March 25, 2016 Comments Off on Fourteenth Station: Jesus Is Laid in the Tomb
Meanwhile, standing near the cross of Jesus were his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary Magdalene. When Jesus saw his mother and the disciple whom he loved standing beside her, he said to his mother, “Woman, here is your son.” Then he said to the disciple, “Here is your mother.” And from that hour the disciple took her into his own home.
After this, when Jesus knew that all was now finished, he said (in order to fulfill the scripture), “I am thirsty.” A jar full of sour wine was standing there. So they put a sponge full of the wine on a branch of hyssop and held it to his mouth. 30 When Jesus had received the wine, he said, “It is finished.” Then he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
The story of the last words of Jesus to his mother and the beloved disciple at the foot of the cross is, for me, one of the most moving and intriguing within the passion narratives. Every time I read this passage I cannot help but to be genuinely touched by this scene, by this image of our savior, of God incarnate, showing genuine love for his earthly mother. But despite these powerful images, is this the reaction that the Gospel writer wanted to encourage? Was John concerned with presenting to his community the humanity of Jesus and his love for his earthly family?
The value of the biological family is a complicated subject within the life and teachings of Jesus. On the one hand, the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke highlight the value of the holy family and commend both Joseph and Mary for their faith, courage, and virtue. On the other hand, Jesus’ teachings tend to highlight the importance of the “family of disciples” over that of traditional kin relationships. Given the complexity of Gospel attitudes regarding the concept of “family,” scholars debate the meaning and relevance of this Johannine passage. Some argue that Jesus’ words in his final moments of earthly existence demonstrate his genuine concern for the welfare of his mother, hence showing that Jesus valued familial relationships. Others point out, however, that because Mary often represented the church in late antique theology, and the beloved disciple, John, symbolized gentile Christians, Jesus’ words demonstrate his final teaching: that gentiles were to care for the Church, the “new family” of disciples.
At this point in my study of the Gospels, it is quite apparent that Jesus was creating a new kind of community, a community in which all people are seen as children of God, and hence as siblings of one another. Yet, when Jesus is looking down upon his grieving mother and turns to the beloved disciple for her care, I find it difficult to believe that Jesus, in this moment, is not looking upon Mary as his beloved mother, as the woman who raised him and loved him as her son. Perhaps, then, as Jesus utters his final teaching upon the cross, he is demonstrating that the earthly family and the spiritual family are not necessarily at odds with one another; but rather, that the earthly family is to be embraced by the spiritual family – the Church. And in doing so, the earthly family is transformed as it lovingly embraces new brothers and new sisters in accordance with the teachings of our savior. And maybe, when the earthly and spiritual come together as a single family, all shall indeed be “finished.”
– Alexander Herasimtschuk
March 25, 2016 § 1 Comment
Today is the Third Sunday in Lent, and I am preparing my spirit, heart, and mind to write my Lenten reflection. I am sitting in the chancel across from the painting from which I am supposed to write a meditation. I sit with it, and let my senses tell me what they experience.
I feel weight,
being pulled down,
and darkness on darkness.
The white elements of the painting
are pregnant with darkness,
wounded with death and dying ̶
brutal death, bloody dying.
The dark skin of Jesus is a painful reminder of who gets killed in our society, and I think to myself: “Black lives matter!” The dead, black body of Jesus comes to the forefront of the painting, and the white spectral figure of the mother moves to a second plane. How can this possibly be, painting-wise?
I tell myself,
There is more there to see.”
Besides the excellence of artistry of the painter, there is a socio-political-spiritual statement pointing out to us the poignancy of this moment.
The dead body of Jesus is being dropped
on Mary’s arms ̶
not carefully arranged ̶
with all its weight.
Yet, this is the Jesus story:
He died on the cross to redeem our sins and save the world. Meanwhile, the countless dead bodies of our black and brown brothers and sisters have been left on the streets for hours, have been hidden in a jail cell, or have been hung in the trees, as our shameful history of the lynching era reports.
This modern day Jesus,
with his Hanes underwear and a white mother, makes me think of our brother President Barack Obama and the irrational hate and rejection he continues to receive from those who are so afraid of losing their privilege, and, who like the Romans in Jesus’ times, want everything just for the 1% only.
This cross, made out of modern day’s regular lumber and the hanging sign with the star of David and the note “King of the Jews,” written with a modern day marker, make me think of the horrors of the Holocaust, and the constant attacks I hear day after day against immigrants, Muslims, the LGBT community, and my black and brown brothers and sisters.
This hanging sign, and this dead body, remind me of the many unnamed Trayvor Martins, Michael Browns and Eric Gardners of our most recent collective sorrows and social wounds. My heart breaks open and a river of despair and sadness comes out of it as I remember the unnamed Matthew Shepards and Sakia Gunns of the past twenty years or so.
This modern day sign is hanging with the same disdain, hatred, and scorn as the one directed at Jesus when he was hung on the cross. This modern day disdain, hatred, and scorn are the same as the one directed at Jesus when he was hung on the cross. This modern day madness is leaving me speechless, almost paralyzed.
The man in the back, holding the ladder used to untie Jesus right hand as he is about to untie the left hand, reminds me of today’s mobbing as I watch on TV during the mockery of primary elections for presidential nominees ̶ all those angry faces with angry slurs and angry thoughts.
The man in the background who is about to untie Jesus’ left hand is not a friend, he is not Joseph of Arimathea; he is rather someone saying to his mother: “Here is the dead body of your son; here is the body of a thug; here is the body of a transgressor; here is the body of your black son whose black life does not matter to me.” All the life that was there is now shattered; all the dreams and hopes are crashed forever.
The woman in the background to the left is crying. She is the real deal, yet, she is ignored ̶ she is sobbing and she is small like our outcry for justice and peace.
I see all of this and I tremble.
I am frightened.
is not a day
in which I can think of
the upward movement of the resurrection.
I face the brutality
of an unjust world
that grows even more unjust
by the minute.
I go down
to the depth of Hades;
today there is
no notion of hope.
I only see the blood shed:
I am stuck
in this everyday
– Anahi Galante
March 23, 2016 Comments Off on A View from the Sacristy: Maundy Thursday
On Maundy Thursday, we gather to remember the Lord’s last night on earth before his Passion. The liturgy of this night has some very special moments that we only perform on this night. One of the more dramatic is called the “Stripping of the Altar.” This comes at the very end of the service when all the ornament of the church is removed. At St Luke’s, where we cover our images throughout Lent, it makes the church very bare.
There are many explanations of why we do this: some say that we remember the Lord’s Passion by removing all the symbols of His joyful presence; others say that we join symbolically with the disciples in deserting the Lord during His Passion; some also say the Church is preparing to mourn the Lord’s death.
After the altar is left bare, the sacred minister, usually the rector, washes the altar. In some traditions a mixture of water and wine is used, at St Luke’s we use a mixture of Holy Water and Sacred Chrism. Chrism is made of olive oil and is scented with a sweet perfume, usually balsam. We use this sacred oil when anointing the newly baptized, the newly confirmed, and during our weekly healing service.
We use all the Holy Water and all the Sacred Chrism we have left since last year so that, at the Great Vigil of Easter, our bishop will bless new Holy Water and consecrate new Sacred Chrism. Holy Water is a living sign of Christ’s presence among use, as the Prayer Book says “the water of Baptism. In it we are buried with Christ in his death. By it we share in his resurrection. Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.” The consecration of the Sacred Chrism invites us to join with Christ in his ministry “those who are sealed with it may share in the royal priesthood of Jesus Christ.” The water and the oil are used to welcome people into the Christian family so it seems right that we use these two sacred elements to wash the altar that is the center of our common life together.
We not only pour the two sacred elements over the altar but then we use palm from Palm Sunday twisted into a knot to scrub the altar. If you remember during the blessing of the palm this past Sunday, we asked that the palm be a sign for us of Christ victory. So, even at the darkest time in the life of Christ we remember his Passion by using the signs and symbols of the Risen Christ; Holy Water, Sacred Chrism and blessed Palm.
– Sean Scheller
March 23, 2016 Comments Off on For the Golden Halo: Julian of Norwich vs. Dietrich Bonhoeffer
Yesterday’s results and today’s match up for the Golden Halo from Lent Madness:
We embarked upon this Lent Madness journey over five weeks ago on “Ash Thursday.” With your help we have narrowed the field of 32 saints down to just two: Julian of Norwich and Dietrich Bonhoeffer (who edged Sojourner Truth yesterday 52% to 48%). Who will win the coveted Golden Halo of Lent Madness 2016? Only 24 hours and your voting participation will reveal this holy mystery.
We also gave Bonhoeffer the win with a whopping 83% of the vote!
Remember: vote at Lent Madness here AND ALSO below the saint bios here so we see how the readers of the St. Luke in the Fields blog compare! Results of this match up will be reported the next day.
Julian of Norwich
“It appears to me that there is a deed that the Holy Trinity shall do on the last day…and how it shall be done is unknown to all creatures under Christ…This is the great deed ordained by our Lord God from eternity, treasured up and hidden in his blessed breast…and by this deed he shall make all things well.”
“There is no way to peace along the way of safety. For peace must be dared, it is itself the great venture and can never be safe. Peace is the opposite of security. To demand guarantees is to want to protect oneself. Peace means giving oneself completely to God’s commandment, wanting no security, but in faith and obedience laying the destiny of the nations in the hand of Almighty God, not trying to direct it for selfish purposes.”
March 22, 2016 Comments Off on Lent Madness: Dietrich Bonhoeffer vs. Sojourner Truth
Yesterday’s results and today’s match up from Lent Madness:
Our Lenten journey is rapidly drawing to a close, friends. Yesterday in a hotly contested matchup between Constance and Julian of Norwich, Julian prevailed 55% to 45%. She will meet the winner of today’s Faithful Four battle between Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Sojourner Truth for the Golden Halo.
We also gave Julian the win with 57% of the vote, but Constance fans stayed strong even chanting on Facebook.
Remember: vote at Lent Madness here AND ALSO below the saint bios here so we see how the readers of the St. Luke in the Fields blog compare! Results of this match up will be reported the next day.
As we begin Holy Week reflecting on the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a man whose lifetime could have overlapped mine if only he had been less courageous and committed to living a fully Christian life, I find myself queasy. Queasy over his gruesome death at Flossenbürg only days before that death camp would be freed by the allied soldiers. Queasy over my knowledge that much as I wish it weren’t true, I wouldn’t have his courage.
Bonhoeffer came from a privileged family where a life of music, scholarship and travel was the norm. Yet when the German Evangelical Church welcomed the Nazi regime into power, Bonhoeffer joined the “Confessing Church” in protest. He began teaching at Finkenwalde, a Confessing Church seminary. But in 1937 the Nazis declared the teaching of these students illegal. After two years of being banned from teaching and even from public speaking, Bonhoeffer left Germany to teach at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.
Within a few weeks he felt that he had made a mistake and made plans to return to his homeland. His New York friends, fearing for his safety, encouraged him to continue doing God’s work of teaching and preaching far from the threatening Nazi regime. But, he opted to go back to Germany knowing of the dangers.…Read more here.
When I started researching Sojourner Truth, I knew about what a 5th grader knows while doing a basic report for Black History Month: she was an ex-slave in early America, and gave a famous speech about women’s rights. She had that catch phrase, “Ain’t I a woman?” which made her sound folksy, like someone you’d want to drink a beer with.
What I did not expect was how stone cold brilliant she was. She spoke Dutch and English fluently. She spoke extemporaneously about political and social issues with more persuasion than men like Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. She carved out a place and a name for herself with little more than her wits. Her words remain as wise, as relevant, and as slyly funny as they were in the 19th century. (“Oh no, honey,” she said once. “I can’t read little things like letters. I read big things like men.”)
Sojourner was so prescient as to be eerie. Her advocacy of prison reform, for the abolition of capital punishment, for the rights of women, and for Black women specifically, reflect concerns that few others were talking about at the time, but would occupy American politics years in the future (and continue to occupy us today)....Read more here.
March 22, 2016 Comments Off on Dear People of God:
I hope everyone is having a meaningful Lent. It’s Holy Week and it’s time to hunker down, to press in, and to show up.
We hear echoes of tales Jesus told, and one of the themes which strikes me most at this time of year is the one where Jesus implores us to reinvent our relationship with God, and encourages us to talk to God like a friend, like a lover, sharing secrets, dreams, and cares. Henri Nouwen writes:
[He] came to us to help us overcome our fear of God. As long as we are afraid of God, we cannot [wholeheartedly] love God. Love means intimacy, closeness, mutual vulnerability, and a deep sense of safety. But all of those are impossible as long as there is fear. Fear creates suspicion, distance, defensiveness, and insecurity. The greatest block in the spiritual life is fear. Prayer, meditation, and education cannot come forth out of fear. God is perfect love, and as John the Evangelist writes, “Perfect love drives out fear.” Jesus’ central message is that God loves us with an unconditional love and desires our love, free from all fear, in return.
It’s interesting to me, there are a couple of times in the Church Year when we are directly addressed from the altar: For Lessons and Carols, whether at Advent or Christmastide:
“Beloved in Christ, in this season of [Advent], let it be our care and delight to prepare ourselves to hear again the message of the Angels, and in heart and mind to go even unto Bethlehem, to see the Babe lying in a manger…”;
then the biggie, on Ash Wednesday:
“Dear People of God: The first Christians observed with great devotion the days of our Lord’s passion and resurrection, and it became the custom of the Church to prepare for them by a season of penitence and fasting…I invite you, therefore, in the name of the Church, to the observance of a holy Lent, by self-examination and repentance; by prayer, fasting, and self-denial; and by reading and meditating on God’s holy Word…”
Other than private devotions or going to a daily Eucharist or communal Daily Office, it’s odd to me that in the Western tradition we have this empty space between the emotional high of The Sunday of the Passion (TWO services in ONE! Props! Anthems! Hymns! Collects! Sprinkling! Salutation! Procession! “Let us go forth in peace,” but don’t go ANYWHERE ! ‘cause we got a Eucharist ! WHEE ! “Ride on, ride on, in majesty! The angel armies of the sky look down with sad and wondering eyes to see the approaching Sacrifice”), and then nothing until Tenebrae (Latin for “shadows” or “darkness”), if that service is offered, or Maundy Thursday, and there are no further instructions, no additional bidding from the altar for services which are crucial, not only to our faith and our tradition but to our very spiritual survival, and nobody says a thing, it’s just listed in the service leaflet.
Anyway … it’s odd, to me, as we’re hanging here between Palm Sunday and the Easter-Holy-Paschal Triduum (Latin for “three days”) which begins with the liturgy on the evening of Maundy Thursday (the vigil of Good Friday) with the Foot Washing, the Reserving of the Sacrament, the Agapé Supper, the Stripping of the Altar, and the Vigil at the Altar of Repose; then the silence and contemplation, with the Solemn Collects, of Good Friday; then another sort of empty day with Holy Saturday prayers; and then the The Great Vigil of Easter which, seriously, how beautifully do we do that service, huh? and how GLORIOUS ! when we get to ring them bells, that there are no supplemental instructions. Until now …
On Sunday, March 20, 2016, in this silence with no official bidding from the altar, there came such a roar from the pulpit with preaching “so good that it knocked my socks off and right in to the washin’ machine down the hall,” as they say where I’m from, our very own Mother Posey Krakowsky issued some instructions. It took everything in me not to stamp my feet and scream when she finished. It put me in mind of something our Presiding Bishop, The Most Rev. Michael Curry, says in A Call to Follow Jesus:
“…being a Christian is not essentially about joining a church or being a nice person, but about following in the footsteps of Jesus, taking his teachings seriously, letting his Spirit take the lead in our lives, and in so doing, helping to change the world from our nightmare into God’s dream.”
Here is part of Mother Posey’s bidding:
“…We are … complicit in the Christian Hope. We are called to bear witness to God’s choice to share our human nature – to be deeply embedded in all of it – the joy and the grief of human life … what we will be doing this week is not performance art. It is not a theater event. It is not an historical re-enactment. We are not an audience watching a show. We are participants. We are involved. What this week IS is a chance for us … to intentionally encounter God’s loving embrace of the world. It is a call to no longer accept our systems as “how things are.” A call that offers us different ways to imagine how things can be. Join in the three-day liturgy of the Triduum as fully as you can. Make the choice to intentionally explore how Jesus is active in our lives right now, at this moment … Please, this week…Dive in. See where it takes you. Allow yourself to experience how Christ is present and working in your life – right here, right now.” (note: the entire sermon will eventually appear here: http://www.stlukeinthefields.org/sermons)
I will, with God’s help. Will you join me?
your pal dasch
March 21, 2016 Comments Off on Twelfth Station: Jesus Dies on the Cross
We’ve all had moments in our lives when it seems like something truly wonderful—even miraculous—is about to happen. There are times when it seems like all our dreams are about to come true. And then, in a matter of moments, something goes wrong, and it all comes undone. The dream we thought we were having becomes a nightmare.
At Easter, we often gloss over the moment of Jesus’ death. We think of Christ’s suffering, his humiliation, and the pain he went through. We often theologize, talking about Jesus’ death in terms of atonement, or in terms of redeeming the totality of human experience. We quickly hurry to the resurrection, eager to see the new life that arises from death. But Jesus’ death was bitterly disappointing.
Before jumping to resurrection and the promise of eternal life, let’s be brave enough to stand at the foot of the cross with the dead Christ. This week, take time to pause at this most painful station of the cross, and be with Jesus at the moment of his death.
– Stephen Lloyd