Monday, April 22, 2019

Easter Sunday

Today is predicted a sunny day - a beautiful image of the power of resurrection. With each lingering blast of arctic air maintaining the chill of winter, I can feel the level of anxiety rise within and around me. We grow weary, around these parts, of putting our coats on, keeping our windows shut, not being able to go outside. We grow weary, but we do not doubt that no matter how long winter may keep her icy grip, we know…. We have no doubt, spring will come and summer will follow, bringing a whole new life cycle into our world; into our life.

In the C.S. Lewis’ fantasy classics, “The Chronicles of Narnia”, when we are first introduced to this land that lies beyond the closet, it is described as always being winter, and no Christmas. There is a curse on the land ever since the white witch has seized control of the land.

The author captures us, who live in a climate where winter kills everything. As winter grows, the landscape sinks into a deep sleep, the trees stand barren amidst the dark cold winter nights, and our neighbors are rarely seen and never spoken to for three months. It would be quite the nightmare, would it not? If there came a time when winter arrived to never leave? If our windows remained shut, our coats remained on, our bones ached, and our neighbors invisible all YEAR LONG! I know there are remote places upon this earth, where this dark fictional tale, is reality, where the earth remains frozen and the air icy all the time, which is why few to no people make their home there. Our creator knows, with every winter, there must be spring. With every dying – there must be a new living.

We share a common confidence, that regardless of how stubborn winter is being, our assurance that spring will surely come, is not daunted. We know that is how it works. But, we also share a common anxiety that when the dying seasons, the cold times, the vulnerable, sick, and frightened times, the old things passing away seasons come, we are all gripped with the fear and doubt, that life, new and vibrant, will never come back. We are all afraid to die. Because we are all afraid that death brings the end.

When Jesus came upon his good friend, Martha, whose brother had just died, She bore the same sorrow and lament you and I have, the grip and sadness of death has a way of making us feel, it will always be this way. New life, new ways, new adventures, new acquaintances, second, third, and fourth chances will never come. Winter is here…and it will never go away.

But we know… we have seen it year after year after year, the resurrection always comes. The buried bulbs break forth in color. The neighbors come out and exchange greetings. The air grows soft and warm. The song of the birds break each morning. We know that the season of winter comes in due time, and the season passes in due time, life begets death begets life. It is how God created. Death is not a tomb, it is a womb, from which new life always breaks forth.

I know the weariness of prolonged winters – times when lonliness, sickness, sadness, fear - have us convinced that they will be our companions forever. But the message of Easter rings out with exuberance and persistence – have faith, and re-joice. Our God is a God of life, every morning is new. There is an end to the valley and shadow of death, but there is no end to life. It is eternal. Just look around you and see: winter is passing – and new life is springing forth all around us.

Amen. And Blessed Easter.

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Sunday, April 14, 2019

Palm Sunday

We join together with millions of others throughout the world to walk the final days of Jesus’ life. Of all the weeks in history, what a week re-lived for two millennia. The church is divinely ordained to recall these days for the sake of the world. It is important to remember the story of that final week of Jesus’ life because we need in it for our own times, in our own lives.

We know this story, how it begins with Jesus riding into Jerusalem amidst accolades and the greeting of palms and how quickly things go from promising to crushing. The world’s multitudes know how quickly life can turn from good to bad. We know what it feels like to be filled with hope and then to be filled with fear. Holy week is the story of when good and holy enters the bastion of power and violence. It is not a pretty sight. Holy week is the story of the champion being felled, the disciples falling short, the heart of a mother being broken.

Holy Week is a testimony of the beauty of love and the ugliness of hatred. It is a testimony of just how far hatred will go, and… is a testimony of how much further God’s grace and redemption will go. Holy week begins on a donkey and ends in the grave. The final week of Jesus’ life begins upon the mount of transfiguration amidst the ecstatic affirmation of divine love and belonging and ends upon a hill called Calvary, hung upon a cross enveloped by darkness and isolation.

Holy week must be remembered because the darkness and agony of those days return again and again in life. Those holy days return in the wake of diagnosis, tragic death, crippling addictions, broken marriages, acts of hatred.

Holy week is the eternal proclamation that there are times when days are dark and grow darker – when it feels like everything beautiful, holy, innocent, pure, lovely, and good is lost…dead….beaten….stripped of dignity…drained of life. Holy week recalls and relives that time of suffering and it places Jesus, the sacrament of God, the bearer of all that suffering, the victim of all that hatred, the condemned of all that judgment.

For me, the message of Holy week answers the question, “Where is God…” Where is God when countless innocents are being gunned down? Where is God when my body is stricken with disease? Where is God when my parent or spouse, no longer knows me as their son or husband? Where is God when my homeland is devastated by war, violence, corruption, or natural disaster? Holy week tells me where God is… not on the sidelines, not in the distance, not among the mourners, not safe with the righteous.

Where is God? Bullet ridden and bleeding out upon the pavement. Where is God? stricken and disfigured with disease. Where is God? Homeless and hunted as a refugee. Where is God? beaten and imprisoned, in agony and alone hanging in the balance. Where is God? Lying in the tomb.

Holy week is the story that tells the world, God is known amidst the glory, the beauty, the goodness, the richness, the joy of life and…. And … God is known in the agony, the suffering, the poverty, and the depression in life. And from these places the institutions of compassion, this yearly pilgrimage through the life of Jesus that we walk together every year.


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Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Padre's Post - Why The Church Does Holy Week

It is an important message to remember. Holy Week is about the darkness and suffering in the world. It is about injustice and the isolation felt when the weight of the world falls upon your shoulders. Holy Week is about the reality of cruelty and callous nature that resides in the seats of power and authority. It is about the inability to stand with those you love amidst their darkest hour. It is about betrayal and being sold out by someone you loved and welcomed into your circle of friendship and community.

Holy Week is about the suffering of the innocent and the victory of the ruthless. It is about forgiveness, sorrow, disappointment, anguish, abandonment, and death. Holy Week is about the worst of times and the crushing of dreams. It is about suffering and a diagnosis of death. Why does the church do Holy Week? Because these events remain in the world around and beyond us and the church is called to be present - amidst the bleak and darkened days of our world.

Frankly, I myself have no interest in a church that cannot be present and engaged amidst the worst of times, but chooses only to observe the most glorious of days.

Be present with the world in her suffering, be present with the church in Holy Week.

Fr, Richard

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Knowing God In Death And Dying

As we approach Easter we must walk through the valley of death. Of course, if Easter is all about resurrection then we must enter through the door of death. Most of us in this room are quite acquainted with death. We have lost loved ones, friends, parents, wives and husbands. Some of us have suffered the death of our children, and most all of us are well along the second half of life. More years lie behind us then lay before us. We generally deal with death by trying not to think about it, and yet our own Christian tradition speaks often and encourages us to contemplate our own death, for the sake of embracing every moment of life.

Paul wrote, I want to know Jesus in his suffering and in his dying, so I may know him in his resurrection and his joy. Throughout Lent, a handful of us walk the Stations of the Cross. As I have walked the Stations, I think of the suffering and death present both in the parish and in our world. Healthy religion does not steer us away from death, but gives us grace, compassion, peace, and courage, to be present with others and to accept our own dying, with the faith that life changes but does not end through death.

We must have a spirituality that can be present in other’s and in our own time of dying, a spirituality that has seen the day break after long nights of darkness. A spirituality that can sit in a time of mourning, a spirituality that has learned there is no answer to “why”, but only the affirmation that before our own trail of tears and suffering, God, in Jesus, walked the path of suffering, grief, anguish, and death. If we are to know this Jesus, then we must know him in his suffering and death, before we can know him in his resurrection.

Life brings us to the dying places long before, and often before, our own time of dying. We enter into times of despair, depression, apathy, sadness, grief, disenchantment. Troubles through sickness – bad news – unfortunate events turn our laughter into tears, our zeal into apathy, our faith into disbelief, our belonging into estrangement. LIfe is filled with good and bad, sickness and health, financial stability and bankruptcy – life and death. A real spirituality does not call one a gift and blessing from God, and the other a curse or absence of God. Our faith tells us, we must know God in dying, before we can know God in living.

This is why the church does Holy Week. I do not believe those Christian communities and traditions that omit Holy Week to only celebrate Easter do their parishioners a favor. To see God only in the victories and risings and not in the losses and falling fail to recognize the very power of faith and grace and mercy and peace. It is knowing God in our times of being lost will we learn of God’s unfailing love for us. It is only knowing God in our times of suffering, will we learn of God’s mercies. It is only knowing God in death, will we learn that life survives death. It is only in knowing God in darkness, will we learn of God’s unquenchable light within us, restoring our fortunes and inspiring our dreams.


Audio is entitled "The Serpent", delivered by Richard Alexander
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Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Padre's Post – Holy Week

Maundy Thursday, April 18, is for many at St. Andrew, a beloved experience. It is a remembrance of Jesus' last supper with his friends. The evening includes, footwashing, the sacrament of serving, and the agape meal shared amidst candle light in parish hall.

The evening will include some of our partners dedicated to serving others: Ruth Lawson, C.A.M.; Jeff Newton; K.U.O.; Ryan Sibray; U.M.C. Also joining us will be Doris Tudor, with a dramatic presentation of "The Woman with the Alabaster Jar."
The evening begins at 6pm. All are welcome during this most holy of weeks at St. Andrew.

Fr. Richard