Sunday, April 25, 2010

Jesus’ Sheep Period - A Sermon

Great news from the land of goats – friends have been celebrating the births of several goats this weekend. Yippee!

I know, goats aren’t exactly sheep, but they’re close enough to remind us how much we see Jesus using sheep today. In fact, the entire chapter in which we find today’s Gospel is all about sheep. You can’t look at today’s passage without looking at the whole chapter where Jesus repeatedly says he is the Good Shepherd, and his sheep know his voice. You might call Chapter 10 Jesus’ Sheep Period (you know, like Picasso’s Blue Period).

You might call the lectionary for today a Sheep Period, too, since John is the author of Revelation as well as the gospel. John loves sheep.

So, what’s up with all the ovine language? Why does Jesus refer to everyone as sheep and himself as the shepherd? Why – in Revelation – is Jesus called a Lamb?

Well, maybe the Lamb is easy. After all, Lambs are innocent and are at times used as sacrifice. Jesus was innocent and was certainly sacrificed for us, right? We are all washed in the blood of the lamb. It reminds us of that Passover where the lamb’s blood was painted over the doors of the Israelites, and they were saved. Yes, we are still in Easter, celebrating our Passover.

The thing is, not only is Jesus the innocent victim, but he’s also the Shepherd.

Think of the Irony of being both Lamb and Shepherd – not just any shepherd but the Good Shepherd.

That’s like the Irony of being fully human and fully God.

We’ll never understand how the smart shepherd can share the same place as the not-so-bright sheep, or the sheep can become a leader (but look at Peter all the sudden). After Jesus ascends, Peter and the other apostles take on the roles of leadership – they become the shepherds even though they themselves felt lost.

How could they do that?

By listening. And recognizing the voice of their shepherd. The voice of the shepherd for sheep is a touchstone. It guides and comforts, gives structure and direction. Sheep aren’t that bright, but they know whom to trust.

And that’s what the apostles did. They listened. More, I suspect than merely with their ears, they listened with their hearts. They learned to say, “That doesn’t sound like Jesus” when evaluating a situation. Or they might say, “Now THAT sounds like our master,” when they decided upon an action.

You know how it is when someone is accused of something and you say, “That doesn’t sound like them.” Perhaps that’s how we might want to approach our lives of faith. After all, none of us is really all that smart.

But we can recognize our master’s voice, our shepherd’s voice. Assuming, of course, we know what his voice sounds like. Some days, I have a hard time knowing for sure. But I know what he doesn’t sound like. He doesn’t sound like greed or anger or hatred or fear. He doesn’t sound like someone who is self-serving or suspicious.

The Lamb who is our shepherd may even sound na├»ve in its insistence on answering injury with pardon, hatred with love. But that’s the voice we follow. It is only in following that voice that we will be brought home to the cool waters.

Like little lambs who are just learning their shepherds’ voices, sometimes we don’t quite hear Jesus in our daily lives. But like them, we keep listening, keep learning that voice. And in time, we will with certainty know which voice to follow.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Third Time's The Charm - A Sermon for 3 Easter, 2010

This is a loaded story full of great images and great lines. That whole fishing story with Jesus telling the professional fishermen how to fish – and then feeding them? Awesome.

And there are tons of things in this little story you want to take note of. The fact that fishing didn’t work for the disciples. The fact that this story looks an awful lot like the story of when Jesus called his disciples for the first time saying, “I will make you fish for people.” The fact that while they were hauling all that miraculous fish onto the shore, Jesus had already cooked them some fish (with bread), and that this meal of fish and bread might remind the reader of the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

But there’s one little line the evangelist slips in that I want to look at: “This was now the third time Jesus appeared to the disciples after he was raised from the dead. “

Why is that important?

To start off, three is always an important number in scripture. So something important is going on here. Come to think of it, if you ever notice in literature, food is always important, too. Important things always happen around food, so this scene is doubly important.

What that third appearance might say to us is that twice was not enough. The first two times Jesus appeared to them it was inside behind locked doors – about a week apart. In those first two visits, Jesus commissioned them, but it wasn’t enough. They still did not understand their mission, so they went back to what they knew – fishing.

It’s that third appearance that convinces them Jesus is really and truly back, and more importantly that his resurrection means something for their lives. Maybe after the first two appearances, they felt something like: “Well, it’s great Jesus rose, but now he’s gone again, and it didn’t really have any lasting impact on our lives now.” Anyone ever feel like that before?

So, this third visit lets them know they can’t go back to what they were before because they are no longer fishers of fish. They are fishers of people. Jesus can provide his own fish. He needs them to go out to the people. This third visit lets them know that they are to feed the people as Jesus fed them, not with bread alone but with the word of Christ’s love.

Something else happens in that third visit, however, that makes an even bigger impact on them, especially on Peter. Jesus asks him three times, “Do you love me?” and Peter answers three times, “Yes.” Many have said this is Jesus’ way of reminding Peter of his triple denial of Jesus on the night of his arrest, as well as a way of telling him all is forgiven.

But with the help of a tiny bit of Greek, you might see that there’s even more here. The first two times Jesus asks, he uses the Greek word “agape,” which means a deep abiding, selfless caring. But when Peter answers, “Yes, Lord, you know I love you,” he uses the word, “philia,” which means a loyal friendship, though it can be deep, too.

It’s only the third time of asking that Jesus changes his words: He asks, “Do you philia me?” and Peter, upset, says “Yes, I philia you.”

Why the different words? And why, on the third time, does Jesus change from agape to philia?

Perhaps, Peter just might not have agape within him at this point. Perhaps that deep, selfless love is just too much for him at this point in his journey. He’s been through a lot lately, remember, and he is just a young man, barely in his twenties – we tend to forget this. It is Jesus who changes his expectations this time. He says, in essence, “Philia is enough for now.”

And maybe the lesson for us is, even if you can’t love selflessly and deeply yet, Jesus will meet you where you are. Friendship is a good place to start.

I know a lot of people who don’t believe in God, or aren’t sure what they believe, but they like what they see in Jesus, and they even like some things that they see the church do.

Maybe it took those three appearances and those three questions to find out just where Peter stood, and for Jesus to know that while Peter was hardly on firm ground with his faith, it was enough for now. Peter and the other disciples would get other chances to live out their Agape for Jesus. They would spend their entire lives living it out. Without this third visit and those three questions, however, they might have sunk back into their old lives for good.

For them, the third time was the charm. Amen.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

God, Life and Everything - Feeling Their Pain

I write a column called "God, Life, and Everything" for the Hudson Valley News. The title reflects the broad scope I want to take. Everything in life falls under the eye of God, and if we watch carefully, we can catch a glimpse of God in it all.

Someone asked me recently if I would comment on the recent troubles in the Roman Catholic Church. The troubles I refer to are, of course, the scandals surrounding pedophile priests and alleged claims of cover-up –that could include the pope himself.

My response: How stupid do I look?

First of all, it’s not my denomination, and although this is more than merely a denominational tiff, it seems the discussion of how to reconcile things belongs within the denomination itself.

What’s more, the structure of the Roman Catholic Church is not the same as that of my church, so the mechanisms they use to deal with crimes and other misconduct are not known to me.

Am I covering my tail? Certainly. In a small town, you want to measure your words carefully.

And yet, I have enough Roman Catholic friends who have shared some of their pain with me that I feel I can at least reach out a hand of comfort and say, in the words of one of our past presidents, “I feel your pain.”

What I have heard mostly are words of disappointment and uncertainty. Some have wondered if they can trust their leaders or if the institution exists merely to perpetuate itself rather than share the love of Christ.

I’ve heard it all before – in my own denomination.

In fact, I would also bet nearly every denomination has experienced the shock and heartbreak of realizing that their chosen leaders have not always lived the life they so piously proclaimed. You don’t have to go too far back in church history to see other examples: Bureau of Indian Affair schools run by our church that took children away from their families and forced them to give up their cultural heritage spring to mind.

More currently, we see the fights over ordination of women and gays. Those are still raising hackles around the world.

And, of course, it’s a good bet that every denomination has had plenty of sexual scandals. Even if we can’t relate to what has been going on in the hierarchy of Rome, most of us can recognize the pain, frustration, and yes, embarrassment of the parishioners

I’ve been on the listening end of the line with my mother enough times when the church – our church – has upset her to know that when the leadership messes up, it’s often the laity who have to do all the explaining to their friends and colleagues. They also often have to sort out the difference between faith and institution – theology and misconduct.

Just so I’m clear on this, pedophilia is bad. Making excuses or covering it up is bad. They cannot be ignored, and I suspect Roman Catholic leaders understand they must address the past even as they review their current policies and practices.

But as I said, that’s between them and – to whatever degree is required – the legal system. And of course, it's always between them and God.

I think it’s important for everyone else to remember that in some way, shape or form, we’ve all been there, and it’s no fun. Maybe this is a good time to just be a friend with a willing ear to those who want to unload some of their pain. Actually, when you come to think of it, that’s not a bad way to approach life most of the time.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

S’mikhah - A Sermon for April 11, 2010

You know how a word gets stuck in your head and you can’t get it out? You go around all day saying it to yourself, hoping nobody notices? The writer James Thurber wrote about getting the name “Perth Amboy” stuck in his head when he was a boy. He spent an entire night saying Perth Amboy until his parents came to his room wondering if he had a fever and was delirious.

For me this week, that word is “s’mikhah.” Earlier this week I was teaching a class for Marist College’s Center for Lifelong Studies, about Jesus as rabbi. So there I am talking about the history of rabbis when I realize half the class is Jewish.

When I get to the word s’mikhah one little old ladies says, “Dear, that’s not how you say it. It’s s’mikhah.”

S’mikhah,” I repeat.

“No, s’mikhah.” Back and forth we go till she’s satisfied I can say it right. So for the rest of the week, I’m saying s’mikhah to myself.

Now, you have probably already guessed that s’mikhah is Hebrew and has something to do with rabbis. But what does it mean? It means “authority.”

Not just any authority, mind you, but a divine authority. It’s a word used today that means the authority given to a rabbi to teach and preach. In Jesus’ day, it was a word given to those sages who had authority to interpret scriptures. They were the traveling rabbis who went out into the world and took on disciples. They were the cream of the religious crop as it were.

This is the sort of authority we see bestowed upon the disciples in today’s Gospel. While most of the disciples are gathered together, Jesus shows up and sends them out. Remember, he has been their rabbi, their traveling sage, and they have been his disciples following him around. He has not only been teaching them but, in the model of those traveling sages, has been molding them into his own likeness.

Now they are ready. He has risen from death and is now preparing them for the day he will leave for good. So he comes to them and says, “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” Then he breathes the Holy Spirit onto them – remember, in John, there is no day of Pentecost. THIS is when they receive the Holy Spirit, the power to do God’s will.

This is their authority, the s’mikhah. As a mark of that authority, Jesus says, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” That’s power. That’s authority. The fact that Jesus repeats this action later – so that Thomas doesn’t miss it – shows just how important it is. None of them should be left out, and this authority comes directly from the risen Christ himself.

You see this authority at work later in the Acts of the Apostles. There they are preaching despite the orders of the Sanhedrin, the legal counsel. So, the Sanhedrin have them arrested and they demand to know why the apostles are still evangelizing. Peter, the bold one, stands up and says, “We must obey God rather than any human authority.”

It’s like that old Hebrew National hot dog commercial: We answer to a higher authority. The authority of the Sanhedrin is not s’mikhah. It’s governmental – human authority. They are filled with a purpose given directly by God, and no human authority will stop them.

This is all wonderful, but who cares? You do. You care because you have s’mikhah. Not the same kind that a modern rabbi has, but you have authority all the same. Remember when we baptized those kids last week? Remember, we said, “Confess the faith of Christ crucified, proclaim his resurrection, and share with us in his eternal priesthood.”

By virtue of your baptism, YOU have authority to confess the faith of Christ crucified, to proclaim his resurrection and to share in his eternal priesthood. You are the priests of Christ. No human authority can ever take that away from you.

The only question is, will you embrace your s’mikhah? My guess is, some days yes, and some days no.

But now the word is stuck in your mind, just as Christ’s s’mikhah is stuck in your soul. It’s going to be awfully hard to let go of it. Amen.

God, Life and Everything - Now What?

I write a column called "God, Life, and Everything" for the Hudson Valley News. The title reflects the broad scope I want to take. Everything in life falls under the eye of God, and if we watch carefully, we can catch a glimpse of God in it all.

Happy Easter! Find your eggs? Your chocolate? Your basket?

If you are one who For the faithful, did you go to church Easter morning and celebrate the resurrection? Alleluia! Christ is risen!

Now what?

Seriously, and forget about the eggs and chocolate – a little mayo and mustard makes lovely deviled eggs, and no chocolate lasts more than fifteen minutes in our house, so problem solved.

Now, what about the resurrection part? For many Christians, Easter is not just a day but a season, fifty days long. That’s the number of days Jesus walked the earth after rising from death. In those days, he taught the disciples his final lessons before sending them out to their respective destinies.

So in these fifty days of Easter, what instruction can we take? What destinies – or missions if you will – can we imagine for ourselves? What do we do with this risen Christ?

First of all, I think we can rest a little. Every pastor I know is breathing a collective sigh of relief that the manic pace of Holy Week and the hoopla of Easter morning are over. It’s kind of like the cast of a play after closing night. Job well done and rest well deserved.

Beyond that, rest in the risen Christ makes sense. As Christians, we rest in the knowledge that God really does love us, that nothing we do can make God stop loving us, and that Christ’s example shows us how death is merely a doorway through which we pass on our way to something more.

But you can’t just rest all your life. Aside from being boring, that would make a mockery of the gift. I used to play pickup hockey with some friends, and even though we kept score for most of the game, near the end someone would shout “All tied up!” – from that point on no score was kept, it was endless 0 - 0.

You might think that defeated the point of the game, but I think in those final minutes, players showed more creativity, used more energy and had more fun than in the rest of the game. Why? Because you weren’t penalized for messing up, so you could go out on a limb.

That’s how I see the resurrection. Now that we know the end of our story – we live, we die, we receive eternal life enjoying God’s love – we are free to experiment with that love. We can see what it’s like to forgive, to get out of our comfort zone and reach out to people who are not like us. We can play with new ways of healing broken relationships and broken justice systems. We can do it on a personal level and on a societal level.

That’s the gift of Easter – we can boldly go about trying to share God’s love knowing that if we screw up, nobody’s keeping score.

So, what do we do now that the resurrection has taken place? Rest, then Play!

 

 

The Egg - A Sermon for Easter

Note: This is more of a sermon outline. Sorry. Easter got kind of busy.

Did you go Easter egg hunting this morning? I did! See? I found one egg! See? It is a biggie, isn’t it?

The funny thing is, all it has for decoration is a big A. I figured, since I gave up chocolate for Lent, that A could stand for only one thing: Grade A Chocolate! I got so excited, I could hardly wait to open it, but I figured I’d save it to open it with you – you’d think an egg this big ought to have enough for us all, right? Let’s open. [opens]

It’s…empty.

You know. Not even a hint about what that A means. I come here expecting this thing to be full – and it’s empty. Have you ever heard of such a thing?

Oh. You have. And now that you mention it, so have I. Women, 2,000 years ago, came looking for something a lot bigger than an egg. And when they got there, they found it was empty, too.

But they weren’t disappointed. At first, they were terrified.

And I suppose you would be too if you were expecting to find a body and found it empty. Even more so if you then found a couple of angels (or at least guys in blazing white robes) standing before you.

Now, what did it mean that they found the tomb empty?

It means that Jesus is risen!

And that means several things:

a. Death did not defeat him

b. He is the Son of God

c. Everything he taught during his time on earth is true

d. His death shows God’s love for us as his resurrection shows its eternal quality

These are so big, so important, so wonderful that we greet them with a word that means …Praise the Lord! We haven’t said since Lent started – it begins with – A.

Wait a minute, this egg has an A – could it be? Maybe if we help it along, it’ll give us the rest of that word. Read? (open) Alleluia!

History Lesson - A Sermon for the Easter Vigil

If you’ve been following the news, then you’ve heard about the controversy over the Texas Board of Education’s changing history. They approved all sorts of changes that reflect their own political views rather than actual history.

I know, you’re shocked. On the other hand, is that really new? No. People have been doing that for eons. Why, look at the ancient Egyptian history columns called steles. They always manage to have a version of Egyptian history where the pharaoh is wonderful and strong and always victorious. Look at them, and you’ll see the pharaoh never loses a battle.

But history can be real – and true. The lessons you heard tonight -- our Salvation History for example. It was no less true before Jesus than it was after.

Look what we have.

Creation – God made the world maybe not exactly as it’s described here, but the point is that God made it and in doing so gave us everything we need to thrive.

Abraham/Isaac – If you know the story, you’ve got Abram who has no god suddenly called to be God’s guy – nothing asked of him at first, just faithfulness. I know this story, this test, sounds like a gruesome way to prove loyalty, but that’s not really what it was, is it? Here we have God showing how painful it can be to lose one’s child – especially when it means you are the one responsible for it. This is a precursor to God’s own sacrifice of his son. More than that, Abraham’s near sacrifice of Isaac makes it clear to the world that this sort of sacrifice is no longer necessary, that God provides all the sacrifice that is necessary.

Moses – brings his people into safety. Life is not easy, but at the right time, we are brought through the waters.

Dry Bones – When we think all is lost, God gives life.

These stories, our history, tell how God never makes it easy but never ever abandons us. That God’s love is the point of our being here in the first place, and that its reward is nothing less than God.

This is the same story we see and know in Jesus. In him, God is one of us. Loving us intensely. In him, we see that no sacrifice is ever necessary to earn God’s love – it is freely given and can never be taken away. In him, we are saved from the waters of despair and meaninglessness. IN him, we are given life – even as he rises again from death, so we are given new life when we feel we are lost.

The Salvation History tells us what we already know. God is love, we are loved. And that love is good.

The way the story is told may not be exact – but it is entirely true.

 

Passion - A Sermon for Good Friday

We read the Passion Gospel today. Every time I hear that phrase, “Passion Gospel,” my mind races to that Mel Gibson movie several years ago. You remember, “The Passion of the Christ.”

My recollection of it was that it was essentially a festival of violence by Romans against Jesus. If you saw it, all I can say is, there was very little in that movie that resembled the Passion Gospel.

If I can step away from that movie, however, then the word Passion holds all sorts of other images for me. Lovers. Crusaders. People who really love what they do – who have a passion for something.

That’s because for most of us, passion means a deep and abiding interest and even love for something. We think of being really into something. You’re passionate about it, whether it’s a hobby, a person or an idea. You give up a lot to do it.

There’s something else about passions. You will give up a lot in order to pursue that passion. You will give up money, comfort, even safety. That’s almost a prerequisite for passion – the willingness to suffer for your object of passion.

Good thing, too, because the Latin root for passion (and patience, by the way) means to endure or suffer. So passion connects two seemingly incompatible things – Love and suffering.

That’s why we call Jesus’ crucifixion his Passion. It is suffering, but it’s suffering for a reason, something God feels strongly about. That something is Us.

Let’s not pretend that Jesus did not know what he was getting in to. He understood the politics of the Romans and the Sanhedrin. He understood the powder keg that was Jerusalem during Passover. He understood what it meant to be the Passover Lamb.

But he also understood God’s great love for this imperfect group of people he calls his children. He understood the separation we had allowed to grow between us and God. And he understood that a selfless act of sacrificial love was pretty much the only way for us to grasp how much we mean to God – and how God hopes we will relate to him.

Jesus had – has – a passion for us. And for us, he was willing to give up a lot – comfort, safety, life itself.

Today we remember the passion. Let us remember that it is an abiding passion for us, and that we are invited to have it, too. It could conceivably cause us discomfort at times, but like every passion, we can put up with the sacrifices because what we love is so very worth it. And we know this because Jesus led the way. Amen.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

The Yuck Factor - A Sermon for Maundy Thursday

As a young father, I found myself often repeating this little mantra: “I am not afraid of poop.” At that point in your life, there is nothing quite so real as a dirty diaper. It engages pretty much all your senses, especially if the diaper is still wrapped around a squirming, screaming baby.

If you’ve ever changed one, you know what I mean. You are going to smell, see, and probably hear, and yes, feel that poop. This is the Yuck Factor. I still have nightmares about it.

You might ask yourself, “Why do it if it’s so yucky?” Of course, you would only ask that if you never had children or perhaps if you were my father who grew up in a family where men did not do such things. All other people know why I would change that diaper: Because that is my child, and my child needs my help.

Seriously, am I going to let a little poop stop me from taking care of my child? No. Neither would you. We don’t because we love our children. When you have someone you love, you do whatever is necessary to keep them safe and healthy. When kids get older, sometimes that means letting them make horrendous messes so that they can learn how to do get along in the world.

The point is that the yuck factor does not rule us when we know what we have to do for those we love. Tonight’s lessons are about overcoming the yuck factor for real and big reasons.

Look at the Old Testament – the Passover. Slaughtering lambs, spreading their blood on the doorpost. That’s not normal even for back then. The first born sons all dying? Not normal? It’s beyond yuck – it’s disturbing. But Moses and the people of Israel do it because it is necessary to preserve the lives of their loved ones. They get beyond the grossness. And each year afterward, they reenacted that night, yucky as it might be, to remind them how much God loved them.

The same might be said of the washing of the feet. That’s a little more immediate because we will wash feet tonight. But even then on that night when Jesus wrapped that towel around his waist and washed his disciples’ feet – even then, they were appalled. That was the work of slaves – because it is yucky, gross work. Why should he, the master, do it?

His answer? Because he was showing them how they should live. They should get beyond the yuck factor so they can serve the children of God. They would have to learn to spend time with lepers and the poorest of the poor, to raise the dead and generally spend their lives with those who are looked at in polite society with one hand holding the nose.

Jesus was saying something very simple: You are here to serve. Get used to it. Don’t be squeamish – are you going to let a little dirt and smell stop you from caring for the people God puts in your path? No!

You might consider overcoming your yuck response tonight and have your feet washed. It’s not a soap-and-water thing – just a reminder that we are called to overcome our fears of yuck – and many other things – in order to serve.

There’s just one more thing in tonight’s lessons that can elicit that yuck response in some. While they were at table, Jesus took bread and broke it, and he took the cup and shared it. He said, “Take, Eat, this is my body and blood.” Body and blood? Yuck.

In fact, early Romans used to think Christians were disgusting because of the bread and wine. Today, the yuck factor usually comes from the idea of drinking out of the same cup. Eww. Germs!

But this is different. It is not something we are doing for others but God feeding us. Aside from the studies that show it’s safe, wouldn’t it be a shame to forego such food and drink, such a sign of God’s love for us?

The word for tonight, then, is Yuck. And overcoming. Because when we do, we can not only share God’s love but be fed by it. Amen.

 

God, Life and Everything - Holy Week

I write a column called "God, Life, and Everything" for the Hudson Valley News. The title reflects the broad scope I want to take. Everything in life falls under the eye of God, and if we watch carefully, we can catch a glimpse of God in it all.

Maybe it’s just me, but some of my best memories of Holy Week as a child have a lot to do with using palms (from Palm Sunday) as swords to whack my brothers. Sober piety? Not so much.

In my parents’ home, we went to all the services of Holy Week. Palm Sunday with our procession around the block – yes around the entire city block with the entire congregation – before re-entering the church. Maundy Thursday with that most embarrassing ritual called Washing the Feet. Good Friday with its boring readings.

We even went to the Easter Vigil which, at midnight, was too late for me to remember much of – only that once I poked my brother in the ribs and said, “Hey, look! It’s tomorrow!” I believe his response was a well placed dope slap.

For me, despite all that church, it was the palm sword fights and coloring Easter Eggs. I know, the eggs have nothing to do with Christ’s resurrection, but we had a large family, and it was a tradition so we, like many, mixed our Easter Message. We still do, and I don’t care. The eggs are fun, so there.

But I digress.

As I grew, one of the most powerful moments of my adolescence was the night I was allowed to sit vigil on Maundy Thursday. In our tradition, we watch in the church from just after the evening’s service through the night and up to the time of Jesus’ crucifixion the next day. People take it in turns to sit and pray in the church.

The year my parents allowed me to go with my brother, palm swords flew right out of my mind. In fact, that time nearly alone in the darkened church, with those few others sitting there in silence, may have been the time when Holy Week came alive for me. There was something terrible and beautiful about waiting there. Waiting for what we knew from Sunday School would come next. Jesus would be whipped and spit upon and killed in a horrifying manner.

But in that waiting, I felt a calmness, too. It was the sense that all was well despite the sadness of Good Friday and the chaos of the world around us (Vietnam was just ending). Sitting there with Jesus gave me the sense that entertained and safe all the time was just not so important anymore. There were things worth going out on a limb for.

I would not say my whole life changed in that darkened church that first time I sat vigil. Easter came, and we flowered the cross and hunted for eggs. My brothers and sisters were still alternately heroes and villains. I still got in trouble far more than I deserved (says I, not my parents). But I would say that Holy Week changed for me from Palm swords to a cross. And maybe, just a little, I began to understand God’s love.

I wish for you a similar Holy Week of mysterious moments where God’s love becomes real and powerful.

Most churches have services throughout Holy Week. Check your congregation’s schedules. And join the combined churches of Hyde Park on Good Friday at 10:30 AM as we walk the stations of the cross together. We start at Regina Coeli, walk throughout town and end up at Hyde Park Reformed Dutch Church.