Christ is Risen

That’s the importance of the day. Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead.

A few words on some of the symbolism, The term Easter comes from the old Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, although the only real mention is from the Venerable Bede. The egg being proscribed during Lent was offered in abundance at Easter and is an obvious metaphor for rebirth. There is some evidence for a hare hunt being traditional on Good Friday but, it’s a fairly obvious sign of “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply” anyway.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And so we come to the crux of the matter. The triumph over original sin and death itself. For if you believe in the Christ and his message you will have eternal life. This is what set Christianity apart, the doctrine of grace. For if you truly repent of your sins, and attempt to live properly, you will be saved. Not by your works, especially not by your wars and killing on behalf of your faith, valid and just though they may be,  but by your faith and your faith alone. For you serve the King of Kings.

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Christmas

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[ One of Jessica’s best from 2013]

Well, Neo and I are both, in our ways, in the bosom of our families, and we both hope that you are too – but perhaps like us, you are just looking at that Reader in the intervals of good cheer and fellowship. We are all, of course, extremely fortunate, and when you think of the many Christians in the Holy Land and its environs who live in fear, it makes you glad for what you have – but sorrowful for them; it puts our woes into perspective.

We are so used to Christianity that we tend to think of it as our religion in the sense that it is something of the West – which is in a way a tribute to our Faith. It has spread across the globe, and it has adapted itself to so many different cultures because it appeals to something we all have in common – a sense of brokenness, of incompleteness, of loss and separation. In Jesus, God speaks to us directly. This is not some voice from on High, not even a burning bush or a vision; no, it is a man, one like us who was, nonetheless, the Lord of Heaven and Earth. Men and women like us met Him, talked with Him, saw Him die – and rise again from the dead after three days. The Apostle Paul tells the doubters that more than five hundred people, including many known to his listeners, had seen the Risen Lord. He was not born in a Palace, and he didn’t wear fancy clothes, nor did he use complicated words and ideas – no, he talked to us as one of us. He told us something so simple that even after all this time we have trouble with it: we need to repent, we need to confess He is Lord, and we need to follow Him – and we’re saved. How hard is that?

It turns out it is very hard. Men have needed to see more than that. Surely there are conditions, catches, things we ought to do or else? The earliest Christians were Jews, and they took their Temple-style worship with them when they left the synagogues; used to solemn ritual, they kept it. Many Christians have done so to this day, and as one whose Church uses incense and icons, I am not going to say anything bad about it, because it all helps me worship; but I know it is an additional extra; something God-given, to be sure – but if I never saw an icon again, it would make no difference to God’s love for me.

It is to that love we all respond. Jesus told us to call God “abba”, which is, in the Aramaic, something akin to “Daddy”.  We can have all sorts of dressing up games with Daddy, and we can be safe because we know Daddy loves us. It is that sort of child-like faith Jesus tells us we need.

In this world of sin and sorrow, we cannot but be fearful, not least at the moment, for our brothers and sisters in the Holy Land and its neighbours, and I hope that if we have a few dollars to spare, we can give something to one of the many charities which are doing the Lord’s work among the oldest Christian communities in the world. At the first Christmas time there were many families suffering from the brutality of a tyrant called Herod, who, like all such, abused his position and authority, and for what?  Whatever earthly pleasures he may have had, he has left a name which is a stench in the nostrils of history, whereas the son of Mary, the wife of the carpenter from Nazareth, has the name above all names, at which every knee should bow. In His name, perhaps especially at this season, we should give something to those refugees treading the road that he and his mother and St Joseph trod.

From Neo and myself, warmest greetings – and may the peace and joy of the Christ child be with you now, and forever.

Easter: Past and Present

source-of-power-15-nov-2009-15-638I sit here now, in the dark of an early Nebraska Saturday morn, and look back over the week we call Easter week and think it truly named.

That’s because a week ago, I was watching a friend of mine founder in a situation, not of their making, which was coming very close to stealing their soul. Who or what was involved in that situation is none of our business, but I was deeply concerned, they had not all that long ago come into conflict with their local church, and everything had gone downhill from there. They were indeed showing uncommon valor, and I was mostly reduced to the role of a spectator, not least since I had not the gleam of an idea of the solution either. But I surely resembled the Disciples on that long-ago weekend. As  Rev. Brian Hamer says in his sermon for tomorrow:

On the evening of the first Easter Sunday, the disciples were locked in the upper room for fear of the Jews. They were filled with fear, doubt, and dread over their past, their present, and their future. Yes, the disciples were scared to death. But it was in the midst of their fear and doubt that Jesus came and stood in the midst of them and said, “Peace be with you.” Even in the original language, Jesus’ first word to them is “peace.” See how this word is loaded with rich Gospel! Peace for Peter, who denied the Lord. Peace for Peter, James, and John, who slept in Jesus’ moment of need in the garden. Peace for the ten disciples who fled from the cross. And Jesus gave them the proof of God’s peace by showing them His hands and His side, the marks and proof of the crucifixion. This is the Man who was wounded for their transgressions and bruised for their iniquities. The disciples were filled with joy as the reality of Jesus’ resurrection gradually dawned upon them. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

And so, as I sat here, and worried, and fretted, and tried to find a solution, for my friend, and yes for myself, I mostly missed the glory of Easter, due to my earthly concerns.

And yet God works in miraculous ways, and at the end of Sunday, my friend was extricated from the situation and was able to bring another friend of ours out as well, simply because God gave them, as he did St. Thomas, a view of His grievous wounds, allowing them to see the truth, and then He gave them the courage to take control of the situation. The Epistle for tomorrow in the historic one year Lutheran Lectionary is 1 John 5 4-10.

For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith. Who is he that overcometh the world, but he that believeth that Jesus is the Son of God? This is he that came by water and blood, even Jesus Christ; not by water only, but by water and blood. And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth. For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one. And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one. If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son. 10 He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.

And so it has proved, in fact, God has even found my friends a new church, in a new city, a new job, and another person worthy of their love. Truly a new Easter for them. The 1928 Book of Common Prayer reminds us:

O, ALMIGHTY God, who art a strong tower of defence unto thy servants against the face of their enemies; We yield thee praise and thanksgiving for our deliverance from those great and apparent dangers wherewith we were compassed. We acknowledge it thy goodness that we were not delivered over as a prey unto them; beseeching thee still to continue such thy mercies towards us, that all the world may know that thou art our Saviour and mighty Deliverer; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

He is Risen

That’s the importance of the day. Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead.

A few words on some of the symbolism, The term Easter comes from the old Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, although the only real mention is from the Venerable Bede. The egg being proscribed during Lent was offered in abundance at Easter and is an obvious metaphor for rebirth. There is some evidence for a hare hunt being traditional on Good Friday but, it’s a fairly obvious sign of “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply” anyway.

We have often spoken about Jesus the leader, and his unflinching dedication to the death to his mission. On Easter, this mission is revealed. It finally becomes obvious that His mission (at this time, anyway) is not of the Earth and it’s princelings. It is instead a Kingdom of souls.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son,

that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And so we come to the crux of the matter. The triumph over original sin and death itself. For if you believe in the Christ and his message you will have eternal life. This is what sets Christianity apart, the doctrine of grace. For if you truly repent of your sins, and attempt to live properly, you will be saved. Not by your works, especially not by your wars and killing on behalf of your faith, valid  and just though they may be,  but by your faith and your faith alone. For you serve the King of Kings.

And as we know, the Christ is still leading the mission to save the souls of all God‘s children. It is up to us to follow the greatest leader in history or not as we choose. We would do well to remember that our God is a fearsome God but, he is also a just God. We shall be judged entirely on our merits as earthly things fall away from us. But our God is also a merciful God. So be of good cheer for the Father never burdens his people with burdens they cannot, with his help, bear.

As we celebrate the first sunrise after the defeat of darkness, Hail the King Triumphant for this is the day of His victory.

 

He is Risen indeed!

And hath appeared unto Simon!

Even Simon, the coward disciple who denied him thrice

“Christ is risen indeed, and hath appeared to Simon!”

to Simon Peter the favoured Apostle, on whom the Church is built

‘This doubtful day of feast or fast’

Annunciation and Crucifixion, from BL Add. 18850, f. 204v

Annunciation and Crucifixion, from BL Add. 18850, f. 204v

Something unusual today for Good Friday. It falls on Lady Day, the Feast of the Annunciation, something that won’t happen again until 2157. Our forefathers in the faith considered it to be the true date of the Crucifixion. A Clerk of Oxford tells us:

This day was not only a conjunction of man-made calendars but also a meeting-place of solar, lunar, and natural cycles: both events were understood to have happened in the spring, when life returns to the earth, and at the vernal equinox, once the days begin to grow longer than the nights and light triumphs over the power of darkness. Here’s Bede explaining some of the symbolism of this latter point (from here, p.25):

It is fitting that just as the Sun at that point in time first assumed power over the day, and then the Moon and stars power over the night, so now, to connote the joy of our redemption, day should first equal night in length, and then the full Moon should suffuse [the night] with light. This is for the sake of a certain symbolism, because the created Sun which lights up all the stars signifies the true and eternal light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world, while the Moon and stars, which shine, not with their own light (as they say), but with an adventitious light borrowed from the Sun, suggest the body of the Church as a whole, and each individual saint. These, capable of being illumined but not of illuminating, know how to accept the gift of heavenly grace but not how to give it. And in the celebration of the supreme solemnity, it was necessary that Christ precede the Church, which cannot shine save through Him… Observing the Paschal season is not meaningless, for it is fitting that through it the world’s salvation both be symbolized and come to pass.

As Bede says at the end here, this dating is symbolic but it is not only a symbol; it reveals the deep relationship between Christ’s death and all the created world, including the sun and moon and everything on earth. According to some calculations 25 March was also considered to be the eighth day of the week which saw the creation of the world (for more on that, see this post), as well as the date of certain events from the Old Testament which prefigured Christ’s death, including the sacrifice of Isaac and the crossing of the Red Sea. It is the single most significant date in salvation history, and for that reason has also made it into some fictional history too: those of you who are Tolkien fans will know that the final destruction of the Ring takes place on 25 March, to align Tolkien’s own eucatastrophe with this most powerful of dates.

It happened in 1608 too, and John Donne wrote about it:

Upon the Annunciation and Passion Falling upon One Day
1608

Tamely, frail body, abstain today; today
My soul eats twice, Christ hither and away.
She sees Him man, so like God made in this,
That of them both a circle emblem is,
Whose first and last concur; this doubtful day
Of feast or fast, Christ came and went away;
She sees Him nothing twice at once, who’s all;
She sees a Cedar plant itself and fall,
Her Maker put to making, and the head
Of life at once not yet alive yet dead;
She sees at once the virgin mother stay
Reclused at home, public at Golgotha;
Sad and rejoiced she’s seen at once, and seen
At almost fifty and at scarce fifteen;
At once a Son is promised her, and gone;
Gabriel gives Christ to her, He her to John;
Not fully a mother, she’s in orbity,
At once receiver and the legacy;
All this, and all between, this day hath shown,
The abridgement of Christ’s story, which makes one
(As in plain maps, the furthest west is east)
Of the Angel’s Ave and Consummatum est.
How well the Church, God’s court of faculties,
Deals in some times and seldom joining these!
As by the self-fixed Pole we never do
Direct our course, but the next star thereto,
Which shows where the other is and which we say
(Because it strays not far) doth never stray,
So God by His Church, nearest to Him, we know
And stand firm, if we by her motion go;
His Spirit, as His fiery pillar doth
Lead, and His Church, as cloud, to one end both.
This Church, by letting these days join, hath shown
Death and conception in mankind is one:
Or ‘twas in Him the same humility
That He would be a man and leave to be:
Or as creation He had made, as God,
With the last judgment but one period,
His imitating Spouse would join in one
Manhood’s extremes: He shall come, He is gone:
Or as though the least of His pains, deeds, or words,
Would busy a life, she all this day affords;
This treasure then, in gross, my soul uplay,
And in my life retail it every day.

via A Clerk of Oxford: ‘This doubtful day of feast or fast’: Good Friday and the Annunciation.

Just another member of the patriarchy | The Catechesis of Caroline

tumblr_m2qaxvmgvF1rpyyq4o1_500I know, it’s Saturday, and usually we try to keep it a little lighter on Saturday. But I read this yesterday, and it haunted me last night. Not least because it reminded me of a similar story that Jess told us, here and here. In that story as well, the baby was killed, and the structure of the mother’s life was seriously disrupted, including her relationship with the father. Not least because of finding Jesus through Jess and the Vicar, the mother survived, although I have no idea about the father.

But it’s another case where the easy availability of abortion hurt many beyond the baby, and another where her decision had the potential to destroy the mother as well. This is the wider evil of abortion. It has effects, nearly all of them bad, on everybody concerned.

We kind of forget this, as we think about the horrors of the Planned Parenthood marketing plan, but it too is real. Maybe there are men and women so callous that they can walk away unscarred by killing their baby, if so, I have never met them. It doesn’t always disable people, but I think it always leaves a scar on them as well, and that is what the literature tells us, as well.

Here’s a bit of Caroline’s story

A few weeks ago my friend posted a status update on Facebook highlighting a plea for help from a forum mainly populated by men. A poster’s girlfriend had found herself unexpectedly pregnant and the young man simply didn’t know what to do.

Without going too much into the specifics of the situation, he was a mature student, his girlfriend was slightly older than him, had a well-paid secure job and a child from a previous marriage. On discovering she was pregnant, her initial reaction was one of delight she assumed that they would be having the baby and set about telling all her friends and family.

Though the young man shared some of his girlfriend’s excitment, he was at the same time, daunted and understandably so. Although he loved his girlfriend, he took the responsibilities of fatherhood seriously and wasn’t sure whether or not now was the right time to take their relationship to the next level. The news that she was expecting sent the woman into what seems to be a frenzy of nesting. Immediately she made a series of demands upon him which involved him making a series of unnecessary and excessive sacrifices. He would need to abandon his plans for a PhD in a specialist scientific discipline, take up extra shifts on his minimum wage job and move in with her. He’d also not be allowed to take any of his pets into her home and neither would he be allowed any space of his own to study. He’d have to make do with the family’s kitchen table. Furthermore the baby’s arrival date was causing him some concern, it was due to coincide with his finals. He’d therefore had a major panic, feeling trapped, that she was bouncing him into a baby that he wasn’t ready for and while he wasn’t averse to the idea of a baby, he just couldn’t see how things were going to work out.

Source: Just another member of the patriarchy | The Catechesis of Caroline

It also makes me wonder, would have they have had all this trouble, in either of the cases here, if they had been in a serious marriage, not the shallow ones, or none (as in these cases) so many of our compatriots have, but the kind of marriage, with God, that most of us remember from our parent’s time, what Rome calls Sacramental Marriage, although there is nothing particularly Catholic about it, although it is a Christian construct. It has to do with meaning the marriage vows, and the commitment they identify. What good is a relationship in which we run away from each other in a time of trouble, that’s when we need each other the most.

A few things for us all to think about this weekend.

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