He is Risen

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

Let’s speak a bit about the history. You may know that Easter is an Anglophone term for what nearly everybody else calls some form of Pasch. There’s a myth about that, which The Clerk of Oxford does a fine job of debunking.

How was Easter celebrated in Anglo-Saxon England? There’s a popular answer to that question, which goes like this: ‘the Anglo-Saxons worshipped a goddess called Eostre, who was associated with spring and fertility, and whose symbols were eggs and hares. Around this time of year they had a festival in her honour, which the Christians came over and stole to use for their own feast, and that’s why we now have Easter’.

Yeah, not so much, Eostre was mentioned in two sentences by St Bede, the rest is mostly 19th-century fabrication.

The women and the angel at the tomb, from the Benedictional of St Æthelwold
(BL Additional 49598, f. 51v)

The reenactment of this scene – the women and the angel at the empty tomb – forms one of the best-known elements of the early medieval Easter liturgy, famous because it is often said to be one of the oldest examples of liturgical drama. To quote from Regularis Concordia, as translated in this excellent blogpost at For the Wynn:

When the third reading [of Nocturns] is being read, let four brothers clothe themselves, one of whom, clothed in white and as if about to do something else, should go in and secretly be at the burial place, with his hand holding a palm, and let him sit quietly.  And while the third responsory is being sung, let the remaining three follow: all clothed with cloaks, carrying censers with incense in their hands, and with footsteps in the likeness of someone seeking something, let them come before the burial place. And let these things be done in imitation of the angel sitting on the tomb and of the women coming with spices, so that they might anoint the body of Jesus.

And when the one remaining has seen the three, wandering and seeking something, approach him, let him begin, with a moderate voice, to sing sweetly: ‘Whom are you seeking?’ When this has been sung to the end, let the three respond with one voice: ‘Jesus of Nazareth’. To whom he should say: ‘He is not here.  He has risen, as he said before.  Go, announce it, because he has risen from the dead.’ With this command, let those three turn around to the choir, saying, “Alleluia, the Lord has risen.’ When this has been said, let the one sitting turned back, as if calling them back, say this antiphon: ‘Come and see the place’.

Saying these things, let him rise and lift up the veil and show them the place devoid of the cross, but with the linens placed there which with the cross had been wrapped. When they have seen this, let them set down the censers which they were carrying in the same tomb, and let them take the linen and spread it out in front of the clergy, and, as if showing that the Lord has risen and is not wrapped in it, let them sing this antiphon, ‘The Lord has risen from the tomb’, and let them lay the linen upon the altar.

This is a dramatic replaying of the crucial moment in the Easter story, bringing it to life through the voices and bodies of the monks. Although presumably the primary audience for this liturgical play was the monastic community itself, it may also have been witnessed by lay people. That appears to be the implication of a miracle-story told by Eadmer, describing something which he saw take place as the ritual was being performed in Canterbury Cathedral in c.1066:

There is quite a lot more at her post which is linked above and recommended highly.

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 its 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 favored Apostle, on whom the Church is built

Jess’ companion article will be along at Noon for your enjoyment.

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Good Friday meditation

three-crosses_thumb

[This is the companion piece that Jessica wrote several years ago to go with mine from earlier today. As always, her insights are perhaps better than mine, but always slightly different.] Neo

We call it ‘Good Friday’. The altar in my church is stripped bare, and the crucifix is covered, and we leave with the smoke from the extinguished candles filling the gloom of an English spring afternoon; with temperatures stuck next to freezing, the shivers could have a number of causes; but meditating on the Passion of Our Lord is enough.  The sense of sorrow is an echo of that first Friday at Calvary, and it is hard to know, at that moment what is ‘good’ about it.

But when we stop in prayer and think, we can see precisely what is good.  It is the day on which all our sins are loaded on the Lamb of God when He takes upon His shoulders your sins and mine. What wonder is this? What have we done to be so rewarded? How can this be? What wondrous love is this? Good? Yes, the best news mankind ever had or ever will have. Whatever confessional allegiances divide us, I like to feel on this day of all days, the Cross of Christ unites us.

I leave it to all the clever men to explain what in my heart I know is simple. Christ loves me. He loves us all. He did what He did, He suffered what He suffered willingly. He knew it would be terrible, and He would have preferred it if it had been otherwise, but that makes it all the more precious.

The American expression ‘when the rubber hits the road’ comes to mind. This is where our salvation was earned, and not by us. With every nail that was hammered in, as with every stripe He bore for us, we are being saved. If we find those sufferings horrible, we should know that is how God finds our sins; God did something about it – what are we doing?

It was through the breaking of that body on the Cross, and the spilling of that blood that we see what He meant on the evening of the Last Supper. His Body was broken for us; His blood spilled for us. Some of us believe that at the Eucharist we receive His Body and Blood as He said; others that it is in memory of Him. Well, Good Friday is no time to rehearse what divides us – yet more stripes we apply to His back. It is a time for prayer and contemplation.

Mine is that for all of us, the Spirit of Christ may be with us this Easter, and that we may know Him as Lord, and worship Him and be thankful for what He has done for us. What did we do to earn it? Nothing. What can we do to be worthy of it? Just heed His call to repent and follow Him in belief that He is the Christ.

In the shadow of the Cross we kneel and pray and give thanks – we are redeemed through His suffering. As the ancient hymn has it, let all mortal flesh keep silent. He has saved us. It is Good Friday – be sad and yet rejoice.


Tomorrow as we continue our Easter posts, Jessica will lead with her excellent Easter Saturday post. I will follow around noon.

Palm Sunday, Triumphalism, and Leadership

Yesterday, we reviewed the difference between leaders and non-leaders. Today in my traditional Palm Sunday post we will look at Jesus’s leadership in Passion week, and see what lessons we can learn from him, and like Jessica, we will look at a contemporary example.

On Palm Sunday, way back in the mid 60’s, according to the traditions of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, I became a man, with all the responsibilities to God that that carried. It was also when you traditionally got your first suit. The Sunday before was Examination Sunday, the test was verbal, in front of the congregation. This entitled me to take my First Communion on Easter Sunday, as was considered meet and right.

As always the Sanctuary was decorated in palm fronds commemorating Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Also as on all special Sundays, we processed behind the Pastor and Choir up the center aisle to this, Hymn No. 1 in the old E&R Hymnal.

And so I became responsible for my own everlasting fate, which up until this time had been my parents (and Godparents) responsibility.

Palm Sunday was, of course, the most triumphant day of Christ’s ministry. With the adoring and worshipful crowds which of course would soon demand and receive his death.

What can we learn from this? General Patton put it this way:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. . .

A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”


We know that earthly glory is fleeting, who can recite the exploits of Edward Longshanks or Frederick Barbarossa from memory. Sure we remember some of our founders but its only been a few generations, and we have been trained (some of us anyway) pretty well.

But what is different about the Christ, other than the Resurrection that is. Like most troublemakers through the ages, he died a common criminals death. Think about that for a moment. Within a week he went from the darling of the populace to an executed criminal, that’s quite a fall, in any time or place.

The other thing is: He never forgot the mission. What thoughts must have been in his mind on that long ago Palm Sunday, knowing, as he did, the fate that awaited him? But he never flinched, only prayed that this fate might be averted. He knew, as did his disciples and followers in coming times, that there would be many martyrs, Saints of the Faith if you will. There will be many more. Christianity, even more than the Judaism from which it sprang, is the religion of the oppressed, the underdog, the person who never got a fair shake in this world, the sovereign individual made in God’s image. All you have to do is: Remember the Mission and take care of your people. The shepherd of the flock. And that is more than most of us can do consistently, without God’s help, because it is one of the most difficult missions ever entrusted.

Do not fall into the trap of triumphalism, earthly glory leads to nothing but trouble. I think most of us know this instinctively. What is the thing we remember about George W. Bush? He had many faults, which most conservatives can recite from memory. But, and it’s a huge but, he was a humble God-fearing man. To me, that is a lot of the difference between him and Barack Obama. Obama wants lives for the acclaim of the crowd, the earthly glory, one could easily call it the cult of personality. In some ways, he reminds me of Flavius Josephus, a man who (in the 3d century, I think)  managed to turn some of Christ’s miracles into mere magic tricks, for glory and money.

And so the lesson for me from this Palm Sunday is the old one that the US Air Force taught me long ago and far away:

First the Mission

Second the People

Last Yourself.

 

 

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.

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

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