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Archive for April, 2012

Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord.” – John 20:18a

It’s easy to miss the point of Easter.  The truth is, the lilies, trumpets, dresses and beloved hymns don’t help us out.  And don’t get me started on eggs.  Amidst all the familiar and cherished traditions, we can lose sight of the simple and startling claim at the heart of Easter:  a person who was dead came back to life.

So it is today.  We say that Christ is risen.  We say that Christ is present when the church gathers.  But what does this mean for us?  What would it be like if we really, truly believed the things we say on Easter Day?

Christ’s new life means that we are free.  Death is just about the worst thing that can happen to us, and if we don’t need to be afraid of death, we don’t need to be afraid of anything.  We are free to live as God calls us to live.

Christ’s new life means that God’s love is stronger than any evil in the world.  All the forces of fear and evil are lined up, and the worst they could do was crucify Jesus.  But life and love got the last word.  We know that God’s power is real.

Christ’s new life means that we can carry on God’s work.  After Easter, Jesus dwelled with his followers for a time, and then charged them with continuing to be his hands and feet in the world.  We reach out to heal the world in Christ’s name, not through our own strength, but through God’s strength.  We do all these things not to get on God’s good side, but because we already are on God’s good side.  We do all things not to please God, but in celebration of what God has done for us.

What does an Easter faith look like?  It looks like the truth that Martin Luther King, Jr. preached.  It looks like the reconciling love that began bringing justice to South Africa.  It looks like the selfless love that brings mission workers to developing countries.  It looks like generosity when those of us with financial riches share what we have for the good of the world.

This Easter season, let us all live fearlessly, as if we believed the things we say:  Let us go forth in the name of Christ!  Alleluia!  Alleluia! – Scott Gunn

JW – Well.  We are once again coming out of the desert.  Reverend Gunn asks one of my favorite questions above:  “What does this mean for us?” when he asks about our true belief.  So I ask, what does this mean for me today….exactly?  I will miss posting these meditations every day, and I thank you all for this opportunity I’ve had.  It’s been a unique privilege to wander around in my head and heart, looking at myself, my behavior, growth or lack thereof, and what this journey means as I look ahead, and to write it down every day; in public no less!  My benchmark, “what does this mean for me exactly?”, tells me to pray that I get up tomorrow morning and do the best I can to move through the day without fear, looking outward not inward, knowing God’s love is in my newly touchable heart; as it always has been.

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Has God forgotten to be gracious?  Has he in anger shut up his compassion? – Psalm 77:9

The saying is familiar:  “When it rains, it pours.”  Our lives can sometimes feel like a sodden dishrag being squeezed and painfully twisted to extricate every last trace of moisture.  We, like the disciples on the day after the Crucifixion, feel as if heaven has closed its door, shut down its communication tower, and let us alone to battle the demons that are attacking us on every side.  We feel abandoned, left to tumble into the abyss from which there is no release.  Relentless questions clutter and clamor inside our mind.  We want to know why it has happened, why God has withdrawn care and compassion from us.  We wonder why we encounter such suffering if God loves us, or why God does not unravel the knotted threads that have a hold on our life, our heart, our soul.

Our prayer is often more for answers to the questions than for freedom from our suffering.  Even when no answers come, God’s ear is open to our cry.  Always God sees our suffering and weeps.

God does not leave us alone and solitary to endure the painful events that randomly sweep through our lives, even when it feels to us that God has become silent.  It is in those moments, when it seems heaven is deaf to our lament, that our soul is made ready to trust in the truth of, rather than the sound of, God’s voice.  It is in those moments that our soul is most ready to see miracles unfolding in our lives.  It is in those moments that we are closest to the gate of heaven. – Renee Miller

JW – There are many thoughts running around my inside my head this morning and it’s clear the committee up there is very busy indeed.  So, I’ll escape and review.  If ever there was a day to figure out what watch and wait means, today is it.  Something big happened yesterday.  Something even bigger will happen tomorrow.  I feel like I’m holding my breath.  And I feel really sad.  And I’d like to stay awake and alert.  Reverend Widdows asked us last night to think about which question we might ask tomorrow.  For me?  How will I live my faith….on Monday.

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Did e’er such love and sorrow meet, or thorns compose so rich a crown? – The Hymnal 1982, # 474

I often visit Holy Cross Monastery in upstate New York.  It is a place for me to regroup and reboot.  Over the portal, these words are deeply etched in stone:  Crux es mundi medicina – The cross is the healing of the world.  On this Friday, which we ironically call “good”, remember the cross as the place for the healing of the world.

As we reflect on the call of Episcopal Relief & Development – to heal a hurting world – take some quiet time to reflect on where that call originates.  The theologian Karl Barth was once asked by another Christian if he could name the date and time that he had been saved, the implication being that if he couldn’t name that moment of conversion, it hadn’t really happened.  In response to this litmus test, Dr. Barth answered:  “I know when it happened.  At 3;00 p.m. on that first Good Friday.’

We remember that Friday called “good” because it is the basis on which we meet the world’s sorrow with God’s love.  Because the cross is the healing of the world. – Jay Sidebotham

JW – That intersection which inspires such jaw-dropping awe; where the world’s sorrow crashes headlong into God’s love indeed.  The enormity of it could lead me right straight to a downward spiral, possibly fatal, if I didn’t know that I may wait until the third day; a luxury not afforded those who were present on this day so long ago.  They had to rely on their faith, even in doubt.  It makes me realize the gift I’ve had; this reflection during Lent; taking this journey through the desert.  I can look back at the last forty days, knowing that I’ve had the choice all the way along; to buttress my faith – or not.  I had no idea how lonely I was before I got here.

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Stay awake and pray….the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. – Matthew 26:41

We are accustomed to asking God for help in our lives and in the lives of those we love, and God hears and answers those cries for help.  But we can begin to think that prayer is little more than a shopping trip through heaven.  The more important purpose of prayer is to deepen our relationship with the Holy One.  It is meant to change us – to bring us more and more into the heart of heaven, where we can find our true meaning, our true purpose, our true hope, our true passion, our true love.  It is meant to shape and reshape, form and reform us, so that we actually become the prayer we pray.

But even this does not happen unless we pray for it.  God does not maneuver situations in our loves or manipulate us into developing a relationship with heaven.  It is always our choice, our decision to seek out that relationship.  When we begin to feel a seed of discontent within ourselves, when what used to make us happy leaves us feeling as dry and empty as an ancient rotted root, when we feel our soul lunging, lurching toward what cannot be named, it is time to pray.  Not the shopping list prayer, but the prayer of watching and waiting.

When Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane on the night before he was crucified, he asked the disciples who were with him to watch and pray.  “The spirit is willing,” he said, “but the flesh is weak.”  He was affirming that it’s hard to watch and pray when emptiness surrounds us, when our souls feel stripped, when we just want things “fixed”, when the road ahead seem bleak.  For Jesus, the road indeed was bleak that night, but he gave the disciples and us an example to follow.  In those moments when we watch and pray, the Holy One pulls us close, and in the relationship of presence our life can begin anew. – Renee Miller

JW – Not mentioned in the scripture above is the word ‘temptation’; a word I immediately associate with the idea of prayer actually being a “shopping trip through heaven”.  For me any temptation indicates that I’m preoccupied with my self, and when I’m praying with that shopping list in my hand, I know I’m way far away from my heart.  My heart, when I’m making sure it remains touchable (my new favorite adjective), is the only place where I can nurture my relationship with God, prayer being the vehicle of communication.  The Reverend Canon Miller says it so beautifully in her last sentence above.  “Watch and pray”.  “Stay awake and pray” says to me, ‘stay awake buddy, stay aware and alert; and you’ll never need that shopping list again’.

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In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams. – Acts 2:17

During this Lenten time of reflection, we ponder the life and death of Jesus and his extraordinary sacrifice on the cross.  But we know that his death is not the final answer – that he continues to pour out his Spirit upon all flesh.  What shall our sons and daughters prophesy, and what dreams shall our old men dream?

When I was in Ghana this past year, a village elder stood up to address his Episcopal Relief & Development visitors and he said, “You give mosquito nets to our pregnant women and children.  But even though I am old, I want to live, too.  I also want to be safe from malaria.”

Since my trip, NetsforLife® has adopted the methodology of universal coverage which ensures net usage by every man, woman and child within a community.

All God’s people have dreams of freedom from oppression, poverty and disease.  Remembering Christ’s death and resurrection, we ask that God’s Spirit, poured out on us, will give us the courage to live out this dream. – Margaret Trezevant

JW – When I read God’s declaration, “that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh”, I felt chills in the realization that I wouldn’t have been able to feel them unless my heart had begun to be touchable.  This was not so at this time last year; at least the realization part.  I figured out why; as I saw further along that my heart is being rid of its own “oppression, poverty and disease”.  I never really knew that I’ve always had that mosquito net.

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Take up your cross, then, in his strength, and calmly every danger brave; it guides you to abundant life and leads to victory o’er the grave. – The Hymnal 1982, #675

We have been on a journey during Lent.  It is a journey to the cross.  The cross looms at the end of Jesus’ journey – as his death.  It is the tool of crucifixion, but for us, the cross is our redemption.  It is the tool of everlasting life.  The cross is a central symbol for us; it is a symbol of hope, not death.

We know that abundant life comes from the cross, and yet we don’t always acknowledge the strength that we receive from it.  Some of us have never experienced abundance, a life so full of love, joy and hope that to imagine such abundance would be overwhelming.  But even more scary is to believe that an abundant life is not within reach of one’s grasp.

We all are given the grace to experience an abundant life through Jesus.  As you continue this journey, keep your eye to the cross as it leads you to “victory o’er the grave”. – Lisa C. Flores

JW – Every day, I read the scripture or quotation for the day and try to focus on the idea that pops off the page.  This morning that is the word ‘abundant’ and as is also usual, I asked what that actually means in my life.  However, I was immediately distracted by the word ‘cross’ and its meaning for us; for me, and what that actually means in my life.  In Jesus’ time crucifixion wasn’t thought of as out of the ordinary.  I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking of it today as barbaric; too cruel for words.  So, I went back to that word ‘abundant’ in awe of the idea that such cruel purpose lends, in a very specific and sanctioned way, so much love, joy and happiness to us.

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Mary took a pound of costly perfume made of pure nard, anointed Jesus’ feet, and wiped them with her hair. – John 12:3a

In the journey of life, circumstances will often align and we find ourselves with a momentary opportunity to act in accord with the passion of Christ.   Someone is sick, hurting, in pain or in the hospital, and just for one moment we get the feeling that we should do something – visit, call, send some flowers.  The moment quickly passes and the rush of life takes over. What we learn from Mary is that a momentary act of love, seemingly unimportant but prompted by a gut feeling, can have enormous consequences when it taps into the will of God.  It makes me wonder what acts God is calling for us to do for those and with those around us.

What acts of selfless love are we being called to do in order to change others’ lives and honor God in each other? – Shannon Ferguson Kelly

JW – I’m now on the last leg of this journey out of the desert.  What have I learned, and what do I see ahead?  I hope I will remember that any time is a time for personal reflection.  I hope I will remain open to listening for direction.  I hope my heart will remain touchable.  I hope I will take action:  none of the above is possible without it.

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