Thursday, May 28, 2009

“Up, Up, and Away” - A sermon for Ascension

I step into the aisle of the church.  Silence reigns.  Without a word, I reach into the pulpit and pull out a mylar balloon attached to a spool of kite string.  It has a happy face.  Slowly, silently, I release the balloon, and as it goes up, all eyes follow.  Everyone stares at it, except for me.  I look down at the congregation.  

Hey, what are you guys looking at?  Why you looking up there?  Okay, so it’s just a balloon.  But as it went up, you looked.  

And you looked probably just like the disciples as they watched Jesus ascend into the sky.  Only Jesus going up is much more dramatic than a balloon, don’t you think?  So who could blame them for looking?

Understandable or not, however, it wasn’t long before those angels snuck up and said, “What are you looking at?  Up there isn’t where the action is.  It’s down here.”

Even then, they must have had a hard time getting their attention back down.  Not only was Jesus’ departure dramatic, but it left his disciples alone and confused.  They had already lost him once at the crucifixion.  Then with the resurrection, they thought they had him back.  But after forty short days, they were going to lose him again!  Granted, this was better than crucifixion, but still.

So why did Jesus have to leave them again?

Time to clarify something.  Today is not technically the Feast of the Ascension.  It was Thursday.  In fact, they used to call it Ascension Thursday.  You’d hardly we didn’t have a big Ascension celebration.  Who would have come?    After all, there are no Ascension parades or sales.   Besides, it’s Memorial Day weekend.

But once, this was one of the truly big feasts of the year.  Which leaves us the question:  Why is Jesus going away so important?

If you ever played soccer -- or any team sport, but let’s use soccer for our example -- there’s often one kid who’s the star.  He or she can dribble, shoot, pass -- anything he wants.  It’s the kind of kid who the coach points to and says, “Give me a quick goal,” and the kid says, “Only one?”

Problem is, the kid never passes.  Or when he does, the others -- the mediocre kids -- are terrified and pass it right back so they don’t mess things up.  Know what they call a game like that?  Boring.  No Fun.  

The kid who never gets the ball learns nothing of soccer even if the star wins every game for the team.  Jesus knew it was more important for the disciples to learn the work of ministry than for everything to be done well.

But they would never truly learn it if he were always there for them to lean on.  If he were physically there, they would be like those mediocre players who reflexively pass the ball back to the star with an, “I can’t do it!”

Jesus had to leave - to use another metaphore - so they could grow up and move beyond simply watching him preach and heal.  Jesus wanted them to expand his work, and he could only do so be stepping aside.

Not that he left them directionless.  He told them what their work would be.  “Repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”  He says, “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to all the ends of the world.”

Concentric circles spreading out from Jerusalem, including everyone in God’s embrace.  That’s the work of the disciples.

He also did not want them distracted from that work.  Certainly not by questions of when he would return.  “That’s not for you to think about,” he told them.  “That’s for the Father only.”

When you think about it, Ascension is a very simple message.  It’s YOUR turn now.  You know your job and you know that you can do it.

Or do you?  Often we still say, “It’s too hard!”  I know because I find myself thinking that all the time.  Ministry is too hard.  Trying to compete with all the activities that the world throws at us is too hard.  Trying to get your voice heard in this incredibly diverse and noisy electronic age where you’ve got texting and e-mail, and Facebook and MySpace and YouTube and Twitter. 

(By the way, if you don’t know what Twitter is, it’s where you have your own micro-website that you can update from your laptop or cell phone in 140 characters or less -- and do so every minute.  You know, “I’m now sipping my coffee.  Mmm, it was good.”  Some churches are now encouraging parishioners to Tweet through services.  I’m trying to imagine that:  “Oh no!  He’s got incense!”  “He’s still preaching?  How long have I been asleep?”  “Praise God!  The sermon’s over.”).

And it’s hard to preach forgivenss in a world that prefers so-called justice and punishment.  Even if it’s our job.  We much prefer that the “bad guys” “get what they deserve.”  We don’t like when judges are soft or when a foreign country makes an uncomplementary remark about us and we let it go unanswered.

It’s not new to us.  The same held true throughout history.  We want “them” to get what’s coming to them, and we believe that’s good and right.  Only problem is, that’s not what God tells us.  Jesus tells his disciples to preach forgiveness.  To make forgiveness known.

No wonder they feel it’s hard.  No wonder they -- and we -- we are left staring at the sky with this job before us.  We’re alone.  So it seemed to them.

Only not for long.  Jesus promised them they would not have to do it all by themselves because alone they -- and we -- are weak and lost.  He promised them the power of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit would come soon, he promised, and they would know they could do it.  

Jesus is gone to heaven, we don’t know when he’ll return.  But we have our work.  He has passed the ball to us, and it’s our time to run with it.  Amen.

Friday, May 22, 2009

God, Life, and Everything - "Meet the Goodpeoples"

The bi-weekly column I now write for the Hudson Valley News has a new name!  It is now called, "God, Life, and Everything" reflecting the broad scope I want to take.  Everything falls under the eye of God, and if we watch carefully, we can catch a glimpse of God in it all.

Meet the Goodpeoples.  They’re good people who go to a church in a different town.  There’s Marge, Harry, their twelve-year-old son Pete, and their six-year-old daughter Rosetta.  Did I mention that Marge is expecting?  Mmmm, two point five kids.

Things are not easy for the Goodpeoples.  Young Pete is a Boy Scout, plays soccer and has recently started rowing for a crew club.  Rosetta also plays soccer but is mostly interested in her ballet and swimming lessons.  

Marge tries to work as a web designer from home, but business is slow with the economy, and the kids keep her running.  Harry works a lot of extra hours these days and helps coach Rosetta’s soccer team.

The other day, I was talking to Harry when he started apologizing for not having been in church much lately.  I said, “Hey, I’m not your pastor, but tell me how long has it been.”

“Well, we made it on Easter.”

“And before that?”

“I know we went in Lent at least once -- they were wearing purple.”

As we talked, it came out that they’ve been attending about once a month or so.  But it had gotten so bad for awhile that, as Harry put it, “I was afraid the roof would fall down if I showed my face again.  The kids were afraid to go to Sunday school because they didn’t know anyone anymore.  But what can we do?  Scouts have monthly weekend campouts, travel soccer has its games on Sunday, sometimes I’m on call all weekend.  If only they had a Saturday evening service!”

Ah, the silver bullet of church attendance, the Saturday evening service (or as I like to call it, the Saturday Night Special).  

Now, I can sympathize with my friends. If a sane person wanted to do all the things they were doing with their kids and work (not to mention Harry’s own hockey team.  Did I mention that?), something would have to give.  For them, it was church.

Why?  Because their church does not yell at them if they miss a Sunday.  Coaches yell and let their athletes know they let their teams down.  Boy Scouts need to be there to earn their badges and ranks.  Unless it’s the kind of church that threatens eternal damnation for not showing up a certain number of times (or paying a certain amount in pledge), it’s the easiest thing to let go.

Would a Saturday evening service help?  Perhaps.  They work for Roman Catholics.  On the other hand, for Christians, Sunday is the sabbath, and shifting the primary act of worship to a different day in order to accomodate sports or work doesn’t seem a good fit for me.  (In defense of my Catholic friends’ practice, they have so many people they probably couldn’t get everyone in with fewer services).

So what can Marge and Harry do?  They’re good people, after all, and don’t want me to think less of them.

The world we live in will always try to steal your time away, will always offer interesting and important activities to suck out your time.  All I could suggest was that they MAKE the time for church -- precisely because it was the one thing that would not punish them for not being there but would feed their souls and revive their spirits.

I really feel for families, but as a parent myself, I know that MAKING time for what’s important is possible.  We adults just have to set the priorities.  And for me, Christ trumps pretty much everything else.

The Rev. Chuck Kramer is rector of St. James' Episcopal Church, Hyde Park.  You can leave a comment for him at

Friday, May 15, 2009

This Little Piggie - Hudson Valley News Column

Okay, I admit it, I bought a bottle of Purell.  For myself.  For my wife.  For my kids.  For the church.  Yes, I have been preparing for dreaded Swine Flu.  

You might think, “The man’s gone all paranoid.  It’s all so overblown.”  Maybe.

Oddly enough, I’m not particularly worried about it myself.  Different strains of flu hit every year, and a lot of people get sick and die from them.  In flu season, I wash my hands more and am more aware than usual about how I’m feeling.  Let’s face it, if I have a fever, I don’t want to visit someone at the nursing home or hospital.

So, I don’t see myself as going all panicky over this Swine Flu. On the other hand, the medical world does seem to be in a tizzy, and since they know more about it than I do, I won’t jump on the this-is-overblown-nonsense bandwagon.  Nor am I going to discount the fears of those who are terrified.  

For example, in the church I’ve been asked if we’re still going to have Holy Communion (we share a common cup) or pass the Peace.  The answer, by the way, is YES.  Still, whether or not I share their fear doesn’t matter -- they feel it, and telling them to get a grip won’t help.

There is a balancing act.  Honoring rather than denegrating people’s fear is important, but so is refusing to fall victim to that fear.  Fear, after all, has no place in the Kingdom of God.  The middle ground is a piece of practicality.

We sent out a note to parishioners stating that we would have hand sanitizer and tissues availabe in the church so anyone who felt uncertain could take the appropriate precautions.  In that note, we also mentioned that the wine for Holy Communion contains alcohol, and that studies have proven that alcohol to be sufficient to kills most germs.  

But we also noted that life is always uncertain, and as people of faith, we are called to step into the unknown on a daily basis without fear.  What’s to fear?  Ill-health?  It’s possible, but most people recover.  Death?  When we die, we go home to God in joy and peace.  If we were to recoil in fear from every potential threat to our health and well-being, we would never do anything again.  That’s not the life we are called to live.  Fear is for those without hope.

Come Sunday, I’m going to be celebrating Holy Communion - with the common cup.  I will be the last to drink out of it, too.  And at the Peace, I will shake hands with or hug anyone who welcomes it.  That is our way.  Unless I feel sick, I’ll be there (and no mask).

So, if anyone’s asking me for medical advice, I won’t give it.  I’m no doctor.  But what I plan on doing it to be pragmatic.  I’ll wash, use a tissue, rub in the hand sanitizer -- and then go out there and live!  Because in the end, a life lived in fear can hardly be called healthy.

The Rev. Chuck Kramer is rector of St. James' Episcopal Church, Hyde Park.  You can leave a comment for him at

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Well Connected - A Sermon

This light (hold up a light) can do a lot of good in a dark place.  It lets me read at night, it lets me walk around without stumbling into things.  It lets me see people I love.

But without its power source (hold up unplugged cord), it doesn’t do much more good than a stick.  It has to be connected.  

We are like lights.  Or to change metaphors, we are branches that can’t live, certainly can’t bear fruit, without being connected to the vine.  We need to be connected -- and our vine is Christ.

Being connected to Christ empowers us to do what is loving (bear fruit) -- and without him we can do nothing loving (bear no fruit).

What sort of loving things?  Bearing fruit means not only doing good things but growing in God’s love -- deeper relationship.  Bearing witness, learning, intensifying one’s own life.  Resisting the world’s temptations to believe that we are what we earn, that we must always “produce” always be active always win.  Living lives that are less results oriented and more relationship based.

Without being connected, could Phillip have moved from the fear and confusion that was Jerusalem in those days (it was shortly after Steven was killed there) to preaching in Samaria where he met with great success, to the bold insertion of himself into the Ethiopian eunuch’s high-powered life?  

I mean, the Ethiopian was a court official (that’s probably why he was a eunuch -- it was common for high court officials to be eunuchs in the Near East).  You don’t just interrupt their reading.  But Phillip was directed by God

How are we connected?  How do we stay connceted?  Like a kiss that connects us with our loved ones, there are the sacraments -- that’s why we gather each week to share communion.  

That’s why we baptize together (not in private).  That’s why we confess.

That’s why we worship together.

But we also pray apart -- listening, sitting with the Holy Spirit.  We also study the scriptures -- reading the journals of our forebears to know their struggles and joys in the way so that we can know them and God better.  This is what it means to be connected.

Without it we have no power.  No fruit.  No abililty to know God in our hearts let alone share that divine love through selfless acts and brave words.

Mind you, being well connected doesn’t make things fun and joyful all the time.  Even Jesus said the branches get pruned from time to time.  The very image makes me wince.  But there you have it -- even having that intense connection with God in Christ doesn’t take us out of this world with all its hardship.

It just gives us power to see beyond the surface troubles and into the deeper life that’s often hiding in plain sight.

I pray for you and me that we be connected.  That we intensify our connection with God every day -- and in doing so bear much fruit indeed.  Amen.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

No Good Deed Unpunished - A Sermon

You know the saying, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.  Well here’s proof.  Look at my head!  Red as a tomato and why?  All because I spent the day at the soccer field coaching kids and watching my son.

It has nothing to do we my being foolish enough to forget a hat -- bald men alwayes need hats!  Or foolishly thinking I didn’t need sunscreen….  But you get the idea!

Still, the principal holds.  Whenever you stick your neck out to do some good, there’s a good chance it’ll either backfire or lead to more work.  Once when I was a kid -- maybe eight years old -- I decided I would help my parents with the laundry.  

Having no idea how a washing machine worked, or how much detergent to use, or what sort of colors looked good together when blended, I think I did pretty well.  All things considered.  

But what did I get for my efforts?  Yelled at, that’s what!  And why?  Apparently, my father did not like his new pink t-shirts.  He thought they might not go over well at the factory.

So, I can appreciate the predicament the apostles found themselves in at the temple.  They see a man begging, and though they have no money, they heal him.  Next, they preach to the amazed crowd about how healing comes from Jesus Christ.

All good things.  And for their efforts, they get arrested.

But here’s the amazing thing -- once brought before the leaders, they do not try to avoid whatever punishment their actions might lead to.  When the leaders asked why they did the healing and by whose authority they did it, they said “If we’re being questioned for doing a good deed, then know that we do it in the name of Jesus.”  

When the leaders commanded them to stop, they said, “Whether it’s right to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge; for we cannot keep from speaking about what we have seen and heard.”

They said plainly that their good deed would be followed by other good deeds, good actions of spreading God’s grace.  If that led to more punishment, so be it.

Looking at Jesus in the Gospel, we see a different kind of punishment -- maybe the kind a parent can relate to.   He tells his disciples that he is the good shepherd.  

Now, we could go into the properties of sheep if we wanted -- you know, they’re dumb and willful and have very little appreciation for all the hard work the shepherd puts in to protect them.  

Now, I’m NOT suggesting that children don’t know everything or aren’t occasionally willful, and I’m not suggesting that they don’t appreciate all the hard work a parent does.  BUT, sometimes -- it might feel like that to the parent.

That’s important, because Jesus is not talking about the sheep here.  He’s talking about what it means to be the shepherd.  And as the shepherd, he says, I lay down my life for the sheep.”  He is no hireling who’s only doing the job for the money.  He cares deeply about us.

He says that he will do everything in his power to protect us, even if -- and when -- it means dying to save them.

A parent knows this.  That’s how we’re made -- and God is our Father, always there, always caring, always loving.

Maybe the only difference between a parent and the shepherd is that after all that hard work and investment, the sheep stay dumb and willful -- and the child moves out.  As my mother says, “Just when you get interesting, you leave!”

Now, one more thing about Jesus as shepherd.  He wants to reach out beyond the fold -- “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold.  I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice.”

Let me tell you, the sheep do not like hearing that.  They are jealous.  He does a fantastic job taking care of the sheep, but when he suggests there are others he needs to care for, they say “NO, only us!”

In other words, in this passage Jesus tells the people of Israel that God’s love extends beyond just them.  And he’s here to give to others the love of God that the Isreaelites have enjoyed.

It’s a good thing to do -- giving mercy and grace and peace to as many people as possible.  But they don’t like it -- WE don’t like it.  That’s why there are so many religions and denominations, each saying “We’re right, and all the rest are going to hell.”

It must be hard doing good and knowing that it will upset others.  That it will cause people to reject you or even punish you.

But God calls us to it just as he called his Son, just as he called those apostles.  Whether we make a mess of it, or whether we do it well and still suffer for it doesn’t matter.

Because the good we do isn’t in order to see some benefit or specific outcome.  It’s because God loved us first.  Amen.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

A Good Story Ruined - A sermon

Okay, I have a joke for you.  “That boy should have quit while he was a head.”  Get it?  No?  

Well, let’s try another:   “The boy gave this some thought then said to his mother, ‘Wait a minute mom. How do you get into the other kids’ houses?’”

Okay, this isn’t working.  Last try:  “A Lost Camel!”  Get it?

What’s the matter?  It’s like you’re missing part of the joke or something.

Which of course you are.  But that’s the problem with the Gospel reading you just  heard today.  You only get one part of it, which takes away part of the point Luke’s making. 

We heard today where Jesus shows amidst the disciples and terrified them because they think he’s a ghost.  But what it leaves out is that right  before this we have the famous “Road to Emmaus” story where two disciples meet Jesus on the road that first Easter Day, but they don’t recognize him.  So he teaches them about the resurrection, but they still don’t recognize him and invite him for dinner.  Finally, he breaks the bread and they recognize him.  Then he disappears, and they run back to tell the other disciples.

“We saw the Lord!” they say. “We recognized him in the breaking of the bread.”  The other disciples tell them that Simon Peter has also seen the risen Christ, and isn’t it exciting.  Then Jesus shows up again -- and they scream in terror.  They don’t recognize him at all.  They think he’s a ghost.  Even though they had seen him a little earlier, they don’t recognize him the second time around.

Now, granted this isn’t slapstick, but it just goes to show that you can’t understand things when you only take part of the story.  That’s why it’s always dangerous to just read little snippets of the bible -- there’s always more to the story.

And in this story what we get is a couple of things.  First, notice that Jesus is finally recognized in each of these scenes when there’s food around.  In Emmaus, they recognize him in the breaking of the bread.  In the next scene, he asks for food to prove he’s not a ghost.  Read through the Gospels, and you’ll see how important things tend to happen with Jesus when food is involved.

By the way, that’s why we have Coffee Hour -- oh, and communion.

But more important, sometimes things sound better as a story than the reality.  In fact, reality kind of ruins a good story.

All the disciples tell the story of seeing the risen Christ, but actually seeing him is much more confusing and terrifying.

It’s not that different from when we tell stories about our youth, when we were wild and crazy or brave and daring. [We usually tell stories to appear funny, brave, clever, or important] I used to tell friends about hitchhiking across Germany, and they’d say, “That is so cool!”  Until someone was so impressed that he said, “Let’s hitchhike here!”  The truth is, I’d never do it again.  I got cold, it took forever, and at least once I ended up in a car with people who made me uncomfortable.  Trust me, hitchhiking makes a better story than reality.

Then there's the story I wouldn't let my wife tell for ten years.  We were dating, and she had a birthday.  I decided to surprise her at work with a cake.  But she loves ice cream cake, and I was foolish enough to try to get all thirty candles on the cake.  You can guess the result -- the icing caught on fire, the cake melted all over the desk, and I was near tears.  She thought it was cute and funny and loves the story.  But the reality was not so pretty.

We tell a pretty good story in church, too.  Christ has Died.  Christ is risen!  Christ heals.  Christ says Love your neighbor as yourself.  Christ says, Pick up your cross and follow me!

Everything around Jesus sounds so great when we talk about it.  It’s only when it comes down to living it that things don’t seem so romantic.  

Instead, it can be mundane, just living each day trying to be a kind person.  Or uncomfortable -- ever reach out to someone in love who is NOT the type of person you’d prefer to associate with?  Or boring -- reading the bible puts you to sleep, trying to pray gets you nowhere.

Or terrifying -- you hear Jesus in the Gospel say, “sell everything and come follow me,” and you panic.  Because you know some people actually do that, actually give up everything and live in squallor for the sake of the Gospel.  Even that can sound romantic -- until you live it.

The point is, we say a lot about God’s love here in church.  But whatever we say can never touch reality.  Only you can go out there and live that love, live that life of following Christ.  And it probably won’t make a good story most of the time -- it’s not meant to.  But it will make a good life.

Convalescence - Hudson Valley News Column

On Easter Monday, I had a small operation (okay, it was a hernia) that has kept me close to home for the past several days.  In that time I’ve discovered a few things.

First, I learned that I’m a real pain wimp.  It didn’t take long after the anesthesia wore off for me to grab for that bottle of pain killers!  Didn’t take long to learn how to hobble around and groan impressively every time I tried to sit up or twist.  Pathetic.

Second, I discovered that there are a lot of nice people out there who check in on you to see what they can do, who send cards and notes of support.  All that for just a routine thing.  It was rather nice if a bit embarrassing.

Then I learned something a bit more sobering and useful for reflection.  Sitting around doing nothing is hard.  My wife has had to practically sit on me to keep me from doing too much.  But I’m one of those people who always thinks he has to make that meeting or be there for practice even when doing so is utterly pointless.  I went to the kids’ soccer practice but had to sit there shifting in discomfort so much that I was more a distraction than a help.

I don’t know, maybe it’s because I’m from the Midwest.  Unless you have a fever of 107 or have lost 5 pints of blood, there is no excuse for missing anything.

However, I suspect the truth is we are all driven to be “productive.”  Somehow we -- I -- feel that getting nothing done means being nothing.  If I’m not producing, then I’m not anything.  It’s an illusion that the world can’t function without us, but being forced to lie down on the sofa and let someone bring me a blanket rubs against my need to be a doer.  

Sitting on the couch when the kids are at school and my wife is shopping leaves me watching the dog breathe as he snores next to me dreaming doggy dreams.  How he can simply sleep the day away amazes me.  Watching him lie perfectly still for hours makes me wonder why I can’t.  

Yet during several days of convalescence, I had no choice.  Sit still, said my body.  And I tried to obey.  When I did too much, my body rebelled with pangs of pain throughout my middle.  Only baby steps, and not too many, were allowed at first.  After three days of it, taking little walks and sitting less, I find that sitting is possible.

I  wish I could say profound insights came flooding to me in these quiet days.  They did not.  Nor did siting quietly by myself suddenly become easy.  But it was a blessed reminder that inactivity can be as important as activity.  Sometimes, you need to do nothing, and I plan to get better at doing it even as getting up and going gets easier. 

The Hudson Valley News is the new weekly newspaper for Hyde Park and the Hudson Valley.  It comes out each Wednesday.  You can purchase it at local vendors or purchase a subscription.

Easter - Hudson Valley News Column

NOTE:  In April, the Hudson Valley News debuted as the newest weekly newspaper.  I was invited to write a column which appears every other week.  This column, for Easter, is the first.  As yet, the column does not have a formal title.

You remember those days as a child, racing through the yard or house hunting for eggs your parents hid just minutes before, hoping the Easter bunny left plenty of chocolate in your basket.  You probably missed the look of anxiety on your parents’ faces as they realized that you had missed a couple of eggs, and they couldn’t remember where they had hidden them.

Ah, Easter.  

Of course, your memories may have been more along the lines of worship.  Perhaps a midnight vigil that strained your ability to keep those eyes open.  Or a sunrise service that, well, strained your ability to keep those lids open.  Or, like me, the glorious Easter morning service at just the right time -- 9:30 a.m. 

That’s when we sang, “Hail Thee Festival Day” and “The Strife is O’er,” while my brothers and I processed with the acolytes up and down the aisles carrying candles or crosses or -- when we got older -- the thurible wafting intoxicating and dangerous incense throughout the church.

Only years later did we learn of the looks of anxiety on our parents’ faces as they watched us swing the incense.  We didn’t know they were thinking back to the time when an older boy, Jim, got carried away with the thurible.  He swung it “around the world,” lost control and hit a pew where the ashes and burning incense flew out, landing in the lap of an elegantly dressed woman.  Her wild jumping around and screams still echo in my mind.

Sometimes, the pictures from our past make us forget what Easter actually means.  Whether it’s eggs or incense that spark your memories, the root of this Christian holiday -- holy day -- is found in an empty grave.  It is the day when we celebrate Jesus Christ’s resurrection from death three days after enduring an excruciating death on a cross.

Easter is the climax of a tense drama called Holy Week, one that begins on Palm Sunday with a triumphal entry for Jesus into Jerusalem, and progresses through Maundy Thursday (called Holy Thursday in some denominations) observing the night when Jesus broke bread and shared wine with his disciples -- and in so doing instituted Holy Communion.

From there, the faithful experience the pain of Good Friday, many -- like the churches of Hyde Park -- uniting to walk the “Way of the Cross.”  If you have never taken part, think about it.  Fourteen “stations” mark different stages of Jesus’ tortured journey to the cross.  Often parishes bring a large cross into the church for people to touch, to venerate, to remember what was sacrificed for us.

Then, the waiting.  Saturday comes and goes in quiet reflection, a sense of melancholy calling to mind the despair Christ’s disciples must have felt after their rabbi was killed.  Could there be any hope?

Finally, dawn breaks, and the tomb is empty.  Christians gather all around the world to celebrate that empty tomb.  For Christians, it means that death has no power -- that life is more than what we see in this world.  It goes on.  Always on.

Sometimes, we get caught up in the ceremony or the secular trappings, but the root of this Holy Day is always the same.  Resurrection.

The Community Walk of the Cross is on Good Friday at 10:30 a.m. starting at Regina Coeli Church.  Check your local church for other Holy Week and Easter services.

The Hudson Valley News is the new weekly newspaper for Hyde Park and the Hudson Valley.  It comes out each Wednesday.  You can purchase it at local vendors or purchase a subscription.