Beloved St. John’s Community,
During times of crisis, people often seek meaning, comfort, strength and wisdom from spirituality and faith. Many of us at St. John’s have embraced what Presiding Bishop Curry calls “the Episcopal branch of the Jesus movement” because it is so open, inclusive, and non-dogmatic. We would not want ever to condemn other religions, ways of thinking, or to assume that we know best or are the most “right” about God. This is one of our greatest strengths.
Precisely because we are so open, however, Episcopalians sometimes stay ambivalent or might not learn much about the traditions of our faith—including knowing about the Bible, really understanding what Christian faith is about, or knowing how the Jesus’ Way of Love helps us connect with the living God, ourselves and our neighbors. Have you ever found yourself with this conundrum?
For those of you who aren’t sure what Christian faith is really about, please take a deep breath and consider this. Each religion has its genius. For me personally, the great genius of the Christian faith is its central cypher, its DNA – which is the death and resurrection of Jesus. God joined humanity from the inside, not from a position of power but of weakness. God entered into solidarity with our pain. Jesus did not defend himself, so that he could experience alongside us the worst of what humans can do to each other–so that he could offer us the most important thing: the promise that we are not ever alone; the promise of forgiveness and healing no matter what happens. In the cross of Jesus, we know, we know, that God is with us—not just when things are going well, but maybe most especially when things are really hard. The worst can and does happen; it even happened to God. But death does not have the last word. God’s endlessly generative life and love do.
As we move toward the peak, or perhaps the first peak, of this pandemic, we will experience loss. Many of us will experience great anxiety or fear or grief. With Jesus, we will want to pray in the garden of Gethsemane: let this cup pass from us. Whatever happens, I invite you to experience Holy Week as if for the first time. Beginning with Palm Sunday on April 5, through each day of the coming week, let yourself face your own fear and pain and fatigue honestly. Let your story merge with the Great Story of God’s love for all people in Christ. Let yourself be comforted by the God who is not lording it over us, but walking alongside us in the person of Jesus. Let us walk in the way of the cross—and find that it does not end there.
I hope you will join me Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of Holy week on Zoom for 12:00 Noonday Prayer from the Book of Common Prayer, including a brief discussion of the Psalm for the day and a time for silence, connection with each other and with God. Our deacon Rex and St. John’s lay leaders will continue to hold evening prayer liturgies each day. We will have creative Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil worship opportunities for you as well. As I said in last week’s sermon, hold on, St. John’s, hold on — Easter is coming.
Almighty God, whose most dear Son went not up to joy but
first he suffered pain, and entered not into glory before he
was crucified: Mercifully grant that we, walking in the way
of the cross, may find it none other than the way of life and
peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.