4.29.2011

Second Sunday of Easter, Year A

Acts 2:14a, 22-32
Psalm 16
1 Peter 1:3-9
John 20:19-31

A quick note on the structure of Lectionary readings: During the 50 days of Eastertide, the lectionary forgoes readings from the Hebrew scripture and instead pulls in readings about the "resurrection" of the earliest Christians in the wake of Jesus' death and resurrection.

Well now what?

For weeks, the paparazzi have been focused on the impending nuptials of Prince William and Kate Middleton. There have been countdowns and speculation, blogs and bets. And as this is being written at 8:14 on April 29, 2011, the ceremony is over, the couple duly declared husband and wife, and they have returned to Buckingham Palace for a full day of toasting and posing and smiling. But really, the deed is done. They are wed in the eyes of the church and the law. All the rest is window dressing.

After a week of preparation that began on Palm/Passion Sunday with shouts of Hosanna and the waving of palms, continued through the breaking of bread and sharing of cup, the snuffing of candles, the persecution, trial, and suffering of Jesus, the crucifixion, death and burial, we entered into the dawn of Easter Sunday proclaiming a risen Christ. Resurrection happens.

Well now what?

Here in the 50 days of Eastertide, our readings have us reflecting on that very question.

In Acts, Peter is "recentering" the disciples, who we can imagine after experiencing the risen Christ are still struggling to make sense of what has happened and what it means for their motley band of evangelists and teachers. Part of Peter's comforting reminder to them is to connect what they have experienced back to the fabric of their faith tradition - the understanding that a messiah would emerge from the Davidic line. He reminds them of their importance as witnesses to the fulfillment of this age old prophecy.

The psalmist really addresses the choices that humans face - thousands of years ago as today. We can imagine that many were faced with choices after the resurrection - to believe? to follow? to continue a movement?

In the epistle 1 Peter, the writer greets his audience reminding them of what they have inherited in the resurrection. This is a new beginning, as God has promised time and time again. These are not people who actually encountered the presence of the living Christ, but they are gathered as believers. How are they going to live out their belief?

Finally in John's gospel we encounter the story about the notorious "doubting Thomas." But this year, our attention was captured by Jesus' early act while he is with some of the disciples. Jesus breathes the holy spirit into the gathered and essentially commissions them - empowering them to forgive. And that commissioning is for us too...we are infused with the holy spirit and commissioned to be agents of forgiveness and peace.

Easter is NOT one day on the calendar. We might even suggest Easter is not a function of chronological time. Perhaps Easter is an attitude of accepting, knowing and sharing resurrection power? And so, what next? How do we live Easter?

God, I am going to try again this year.
I am going to try to not take
You for granted.
I am going to try to
be aware of the
Love I receive
and
the Love I give.
I have not been
super successful at this in the past.
But I am going to
try
again
this
year.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

4.21.2011

Resurrection of the Lord, Year A

* Jeremiah 31:1-6 •
* Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24 •
* Colossians 3:1-4 •
* John 20:1-18


Not only is Easter late this year, but it feels like Spring is dragging its feet as well. It's funny how, despite the dates on the calendar, the actual arrival of "new life" seems to coincide once year after year...just at widely varying times. Because really, for folks who track with liturgical tradition, Easter does arrive each year, just like tulips and green grass. And every three years, the same scriptures are revisited. We enter Lent facing our human mortality and we emerge from Lent pondering the Resurrection and its impact in our own lives.

Some years, it is easier to walk into the wilderness and dwell in the slightly haunting time in between considering the life, ministry, death and resurrection of a human named Jesus. And sometimes, like winter that just won't melt away, those six weeks seem like an awfully long time to maintain any sort of direction or focus.

This might have been one of those years. Maybe. We pretty actively jumped into the Lenten season and have ended by being on the Worship Task Group that plans worship for the month of April in our worshiping community . In that time, both of us spent time preparing the "sharing" for a Sunday, we diligently addressed the lectionary on our blog, we each had private Lenten practices to observe. And here comes Easter. And we have to ask ourselves, at the end of this journey - this year in 2011 - what does Resurrection mean for us? How are we changed?

The story doesn't change from year to year, but we do. And inevitably, new things show up as we revisit words we have read many, many times before.

In the gospel of John, Mary Magdalene weeps at the tomb, having discovered Jesus' body is gone. His followers must have suspected the possibility - authorities stealing his body to assure no resurrection claims or further shenanigans from this group of "rabble-rousers." The scripture tells us that one of the disciples saw the empty tomb and 'believed.' Others departed because they 'as yet did not understand the scriptures.' Even as Mary tells the angels why she's weeping, she doesn't seem to realize that she's talking to ANGELS in an EMPTY TOMB. It's as though she's forgotten that there was a miraculous possibility. We can imagine Mary torn up by the trauma and grief of the past days. When Jesus himself appears to her, she doesn't recognize him--in fact she assumes he's the gardener. But when he says her name, she knows him. Think about that. That is really powerful. She knows this is the man she has been following, learning from, calling teacher. Because she heard him say her name. All the other clues passed her by, but the sound of his voices speaking her name reaches something deeper.

The prophet Jeremiah tells of God's return to Israel. Keep in mind that this is a prophet speaking to a war- and conflict-weary Israel. But the tradition of prophecy was strong and the fact that this prophecy remains is testament to how it must have been received. Do you suppose that like Mary Magdalene, the tribes of Israel gasped in recognition of their situation when the through the prophet Jeremiah, the LORD spoke their collective name... 'Again I will build you, and again you shall be built, O virgin Israel....' Clearly Israel experienced the Lord firsthand time and time again...something must have gotten their attention in each new episode.

And so, as we read the letter to the Colossians, we see a community pretty deeply involved in a disagreement about how to access God, and the writer is reminding them that as they believe they have been raised with Jesus Christ in resurrection, they can keep their minds set on higher things. Now it's a stretch, but we suspect that it is a lot easier to hear God/Jesus/Holy Spirit calling your name when your mind is in the right place. It's not exactly what the writer was going for...but for us, for THIS Easter, it's where it lands in our hearts.

And so, we wonder if this year, we might be listening a little closer to hear our name so that we may not KNOW, not UNDERSTAND, but perhaps just BELIEVE and be glad for the experience of believing.

God, we pray we do not fall in to
the trap of
Another Easter.
Help us to be Present.
Help us to be Aware.
Help us to Believe.
Help us to Trust.
We know this Easter
has a chance to be
The Best Easter Ever.
And we know we must
choose to see it that way.
Thank you for loving us
in our wayward adventures
and thank you for always
being glad to see us
when we finally
show
up
here.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.

4.14.2011

Liturgy of the Palms, Liturgy of the Passion, Year A

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29 • Matthew 21:1-11 •
Isaiah 50:4-9a • Psalm 31:9-16 • Philippians 2:5-11 • Matthew 26:14-27:66 or Matthew 27:11-54

The scripture readings from Matthew this week (and there are a LOT of them) tell the story of Jesus returning with his disciples to Jerusalem, Jesus sharing a final meal with the disciples, Jesus being arrested and abused, and finally of Jesus being executed on a cross.

There is so much here.

This stretch of the story of Jesus is so important. It is setting us up for the story of Easter and Resurrection. As this part of Jesus's life unfolds we get closer and closer to learning if Jesus really was the Son of God or if he was a lunatic.

However, also included in this week's readings are two other short passages. One from Isaiah and one from Philippians. They don't normally get much air time during this time of year, but they illuminate something important for us to pay attention to as we think of the Passion story.

Isaiah tells us about the trials he has endured as he has attempted to follow the direction of God. He talks about how he has been Obedient throughout whatever sort of abuse has come against him. And it appears that Obedience has gained momentum and turned in to Confidence that God will continue to protect and sustain him...which helps him to continue to be Obedient.

In his letter to the followers of Jesus in Philippi, Paul encourages his readers to follow the example of Christ and embody Humility in whatever circumstance they might find themselves in. He points to the example of Jesus Humbly submitting himself and being Obedient to God. And in that Humble Obedience, God was there to lift up and sustain Jesus through the worst stuff that any one might encounter.

As you read through (or listen to) the Passion story this year. Pay attention to the places where Humility and Obedience show up....and see the places where Pride and Disobedience show up. How do they play out in this story?

How do they play out in your life?

The week unfolds with time to read and to think and to reflect. It's worth doing all of those things.

Abba,
the world draws us into places
of self-absorption,
self-pity,
self-aggrandizing.
We expect obedience
from others.
It's hard to imagine
choosing the hard way
for higher reasons
when simple
or pain-free
are options.
Help us look hard
at our lives
and give of ourselves
so that your Kingdom
comes.
Amen.

© matt & laura norvell 2011 www.settingourstones.org we want to share this with you and hope you'll share with the world; we simply ask that you let people know where you found these words. May Grace & Peace be with you.