Monday, April 10
Tuesday, April 11
A Single Seed to Sow:
Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
I was working in the Koerner Library with two other friends of mine at UBC, and we were commiserating over the pressures of school work. Here we are, expending our minds and our bodies, and for what? Who are we serving, what are we gaining, from this experience? It is difficult, in the immediacy of a moment, to remember what we are working towards. It is difficult, when we want to serve and contribute to a larger purpose, not to feel muted by the painful, although short-term, experience of striving for what we believe in. How do you hold on to that image, so “that the darkness may not overtake you” (John 12:35)?
The image that my friend used to describe this feeling was that this is our time to sow, and there will be a day for us to reap the harvest; this is the same image that Christ uses when he describes his sacrifice. Christ knew and trusted that only in his sacrifice would he truly sow the seeds of faith that he sought to scatter in life. His message teaches us that mortality can coexist with miracles, that life is as much about accepting the possibility of despair and loss as it is about having faith in the living word that is God’s creation. This uncertainty keeps us in suspense, and it keeps us humble. It reminds us that not even Christ can control the future that his father, the Lord God gave him; it reminds us to trust that God has given us this experience, this lifetime, for a reason, and that we must trust in that experience.
In reading the Book of John, a theme begins to repeat itself: Christ makes a proclamation, performs a miracle, is doubted, and then disappears. In this passage, I was confused by the juxtaposition of immortality and impermanence—much like the crowd in Galilee asks Jesus “We have heard from the law that the Messiah remains forever. How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up [in death]?” (Joh. 12:34). What John’s gospel appears to be teaching us, and preparing us for, is believing in Christ through his absence, accepting his loss without falling into despair, and trusting in the power of His works without needing to bear witness to them.
Christ tells us that “while you have the light, believe in the light” (Joh. 12:36). May each of us be made anew in the life-giving light of creation. Help us to keep our faith in the living word, to keep our strength during the sowing season. Prepare our spirits to receive new opportunities for growth, even in the sightless darkness of worry and anticipation.
Wednesday, April 12
Recently, I noticed that when I read or hear this passage, the first word that pops into my mind is “predestination”. I think a lot of us are uncomfortable with the idea that our path through life might not be entirely under our control—I certainly am. Here, Jesus knows that someone in this room- one of his loyal disciples- will betray him. And we know too, because we know the end of the story: it is Judas Iscariot who ends up selling Jesus out to the authorities for a pouch of silver coins. And, after that happens, Jesus is crucified and ushers in salvation for us all. In hindsight, this becomes a self-justifying, “just-so” story.
But what if we didn’t know the end of the story already? What if we were Judas, told that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, we would betray the one to whom we’ve dedicated our lives for so long? How would we feel? Turning your back on your friends is not an easy thing for us to do. Judas is not a celebrated figure in most circles; often he is portrayed as greedy, selfish, or disillusioned with the message of Jesus. But there’s a lot of debate out in the world about the kind of person he actually was. Sometimes I imagine that we tack on a lot of our own biases about his actions onto him, because we struggle with the fact that the betrayal and crucifixion of Jesus is absolutely necessary to this story. We struggle with the predestination of it all, and what it means for our free will.
Let’s hold the complexity of our faith in our thoughts as we read through this passage. Amen.
Simon Luc Noel
Maundy Thursday, April 13
The humility of your Love,
That the One who comes from God
Is also slave
With deep and unrelenting love
Knowing that I will betray you
But serving me still
There is no pride here
Just a clear reflection of you
In this clean water,
Growing murky now from dust and dirt
With the full weight of tomorrow
Bearing down on you like a cross
You nonetheless love me,
In truth and in deed
Despite my undeserving
The humility of your Love
That the One who comes from God
Is also slave
Washing my stained and spotted heart clean
Thank you for your gift of pure, humble and abiding love. Allow me to see clearly the full measure of your love and mercy, and to come with a servant’s heart to wash the feet of my brothers and sisters as you have washed mine.
Good Friday, April 14
God on the Cross
We often think of Jesus alone on the cross, the fully human part of him enduring a horrific death. He prays as a man for the Father to take this cup from him . . . because flesh always wants to avoid pain and suffering. Jesus is the target of hate turned from disappointment. He is betrayed, denied, tried, mocked, beaten, given a crown of thorns and crucified on a cross . . . he is the target of all the darkness humanity can throw at him in his time and place.
He does not struggle, fight or argue . . . he just takes it . . . all of it . . . absorbs the anger, resentment and hate from people who do not understand God and do not wish to.
God being God, does not leave Jesus alone on the cross. Our God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit is inextricably One. The Father is no Father without the Son and without a relationship between them from which the Holy Spirit flows, there is no place for the Spirit of God. Our God is a God in community with God's self - Father and Son in mutual loving that overflows in the Holy Spirit, who welcomes us in to God's loving. God is dynamic . . . and God is One. So when we crucify a part of God, as the Salsburg Cross depicts, our One God is on the cross . . . enduring suffering and weeping for humanity . . . .
Father forgive us, for we know not what we are doing . . . Amen
Holy Saturday, April 15
And now, we wait.
Though, the first disciples likely weren't waiting for much. Jesus had said time and again that he would be raised on the third day after his death, but there is not a great deal of evidence to suggest that the disciples believed that tomorrow their Master, their Lord, their Beloved would be alive again. Even so, there's a sense of waiting, a pause in the story. The women waited, before heading to the tomb with the burial spices; I imagine all the disciples waiting to see what would happen next, waiting in fear and uncertainty.
Of course, the waiting was somewhat imposed. It's Sabbath, after all. It's hard to think that there was not an awful lot of tension in that particular day of rest. It's easy to see Mary wound up by tomorrow's task, distractedly tapping her feet, or wringing her hands in anticipation and worry. You can almost hear Cleopas pacing, waiting to get out of town.
But really, we don't hear anything about that day. It's a held breath. A screen full of static.
We do know that the disciples clearly observed this Sabbath, which I think is worth some reflection. I can cynically imagine that they did so mostly out of fear of the consequences, if they were caught breaking the law. But another, rather more compelling possibility is that in the middle of their anxiety and stress, their worry about what comes next, the searing memory of yesterday's disaster, in this space of utter hopelessness (we had hoped, they will say tomorrow), in the midst of all of it, perhaps they were praying. Perhaps they really were honoring the Sabbath, regardless of what they were feeling and what they might rather have been doing. Maybe they even dared to worship from their emotional ash heap. Maybe the most astounding thing about this silent day is the disciples' commitment, in spite of their broken dreams, to sit in God's story, to keep themselves rooted in and attentive to God, to wait on the One who will not despise a broken heart.
Perhaps they had Isaiah's promise in mind; maybe they whispered it again and again: But those who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength, they shall mount up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not grow faint.
And now, we wait.
Living God, may we wait for you, with holy patience. Amen.
Easter Sunday, April 16
This is the end. Or perhaps better, now the story is complete. The long narrative is finished, and Jesus is ascending to heaven, leaving behind his burial clothes, the tomb, his friends and his disciples. The wrappings in the tomb are described carefully, so we can know that we are not dealing with grave robbers here. They would not have placed the head coverings separately. And we have the image of the disciples running, with the author, John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, afraid to enter. Peter, of course, doesn't hesitate, and sees the whole display.
And then Mary Magelene becomes our witness. She sees the angels, and then Jesus, in the first of several appearances later described in Acts. He speaks to Mary in a kind of cryptic way, and sends the first message to the disciples: that he has ascended to heaven.
It seems to me that this is one of the most interesting passages in the bible. I think we can all imagine ourselves at baptism with John, at Jesus' birth, in the temple as he reads the riot act to the money-changers and purveyors of sacrificial animals and birds. We can hear the parables, and laugh at the confusion of the rich man denied the kingdom, the wise virgins, the prodigal son. We know modern medicine, and so we can more or less accept the curing of the lepers and the people taken over by demons. These are familiar images and the stories have been told to us since childhood.
But now, at the tomb, in the early morning, everything changes. Now we are called to consider the third element of our catechism: Christ was born, Christ has died, Christ has risen (and will come again.) Now we're talking belief, faith, trust in the absolute power of God to do things that are really way outside of our experience. It's here, at the tomb, that we are called to ignore our disbelief, to shout out the Easter greeting, and to live as if Jesus will one day be present on earth. That's a lot. That's why we go to church each Sunday. It's why we celebrate the Eucharist. It's why we sing songs of praise and thanksgiving. Making this step in our belief is hard, and takes work, and prayer, and careful consideration, and more prayer, and more worship. But we persist. Thanks be to God!
Lord, we give you thanks, and we and pray that we will recognize your presence among us each day. We pray that our faith in Jesus will sustain us and keep us ever in touch with your will and your blessings. Amen.