April 8, 2012

An Easter Story

It is Easter, but I have been thinking about Founders’ Day. We observe it every October in our church, in honor of those who founded the church, and is always a wonderful occasion. There is special music, usually a bagpiper, fancy sandwiches and the silver tea service for coffee hour, lots of old friends returning to share worship and fellowship.

This past Founders’ Day marked the 160th anniversary of the founding of our church. It was truly a memorable day, but not for the reason you might think – unless you were one of the 12 people in worship that day…. It was the day after the October snowstorm.

There were trees and limbs and power lines down everywhere. It was a mess. My little street was blocked for almost a week, and when the debris was removed, the whole landscape had changed. Even months after the storm, there are still dangling branches and open scars from broken limbs. It has been hard to see how the maple in my front yard could survive with so much damage.

But something curious has been happening in the past few weeks. Where it seemed there was only brokenness, new sprouts are emerging. The forests are red with new growth budding even on the broken branches. Where is seemed that the chance of survival was slim to none, there was life all along, gathering its strength, waiting.


On Good Friday, the landscape of faith was changed forever. We said no to God’s great gift of love. We broke faith with God. And for a while it seemed that death might have the last word. But our “no” cannot stand in the way of God’s eternal “yes.” Out of death and brokenness, God in Christ brings life. Easter is our great celebration of that. In a way, this is our true Founders’ Day! Here we are: special music, old and new friends sharing worship and fellowship, a feast prepared for us!

And at the Table, we are reminded of the source of life. It is not of our own doing. It is not from our own strength. In the midst of our worry and weakness and brokenness, it is God who is giving us new life.

And the gift comes to us from the risen Christ who says to us: This is my body broken for you – broken. Take and eat … and live. And out of brokenness, we are given hope and love and resurrection.

A favorite poem of mine (Manifest: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front by Wendell Berry) includes these instructions: "Expect the end of the world. Laugh. Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful though you have considered all the facts." That is how we are to live, with laughter and joy.

Christ is alive, and so are we. Against all odds, in spite of the facts – we are alive! And the final line of the poem is like an invitation to us from the risen Christ. The poet says: "Practice resurrection."

And Christ says it, too, with his own life and the example set for us: Practice resurrection!

In the face of all that would say “no,” let God’s great “yes” be spoken. Consider the facts, as grim as they are sometimes – budgets, numbers, personal prognoses, broken hopes and dreams, fragile faith, loss and death and sickness.

Consider the facts and then …. rejoice. Because Christ is alive, and so are we. We are resurrection people. And may we continue live Christ-like lives, practicing resurrection.

Alleluia! Amen!

April 7, 2012

Holy Saturday

I planted peas today. It seemed like the right kind of thing to do on this day of waiting. Good Friday is done but Easter morning has not yet dawned. We know what will happen tomorrow but on the first Holy Saturday, they did not. For them, it was all over, with only a crushing grief left. For me, this day is often one of preparation, getting ready for worship in the morning, cooking, doing the laundry so all will be in order for tomorrow. I’ve done all that today, but I have also tried to hold on to some of the waiting, the suspended hope, the not-knowing. And the peas are part of that. They are buried in the ground, little yellow shriveled things, out of sight. And now I wait for them to sprout, for new life to emerge. I wait for this tiny resurrection – even as I wait to celebrate the Great Resurrection in the morning.

April 5, 2012

Borrowed Space

Jesus ate his last meal in a borrowed space. The upper room where Jesus and disciples had their supper was a guest room – in Greek, a kataluma. This word is used in only two places in the bible – in the story of his last night on earth and in the story of his first night on earth.

In Bethlehem, his parents sought shelter for him in a kataluma, and he had his first supper there in the stable where he was born. In Jerusalem, he had his last supper in the same kind of borrowed space. He sent his disciples to find a guest room for their Passover, and they did as he instructed, talking to the owner of the house, making sure the room was set up, and then getting the supper ready.

They must have done this hundreds of times, negotiating for places to eat and spend the night. After all, as far as we know, Jesus had no home of his own, at least not during his time of ministry. Instead he traveled around, making himself at home wherever he could find a welcome.

And he still does that; he still seeks a place where he will be welcomed. Only now, our church has become the kataluma, the guest room, and we are the disciples who are invited to share a meal with him.

He is still borrowing space, only now that space is in our lives. Open your hearts and make room for him. Open your hearts and welcome the Christ. Open your hearts, so he will be at home in you and then you will be at home in him.

And as we invite him into our midst, so he invites us -- knowing as he does so, that we have betrayed him, denied him, and failed him – knowing all that, and still loving us, calling us, forgiving us.

Prepare your heart to welcome Jesus. Lots of things crowd out the God space in our lives. Let those things go. Make room for Christ so your life becomes Christ’s borrowed space.

Washing Feet

We come with our bare feet exposed – one of the most vulnerable parts of our body. We offer them to the pastor and it is an amazing experience both physically and spiritually. The warm water flows over feet that have been crammed into shoes all day, and the feeling of soothing release is wonderful. And another person –one that we have not paid to massage our toes and paint our nails, one how does this only in love and obedience – cradles our feet, pours water over them, and gently dries them with a freshly washed towel. We usually keep ourselves fashionably covered, protected from view and exposure, encased in something fashionable that gives us our external sense of identity. But here we are with our bare feet, given over into the hands of another. It is a kind of radical intimacy. And we are served and honor and humbled, all at the same time. It is a powerful act that brings us to our knees. And we are bound in a new way to each other and to Jesus, who is so present in this act.