A Prayer for Easter Morning

Father God,

We come to you today as a family of the broken, the humbled, the weak and the victorious. We have walked down dark paths and through dark places. We have been wounded, we have been lost and we have been foolish. Yet no matter how hopeless or empty our spirit’s dwelling places have been, Easter morning is always there speaking victory to us.

Where we have been overwhelmed by sin, the empty grave tells us of victory over sins that have wounded us and sins we have wounded others with. Where we have been terrified by insecurity, want and uncertainty the empty grave speaks of victory that is always secure and a future that is always certain and abundant in every good thing. Where we have been brought low by despair and hopelessness, the empty grave shines through to assure us that however low life can bring us, that is as high as God will raise us.

Today we gather in our broken, humble, weak and victorious families to bask in the risen light of the world.  We ask that you allow the Spirit of Christ to permeate our being and nourish our souls through the season of growth and change which lies ahead.

And when we again find ourselves in those hopeless and empty places of life, we will thank you and praise you nonetheless because you are not the God of death and sorrow and despair. You are the God of the empty grave. Our victory has been won, our future has been made secure. No matter the cross we carry or the darkness of the hell we journey through, that empty grave continues to testify to victory. Today we rejoice that our God is love and peace and joy and hope always and everywhere. Bless us, sustain us and restore us in Jesus the Christ who reigns in glory until the age of the ages.

And all God’s people say – Amen and Amen!

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Waiting on Easter

I was raised Roman Catholic which means that I cannot go through Holy Week without feeling the urge to do something. Go to mass everyday. Attend the stations of the cross. And, of course, Holy Thursday communion (the mass most likely to make you cry every year). Even after I left Catholicism, Holy Week continued to be a time of increased spiritual activity. Get some palm leaves. Hold a fake seder. Do a special devotional. Consider doing footwashing with the kids. Cut back on Friday’s dinner and call that sort of like fasting in honor of the day. Things like that.

I don’t know why other people do these things, but my urge was always driven by a need to make it real. To make those strange, confusing, important events of 2000 years ago seem real. Because maybe if those things become real to me, then God could be real enough for me to be satisfied.

The thing with religion and scriptures is that they take on this flatness after a while. We no longer understand the elements of the story well enough to really understand it, but we keep repeating it anyways. Which makes it unreal. So we try various ways of putting flesh and bones on the stories. We meditate on the cross. We dress our preschool son up as a scourged Jesus on the cross. If you’re particularly desperate, you allow yourself to be faux-crucified so you can experience it all yourself. Or watch a gory movie about it. (I’ve never seen Passion of the Christ, btw. I was raised Catholic, so I just didn’t see the need.)

At any rate, this year, I find that my urge to participate in holy week has disappeared. This morning I wondered if I should plan something for dinner tonight with the kids and I thought, “no. It’s too sad and ugly a story to go through right now. I’m not up for sad and ugly right now.” Continue reading

The Injured Easter Bird

Once upon a time, there was a farmer who decided not to go to church on Easter Morning. He’d been going his whole life, but a few years earlier he had decided that he was old enough to stop pretending that what went on in church was important enough to get up early for on his only day off.

This year his wife had harrumphed when he announced that he wasn’t even going to keep up the bare minimum of appearances required to be a Chreaster (a person who attends church only on Christmas and Easter). The whole thing was ridiculous, he said in his calm, practical way. If there was a God, which there could be, despite the utter lack of evidence, why would he or she care so much what we did? Why didn’t God just show up in the sky every few years to confirm his existence and provide some clear, practical instructions for us to follow? Why all the drama? Why ask us to believe that some guy who probably didn’t bathe regularly was actually God and that his gruesome death provides for our salvation? Ridiculous.

He suspected that his wife thought much the same, but held on to religion almost out of superstition. Sort of like knocking on wood when you say something that could come back to haunt you. You know it can’t really do anything to protect you, but it’s such a small gesture to make. Might as well not take the risk in case there is some truth to it after all.

So his wife rolled her eyes at his little outburst and got up for Easter service all by herself. She didn’t put any particular effort into being quiet about it, though. She knew he was a light sleeper and had been awake from the moment threw back her covers with a little extra force while getting out of bed and went to the shower humming loudly. He said not a word through her entire performance, but she knew he was only pretending to be asleep when she left. And came back in to grab something she forgot before leaving again. Just to be sure he wasn’t actually still asleep when she left.

After the third time his wife had left, the farmer waited a long moment before peeking out the window to watch her car pull out the driveway. He’d said his piece and the conversation was over. But he knew that sometimes his wife needed a little time to adjust to not getting her way. Better to feign sleep than get drawn into a pointless argument over it.

Just as his wife’s car drove past the mailbox, a bird flew right into the window he was looking out of. The farmer was so startled, it took him a moment to realize what had happened. He looked down and saw a small downy woodpecker laying on its back on the ground below the window. He tried looking to see if the bird was breathing. He was too far away to tell, of course. But just as he realized that he’d have to go down and look if he wanted to know, he remembered the barn cats. He quickly put on a shirt and rummaged around the top shelf of the closet until he found an old shoe box. Continue reading

Join Me for Lent

When I was 14 I gave up swearing for Lent. And I actually broke the habit entirely for a few months. But that summer I got a job working in a hot, humid greenhouse with a bunch of crabby old ladies who smoked and swore all day long. I’m glad to report that the smoking didn’t rub off on me. I tried giving up swearing again for Lent the next year, but after a few days I decided that it didn’t really count as giving something up if you just kept doing it anyways. So I switched to chocolate. Which is just as well. I happen to love swearing and consider it a valuable life skill. (Recently I left a comment on a blog explaining why I have no problem being a swearing Christian and the first person who responded told me that I should take a logic class before deigning to speak again. He signed his name with his degrees behind it. It was quite amusing all around.)

So anyways, I no longer give things up for Lent, but I do often try to pick up a specific Christian discipline for the season. Now, I know that some of you come from church backgrounds where Christian discipline involves spiritual abuse and lots of meetings with the pastor. Rest assured, that’s not the sort of Christian discipline I’m talking about. Rather, Christian disciplines are simply specific practices which one engages in with the intent of deepening your faith life. It could be fasting, praying the Jesus prayer, engaging a spiritual director, using the book of common prayer, meditation or walking a prayer labyrinth to name just a few examples.

This year I’m going to be doing morning and evening offices through the season of lent – and I’d like to invite you to join me. For those of you who aren’t familiar, Daily offices or Divine hours as they are also known come out of monastic communities which structure their day around prayer services which take place at set hours each day. The practice is said to date back to the Apostles and comes out of the Jewish practice of saying prayers at set times. (For example, in the Book of Acts, Peter and John visit the temple for afternoon prayers. – Acts 3:1) Aside from monastic communities, the practice of “keeping the hours” as it’s sometimes called, is often associated with high church Episcopalians. But any Christian can use/do them. In case you were wondering.

Basically an office is a prayer service which includes prayers, readings from the psalms, scripture, maybe a meditation and a hymn. Some communities use the same prayers each day while changing the scripture readings each day. Others use different prayers or cycle through a set of prayers over the course of a week or month. If this all sounds confusing – it’s not. Unless you’re the poor soul charged with actually putting these services together. For those of us who are simply showing up to join in, it’s very easy. So easy, in fact, that you don’t even have to leave your house. Hell, you don’t even have to get off the computer! There are a variety of places which put up the day’s readings and prayers online. You can just read along at your own pace in your own time. Some even include audio files if you would like to listen or recite them out loud along with a prayer leader.

Of course, this may all sound a wee bit high churchy for some folks. And perhaps you’re wondering why you ought to do such a thing. Well, let me give you three reasons:

Continue reading

A Prayer for Easter Morning

Father God,

We come to you today as a family of the broken, the humbled, the weak and the victorious. We have walked down dark paths and through dark places. We have been wounded, we have been lost and we have been foolish. Yet no matter how hopeless or empty our spirit’s dwelling places have been, Easter morning is always there speaking victory to us.

Where we have been overwhelmed by sin, the empty grave tells us of victory over sins that have wounded us and sins we have wounded others with. Where we have been terrified by insecurity, want and uncertainty the empty grave speaks of victory that is always secure and a future that is always certain and abundant in every good thing. Where we have been brought low by despair and hopelessness, the empty grave shines through to assure us that however low life can bring us, that is as high as God will raise us.

Today we gather in our broken, humble, weak and victorious families to bask in the risen light of the world.  We ask that you allow the Spirit of Christ to permeate our being and nourish our souls through the season of growth and change which lies ahead.

And when we again find ourselves in those hopeless and empty places of life, we will thank you and praise you nonetheless because you are not the God of death and sorrow and despair. You are the God of the empty grave. Our victory has been won, our future has been made secure. No matter the cross we carry or the darkness of the hell we journey through, that empty grave continues to testify to victory. Today we rejoice that our God is love and peace and joy and hope always and everywhere. Bless us, sustain us and restore us in Jesus the Christ who reigns in glory until the age of the ages.

And all God’s people say – Amen and Amen!

For Good Friday and Easter

Yesterday on beliefnet.com, the blogger Chattering Mind asks if we need to/should accept Jesus’ literal resurrection as fact. She seems inclined to the Borg train of thought in which one makes up something more suitable, albeit without any supporting evidence besides one’s own conjurings like Jesus being alive in our hearts, rather than physically alive. I was going to leave a comment, but I couldn’t figure out a way to say it succinctly and decided to leave it to God. Today on slate.com, Rev. Chloe Breyer offers a wonderful explanation of why we can believe in Jesus’ physical resurrection and why it matters that he was physically resurrected.
I would add just a bit more to her essay. I think it matters that Jesus was resurrected because it matters so much that he shared suffering with humanity. It is a wonderful comfort that our God does not just sit on high, but stooped low to experience the same struggles and sufferings which we have in this life. We can know that we are understood, that we can go on, that God does not turn away from our suffering spirits, but embraces them. However, if that was all that he did, God would be no more than a rich man who sloughed off his lifestyle for a while to live with those in the gutters. All good and well, but what does that mean for those left in the gutters who do not have a mansion and nice clothes to return to? Because Jesus rose in the physical state which he chooses to share with us, and not just in some spiritual-metaphysical state of glory we do not share with him, we know there is hope for us. Paul teaches that because we share in Jesus’ sufferings, we will also share in his resurrection. We know that our lives too can be a miracle, that death cannot and will not triumph over us either, that the suffering we see on the cross is not the end of the story. It is hope that the resurrection gives us. It is hope for the person who will never escape their miseries in this world. We know that even if we never escape or rise above the suffering of this world, there is resurrection – real life – that we have to look forward to with Christ. One of the first bible verses I ever committed to memory was Jesus preparing his disciples for his impending death by telling them, “I tell you these things that you might have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) While these are nice words, it is the reality of the resurrected Jesus which allows us to live in the peace he desires for us, knowing as he did when he spoke these words that there is more that awaits us than suffering and death and the memory of nicely words spoken.