“Seven Stanzas at Easter” ~ John Updike

Make no mistake: if He rose at all
it was as His body;
if the cells’ dissolution did not reverse, the molecules
reknit, the amino acids rekindle,
the Church will fall.

It was not as the flowers,
each soft Spring recurrent;
it was not as His Spirit in the mouths and fuddled
eyes of the eleven apostles;
it was as His flesh: ours.

The same hinged thumbs and toes,
the same valved heart
that–pierced–died, withered, paused, and then
regathered out of enduring Might
new strength to enclose.

Let us not mock God with metaphor,
analogy, sidestepping, transcendence;
making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the
faded credulity of earlier ages:
let us walk through the door.

The stone is rolled back, not papier-mâché,
not a stone in a story,
but the vast rock of materiality that in the slow
grinding of time will eclipse for each of us
the wide light of day.

And if we will have an angel at the tomb,
make it a real angel,
weighty with Max Planck’s quanta, vivid with hair,
opaque in the dawn light, robed in real linen
spun on a definite loom.

Let us not seek to make it less monstrous,
for our own convenience, our own sense of beauty,
lest, awakened in one unthinkable hour, we are
embarrassed by the miracle,
and crushed by remonstrance.

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Readings for the Week of March 31

Ps 22Phil 2:5-11Mk 14:32 – 15:39Is 52:13-53:12

“Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grand that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.”

This Sunday is Palm Sunday. (Palm Saturday at Wheatland) You can read about the origin of this celebration here:  Mark 11:1-11. Palm Sunday is a double edged sword. On the one hand it is a day on which we should rejoice. The Messiah is being heralded by those he came to save. Waving the Palm branches and shouting “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in name of the Lord!” is our affirmation of the Messiahship, the Lordship, of Jesus Christ.

On the other hand the palm branches we wave will deteriorate. They will grow dry and brittle and eventually crumble into dust. They then become for us the ashes we smear on our foreheads at the beginning of the Lenten season. We wave the green, lively branch on Palm Sunday as our faith stands firm. That same branch is the ash of repentance. Those green branches symbolized the faith of the people of Jerusalem heralding their deliverer. Their faith in him was inspiring, fresh and true. A few days later those same palm branch waving faithful shouted “crucify him!”

As we wave the branches this year may we be reminded that is the faith of Christ through us that empowers our faithfulness. As watch them crumble of the year may we be reminded that is Christ’s faith that preserves us in and through our weakness.

St. John of Chrysostom’s Easter Homily

The Paschal Homily of St. John of Chrysostom

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward. Continue reading

Resurrection: The Death of Death

This icon is an image of the resurrection of Christ. In addition, it also refers to what some call the “harrowing of hell”. If you look closely, below Jesus feet, you’ll see objects that look something like keys and locks. The ground is cracked open, the background to the keys and locks is black and Jesus stands above it on two boards which represent the cross. The resurrection of Christ reminds us that God, in Christ, has defeated death, hades and hell.

Living the resurrection means that we must remind ourselves that not only are our sins forgiven but that the very power of sin, death itself, was destroyed the resurrection of Christ.

Holy Week: Holy Saturday

After hearing Jesus quote from Psalm 22 it is likely that some of those witnessing the crucifixion, finished the Psalm in their own minds. Many pious Jews had large sections of the Psalter committed to memory. It is believed that many Jews, including Jesus, had the entire Psalter (150 Psalms) memorized.

A tradition arose in the early church that Jesus quoted all of the Psalter from Psalm 22-31:5 while on the cross. The first three Gospels record his final words as “My God, My God why have you forsaken me?” a direct quote from the first verse of Ps. 22. John’s Gospel has Jesus’ final words recorded as, “Into your hands I commit my spirit” from Ps. 31:5. It’s not hard to see how this tradition developed.

However, it doesn’t matter how much more of the Psalms Jesus quoted than those recorded in the Gospels. They remain a wonderful example for us to follow. The Psalms are great companions and the perfect guides to prayer when we are under duress. When going through such horrible experiences, praying the Psalms allows us to identify more closely with Christ by praying the very prayers he prayed. Holy Saturday is a day that defies explanation.

On this day that we remember Christ in his grave may we be reminded to allow our suffering to be transformed through fellowship with him.

Psalm 130
Psalm 22
Psalm 31:1-5

Holy Week: Wednesday Readings

Psalm • Psalm 69:7-23

Old Testament • Isaiah 50:4-9

Gospel • John 13:21-35

New Testament • Hebrews 9:11-28

The stories of Jesus’ final week are both troubling and comforting. Troubling because of the betrayal, misunderstanding, and murder of the Messiah. Comforting, in part, because of the strength displayed by the Lord as he faced what no other human could.

May your prayers this week direct you into a deeper reverence for Christ and a greater understanding of both his humanity and divinity.