds like an introduction to the story written retrospectively and not an indication of foreknowledge by Abraham. Later in Genesis we find out that the men were angels in disguise, but that is later. In this passage the visitors are called men – important looking men judging by Abraham’s greeting and the spread he put out for them – but men, strangers.

What happened? How did everything become evident? How was God’s identity revealed?

I think it has something to do with eating, or more specifically eating with strangers. I’m reminded of a story from the New Testament in which an unidentified man sits down to eat with a couple. At some point during the meal the veil of anonymity is pulled back, and the stranger’s true identity is revealed. (I’ll let you read the end for yourself; I don’t want to spoil the surprise.)

What is it about eating with strangers that seems to reveal God among us? How many encounters with God do we miss because we close our table and limit our fellowship to only those we already know?

RCL: Year A: Proper 4 (9)

[Link to this week's Revised Common Lectionary texts]

This week we read of Noah. Noach ish tzadik tamim. That is, “Noah was a righteous [just] and blameless [wholehearted] man.” Most of the commentary I found focuses on the latter two adjectives, tzadik [righteous or just] and tamim [blameless or wholehearted]; but I wonder if the key isn’t to be found in the first. Noach ish. Noah was a man. Before we consider anything else that Noah was, we must first remember that Noah was a man, an ordinary person like you and me. Only by beginning here will we able to usefully evaluate the remaining description.

If we work out of order and forget that Noah was first and foremost a man, then we are likely to make one of two mistakes when interpreting this passage. In the one instance we elevate Noah, crediting him with a level of righteousness and blamelessness that is beyond human proportions. We put him on a pedestal of perfection that ultimately neuters him. By assigning super-human characteristics to him we give ourselves permission to dismiss him, for he is so far beyond us that we need not consider what his story might say to us. In the other, we strip Noah bare, rendering him something less that fully human. He exists only as a vessel to hold a righteousness imputed by God. The result, again, is that Noah is neutered. God in sovereignty has chosen Noah, so there is nothing for us to learn from him. There is no lesson for our lives but to hope God chooses us also.

No, we must begin with this: Noach ish. Noah was a man. The fact that he was also tzadik and tamim flow out of this fact. As a man, Noah was righteous. He was just in his dealings with others. Furthermore, as a man he was wholehearted. (I like this better than blameless, which throws images of super-human perfection into my mind, images that make is hard for me to remember Noach ish.) He pursued his righteousness with his whole heart. He was sincere and a man of integrity.

Noah’s justness and wholeheartedness are contrasted with “violence,” which has corrupted the earth and brought God’s judgment. The contrast serves to further emphasizes the relational nature of the passage. Violence must have both perpetrators and victims. Likewise, the righteousness and wholeheartedness ascribed to Noah must also have a benefactors and beneficiaries. Noah was a benefactor.

Was Noah perfect? No, but he didn’t have to be. He wasn’t expected to be. Noach ish. Noah was a man, and so far as he was able, he was a just and wholehearted man in the way he lived with others. God, who judges not as we judge, saw this and saved him.

The lesson for me is this: I am an ordinary man like Noah. Given that, can it also be said of me: Bald Man ish tzadik tamim?

RCL: Year A: Seventh Sunday of Easter: Ascension Sunday

[This week's lectionary readings]

Bibbulkyalglican has this to say:

It struck me today during the Daily Office what an extra-ordinary vote of confidence in human beings (or th disciples at least) the Ascension is. God having sufficient confidence in just a few men and assorted othe “witnesses” who were mainly female to leave them to get on with task of creating the Kingdom here on earth. [link]

Not much I can add to this. May we all remember how much God trusts us.

RCL: Year A: Sixth Sunday of Easter

[This week's Lectionary Readings]

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever. This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

”I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me; because I live, you also will live. On that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you. They who have my commandments and keep them are those who love me; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.“ [The Gospel of John 14:15-21]

At house church we concluded our discussion with the Gospel reading, and as we discussed the text Kerri made a wonderfully subversive connection with a song sung earlier that evening. We had been speaking about obedience to Christ, and I had shared Claude’s story of the dysfunctional African eschatology with which he grew up. From here Kerri turned Better Is One Day (Amazon/ ) on its head. In case you are not familiar, the chorus is adapted from Psalm 84:

Better is one day in your courts

Better is one day in your house

Better is one day in your courts

Than thousands elsewhere.

I don’t know what Chris Tomlin had in mind when he wrote the song, but the common reading of this song is with a view toward heaven, saying in essence, ”Better is one day in heaven, than a thousand stuck here on earth.“ Perhaps, however, this is not about heaven, but rather about obedience and following God in the here and now of life on earth. ”Courts“ is a kingdom phrase, and I think a better reading of the song might be, ”Better is one day following God and ushering in God’s Kingdom, than a thousand spent in pursuit of something else.“ This is not a chorus of escapism, but one of mission. With this in mind, listen to the song again.

One thing I ask, and I would seek to see your beauty,

To find you in the place your glory dwells

Whomever has ears to hear, let them hear.

RCL: Year A: Fourth Sunday of Easter

[This week's Lectionary readings]

Holy Sonnet VI

Oh, would that I might harken to your voice,
Coming swiftly when you call for your sheep:
My fear subdued; my doubt assuaged; the choice
Of path made for me. In dark night you keep
Me safe; your side, shelter from storm and beast.
And should I wander to some far off place,
You, with purest sight will seek me, the least
of your flock. Drawing near you give glad chase.
Back home I rest peacefully in cool shade
Lapping living water, munching sweet jade.

RCL: Year A: Third Sunday of Easter

[This week's Lectionary readings]

Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.

These words from St. Peter ought to strike us as a little odd. In effect he says, “Now that you have love, love one another.” I get the feeling that if I look up redundant in his dictionary, it will instruct me: “See redundant.”

This is one of those instances when English fails to adequately serve the original, though this particular translation makes an attempt at clarity. If you’ve spent much time in or around church, then you may know that there are three Greek words routinely translated in the New Testament with the one English word, love. Here Peter employs two of them.

The first, translated “genuine mutual love,” is the word from which we get Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love. This love is a mutual affection or kindness. I think of it as Friends love: “I’ll be there for you, ’cause you’re there for me, too.” ( There is a kind of quid pro quo in this sort of love that makes it easy to understand. Peter’s audience grasped this kind of love, but the Apostle wanted them to do more, to be more.

Now that… you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart.

This second phrase is altogether different than the first. This isn’t brotherly love; it is the sacrificial love of agape. This is a love that says, “I’ll be there for you.” (Notice the absence of a qualifying statement?)

This is the love shown by God in Christ Jesus. This is the love expressed in the Ransom of Christ. That unilateral act of love inspires and makes possible all other acts of selfless love. It is the model and the motivation.

This is love whose course was determined and marked out in secret, just as Christ was destined before the foundation of the world. This is love that acts without regard to the likelihood of reciprocation. It always hopes, just as God always hopes for our love in return; but it never withholds.

This is love that endures for all time. It is imperishable and unconquerable. It births new life and new hope into the world. It endures forever, even beyond the corruption of this age. This is Resurrection Love.

I’ve heard it said that a man would climb a mountain

Just to be with the one he loves

How many times has he broken that promise

It has never been done

Well I never climbed the highest mountain, but I walked the hill of Calvary

Just to be with you I’d do anything

There’s no price I would not pay

Just to be with you I’d give everything

Oh I’d give my life away

And I’ve heard it said that a man would swim the ocean

Just to be with the one he loves

All of those dream are empty motion

It has never been done

Well I’ve never swam the deepest ocean, but I’ve walked upon the raging sea

Just to be with you I’d do anything

There’s no price I would not pay

Just to be with you I would give everything

I would give my life away

And I know that you don’t understand the fullness of my love

How I died upon the cross for your sins

And I know that you don’t realize how much that I give you

And I promise I would do it all again

Just to be with you I’ve done everything

There’s no price I did not pay

Just to be with you I gave everything

Yes I gave my life away

I gave my life away

Just to be with you

(Love Song by Third Day from their self titled album ( |Amazon)

RCL: Year A: Second Sunday of Easter

(This week’s readings)

As we look at the story of Thomas, let us step into the story (or rather, pull the story forward into our lives.) Who are we? Are we Thomas, the doubter? I think most of us are likely to make this identification first, and there are certainly times when this is appropriate. Often we cry out with the father from Mark 9, “I do believe. Help my unbelief.”

But let us look from another angle. Perhaps we are Jesus? The church is called the body of Christ, his hands and feet. If we are Jesus, then who is Thomas? Who are the doubters among us? How ought we to respond to them?

I think it significant that Jesus’ wounds are open; they are not scarred over. Further, it is only when Thomas touches Jesus’ wounds that he believes. What does this say to us? We are the wounded body of Christ, his nail-pierced hands and feet, his gored side. How willing are we to leave our wounds open and uncovered for all to see? The moment of faith for those who doubt is likely to come as they put their fingers in our wounds. How willing are we to allow this?

Our wounds are deep. They pierce our heart. From them flow our tears and blood. This blood is now Christ’s blood for we are Christ’s body. In our blood the New Covenant is reaffirmed and sins are forgiven. As we forgive one another, so Christ forgives us.

More than individual, our wounds are relational, for we are the body of Christ. The wounds that ignite faith are seen as we live in communion with one another.

More than personal, our wounds are missional, for our wounds are in our hands and feet. These are our tools for work and travel, for touch and communication.

We are the Wounded Body of Christ.

Soul of Christ, sanctify me,

Body of Christ, save me,

Blood of Christ refresh me,

Water from the side of Christ, wash me,

Passion of Christ, strengthen me,

O good Jesus, hear me,

Within your wounds, hide me,

Let me never be separated from you,

From the powers of darkness, defend me,

In the hour of my death call me,

And bid me come with you,

That with your saints I may praise you

For ever and ever. Amen.

(Brother Roger of Taize)

Easter Art in Review

our easter art program was smashing! each of eight artists created an offering: two songs (which will be incorporated into our worship repertoire), one poem, one essay, and four still art pieces (which now decorate our storefront) combining traditional photography, digital video stills, news clippings, mixed media, etc.

all eight were given the same simple instructions (see this post), yet all eight produced something unique and personal. both artists and audience were blessed. hopefully everyone saw the resurrection in a new light, one that grew their faith some measure.