Saturday, April 7, 2012

Holy Week Comes to an Close

Today is the last day of Holy Week.  The business of Holy Week is coming to a close as preparations are being made for the Easter Vigil early tomorrow morning as well as the big Easter breakfast.  It's amazing just how busy it can be on the Sabbath day.  Even though I know I "should be" resting today, I find myself tweaking my sermon, running through tomorrow's services in my head, and making sure that everything is "ready" for tomorrow.

The Sabbath is supposed to be a day of rest.  Today, especially, should be thought of as a day of rest.  On Holy Saturday, we remember that Jesus rested in the tomb on the Sabbath before the resurrection.  If you can, I encourage you to ignore the example I've set today and find some time for rest.  There will be plenty of time for busyness later.  For now, enjoy as much time off from anything you'd consider work as you can.  Let's use this time of rest as a way to prepare for the joy that is to come in the Easter celebration.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Good Friday Returns

Another year, another Good Friday.  Once again, we come to the day we remember, as we have since the fourth century (when the Church first officially recognized this day), the day Christ was crucified.  Seventeen centuries later, we are still using today as a day of remembrance.  In a world where technology is drastically shortening the life span of traditions, how amazing is it that some traditions still hold strong?  Just twenty years ago, I wouldn't even have had access to the technology to post this blog, and many of you wouldn't have access to the technology to allow you to read it even if I could get it out there.  I'm not sure I would have had much to say twenty years ago, but you get the idea. 

Technology is constantly advancing, and we end up constantly changing the way we do things in order to keep up with the latest trends.  Once we finally catch up, we find the world has moved on yet again, and what once was popular is now just a thing of the past.  To have a tradition that has endured through centuries and centuries is something we should hold dear.

This Friday, as we sit at the foot of the cross and remember the sacrifice that was made for us, let us not forget that we should sometimes be making sacrifices for others.  Some things we should hold onto, but we should be willing to let some things go.  Take some time and think about what it is that you can let go.  Maybe it's a grudge you've held for years.  Perhaps things always need to work the way you think they should.  Whatever it is, find something you're holding on to, and let it go.  Jesus was willing to give his life so that we could live.  What are you willing to give up?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Missed Another One!

Well, yesterday's lack of a post officially has me missing more posts this Lent than I did last year.  Holy Week is much busier as the only priest in a church than when you're an assistant in a larger church.  Even though we have less services, I am solely responsible for every service we have.  On the plus side, a priest friend of mine told me that, if I could survive my first Holy Week with a church, I could survive anything the church threw at me.

One of the things that's been "thrown" at me this year is the expansion of our food pantry.  As an Eagle Scout project, a young man has decided to expand our food pantry so that it is more efficient and can serve more people.  All of this sounds wonderful.  The downside is that the construction work will make our parish hall, for all intents and purposes, unusable for a week.  Because of this, he has decided that his spring break is the best time to work on this so that the work can be consolidated (time wise) as much as possible.  I'm sure most of you have picked up on this already, but for those of you that haven't, his spring break happens to be this week.  That's right, there's a huge construction project going on in the church during Holy Week.

At first, I had my concerns about the timing of this.  I already knew my plate would be full during Holy Week.  Why add something else?  The more I thought about it, though, the more I came to like the idea of this happening during Holy Week.  From a practical standpoint, the construction would probably take much longer if it couldn't be done this week.  We'd effectively be out of a parish hall (and with it, unable to host many of the ministries we have here) for weeks.  From a theological standpoint, I see the construction project as a sort of parallel to the theme of Holy Week.  We go from a joyous Palm Sunday to an almost immediate downward spiral (the events leading up to and including the crucifixion/the "death" of our food pantry and parish hall).  Yet, on Easter Sunday, we will be able to celebrate the resurrection of Jesus and (God willing) our food pantry.

Today (Maundy Thursday), we are called to remember that Jesus taught us to be servants.  I give thanks that, through the Eagle Scout project going on this Holy Week, St. Andrew's will be able to be a servant to even more people than before.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vows Renewed

The standard practice in my diocese (and likely in others as well) is to have the clergy gather together on Tuesday in Holy Week to renew their ordination vows.  This morning, I was with my colleagues and friends as we all (bishops, priests, deacons, and nuns) renewed our vows.  As a priest, I specifically responded affirmatively to this question:
Do you reaffirm your commitment to respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of your bishop, to be diligent in the reading of Holy Scriptures, to minister the Word of God and the sacraments of the New Covenant, to undertake to be a faithful pastor to all whom you are called to serve, to pattern your life in accordance with the teachings of Christ and to persevere in prayer, both in public and in private?
I have been a priest for nearly two years, and it is always helpful to come back to the vows I made at my ordination.  Hopefully, I have done a good job of upholding them.  Hopefully, I can keep in mind that my life should be an example to others that Christ died, not so that we could feel better about ourselves or consider ourselves above others because we are "saved", but so that we could be closer to our God and creator.

This Holy Week, my prayer for all of you is that you can find this message in the cross.  Though it was once used as a symbol of death and persecution, it should now be for the whole world a sign of love and acceptance in spite of the fact that we have done nothing to deserve it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

He Wore What?

Last week, I mentioned that there were a number of humorous stories that can be found in the Bible.  Yesterday, I was reminded of another one.  This is actually part of a larger story.  As such, it tends to get lost due to the significance and weight of everything else around it.  I'm sure that many of you have heard this story before, especially if you heard the long version of the Passion Narrative read at church yesterday.  Right after Jesus is arrested but before he goes before the chief priests, we get these two verses:
A certain young man was following him, wearing nothing but a linen cloth. They caught hold of him, but he left the linen cloth and ran off naked. -Mark 14:51-52
That's it.  That is all that is said about this incident.  Mark's Gospel account is the only one that contains this story, and the young man is never mentioned again.  Why is this story in here?  Who is this young man?  Why was he naked?  These are all questions to which I have no answers.  I do, however, have something to say about it.

In looking a bit further into this, I found something very interesting.  The Greek word for "linen cloth" that is used in this passage is only used three times outside of this story in the New Testament, once in each of the first three (or synoptic) gospels.  Any guesses on where it's used?  If you guessed that it is used as the linen cloth in which Jesus' body is wrapped after the crucifixion, you are correct.

What does this mean?  I don't know.  Perhaps it's foreshadowing the resurrection and telling us that not even wrapping Jesus in a burial cloth (i.e., Jesus being dead) will prevent Jesus from being free.  I'll let you come to your own conclusions on what this small portion of the Gospel means.