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Archive for the ‘Holy Week’ Category

“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it.”

Todd Granger and Jill Martin were wonderful to allow us to come and take over their lovely Chatham County home as we gathered to commemorate The Great Vigil of Easter this past Holy Saturday.

As daylight receded, we gathered outside to kindle the new fire, marking Christ’s transition from death back into life. We lit the Pashcal Candle from the new fire and processed it while declaring to the gathering darkness:

“The light of Christ. Thanks be to God.”
“The light of Christ. Thanks be to God.”
“The light of Christ. Thanks be to God.”

As we entered the darkened house, each was given a taper. It was a beautiful scene. The Exsultent was sung as it reminded us:

This is the night, when you brought our fathers, the children of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt, and led them through the Red Sea on dry land.  

This is the night, when all who believe in Christ are delivered from the gloom of sin, and are restored to grace and holiness of life.

This is the night, when Christ broke the bonds of death and hell, and rose victorious from the grave.

How wonderful and beyond our knowing, O God, is your mercy and loving-kindness to us, that to redeem a slave, you gave a Son.

How holy is this night, when wickedness is put to flight, and sin is washed away. It restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to those who mourn. It casts out pride and hatred, and brings peace and concord.

How blessed is this night, when earth and heaven are joined and man is reconciled to God.

Nick and Jill

We then listened earnestly to the record of God’s saving deeds in history. Israel’s deliverance at the Red Sea is described in Exodus 14:10-15:1. Isaiah 55:1-11 describes God’s salvation offered freely to all. And a new heart and a new spirit was described in Ezekiel 36:24-28.

There were no Baptisms or Confirmations so we all joined our voices in The Renewal of Baptismal Vows. Having recognized that in our Baptism we die and are raised to new life in Christ, we then celebrated Christ’s new life by lighting the candles on the altar,  throwing on the house lights, and proclaiming with loud voices and bells ringing, “Alleluia. Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia.”

We heard powerful words from our tradition in St. John Chrysostom’s “Easter Homily.” Christ is risen and Hell has been embittered, abolished, mocked, purged, despoiled, and bound in chains! We celebrated Holy Communion. We sang. We alleluia-ed. Afterwards, we feasted together. I still lament not having one of Nancy Robinson’s cupcakes!  There was a bonfire and fireworks.

What a wonderful and joyful evening. To Christ be the glory!

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Archbishop’s Easter Homily – Easter Vigil, 23rd April, A.D.2011

“It is the difference between night and day.” How often have we used this expression?  Countless times.  This is a metaphor that makes great sense to humankind, because the night and the day are so different.  So little, relatively speaking, is possible in the darkness, and so much is possible in the light.

The difference between the “stone cold tomb” (as the Epiphany carol puts it[1]) and the empty tomb is “night and day.”  The watch between Holy Saturday and Easter morn is the contrast between the darkest night and the brightest day.

Before this night all human history ends in night, ends in the tomb.  After this night there is the possibility of human life issuing in endless day.  Easter changes everything.  Jesus changes everything.  Technically, of course, it is the cross that achieves what Luther called the “Great Exchange,” but the cross is the ultimate darkness, the ultimate night, in terms of human history as a dead end, where even the light of day (according to the Gospel accounts themselves) becomes dark as night.  The ultimate night, Good Friday, ends in the death of Life, followed by the three days night of Jesus’ entombment.  Before the dawn of Easter is mankind’s longest and darkest night.  Until this night all human life ends in death.

Jesus’ Resurrection makes possible to every man, woman, and child that his or her life might end with life, rather than with death.  Jesus’ Resurrection also makes possible “abundant life” before death, life lived without fear of death – life fearlessly lived.  It also makes possible life empowered by God’s Holy Spirit, life lived in concert with God’s purposes and God’s will, rather than in the increasing pain of aging and the gathering darkness of the dying that is the consequence of humanity’s endless rebellion.

Accepting Jesus is a choice, for every individual and for whole peoples.  Without Jesus day ends in night.  With Jesus night ends in day.  And it is not just about the way each of our stories ends, but also about the whole of our story itself.  Those who follow Jesus become agents of light – by the working of the Holy Spirit and despite their sin – in the darkness of this world.  Those who do not know Jesus are increasingly overtaken  by the darkness brought by others or by the inevitable death overtaking their own life.  These are the options, this is the choice: darkness and light, night and day.

One of the Easter Vigil’s most famous stories is of the baptism of an extraordinarily gifted young man who had sought answers in all the philosophies of his age and in all the pleasures of the world.  One day he heard a child singing, “Pick it up and read it.”  He heard the song several times, but could not see the child.  He picked up a Bible and happened to turn to Romans 13:13-14[2].  He later wrote: “My heart was flooded with light.”  He would also later pray: “You have made us for yourself, Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.”  The date was April 24th, 387.  The place Milan.  The young man’s name was Augustine, arguably the greatest intellect in all of human history.  For him the decision was to follow Jesus.  For him the decision was to allow day to follow night.

Another of the great Easter Vigil stories occurs in a savage and pagan land on the edge of the known world.  On the Hill of Slane, on the night of the spring equinox, in sight of the Irish kingdom gathered around their king to celebrate their deity’s festival, a newly consecrated bishop lights an Easter fire to proclaim to an unevangelized people that true day was breaking in on their night.  The evangelist’s name was Patrick.  Soon a whole people, a whole nation, would choose for the day that can follow night.  The year was 433.

We who gather here for worship on this Easter near the beginning of the 21st century face a world of competing ideologies and pagan savageries.  The choice remains one of whether night will follow day, or day will follow night.  Every individual must choose and every people must decide.  (If there are any here who haven’t yet chosen, it is not too late.  Step from the gathering darkness of your night into blazing light of Jesus’ day.)  Jesus presents the choice.  His cross and empty tomb present a doorway into a very different future, the difference (and the doorway) between night and day.  Our call is to live in the day, both by deed and by word.  Our call is to the transformation of the world with the love and light of Jesus.  We can help one another to live abundantly in the day, and we can help others to choose Jesus and the new day He offers.  It is a matter of life and death, of day and night.  We here know the tomb is empty.  We know what is possible in Jesus.  In thanksgiving for what Jesus has done for us, let us be agents of the same Easter choice for others.  We know that day does follow night for those who make the Easter choice.

Alleluia.  Christ is risen!        The Lord is risen indeed.  Alleluia!              AMEN.


[1] We Three Kings, stanza 4, Hymnal1982, Hymn 128.

[2] “Let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy.  But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”  These two verses are preceded by the exhortation: “Let us then cast away the works of darkness and put on the armor of light.”

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Last night we gathered beneath the shadow of the cross to remember and receive by faith the last hours of our Lord. The Good Friday liturgy begins with a solemn procession, silence, and this prayer:

Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The prophet Isaiah (52:13-53:12) was read, reminding us that Israel had long been waiting for this servant of God to come and bring deliverance and forgiveness of sins.

Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the  chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.

The Passion Gospel was then read by a number of readers. The congregation voiced the cries of the crowd and those who would have Jesus crucified. We stood when he arrived at Golgotha. We bowed when he, “gave up his spirit”

I was grateful to be given the opportunity to preach the Good Friday homily. I spoke on Jesus’ choice to restrain himself in order to be obedient to his Father’s will. His obedience in going to the tree of Golgotha undid the destruction caused by the disobedience of the first humans who went to the tree in Eden and ate of its fruit.

When I spoke of Jesus taking all of the the  sin and wickedness, disobedience, suffering, and sorrow of the world into and onto himself, I was unexpectedly moved emotionally – even to tears. It was the first time that’s ever happened when I’ve preached. As I’ve processed that experience, I’m still not exactly certain what happened. The Spirit kindled something deep within me that I had not planned and was not expecting. I was simultaneously overcome with the reality of the brokenness of this world and Christ’s suffering for it.

Looking out over the faces of the congregation, knowing their stories, their struggles and their griefs, it was as if I glimpsed the devastating extent of the Fall. Internally, I was also aware of the damaging effects of sin in my life and the life of my family. In that moment, I was awakened  unexpectedly to our desperate need for a Savior.

I woke up at 3:15 this morning for some unknown reason and I was pondering this experience. I was gratefully reminded of some words I’d read by Lancelot Andrewes recently:

Give tears then: give the grace of tears.
Give me, Lord, this great grace. 
Tears such as Thou didst give to David, to Jeremiah, to Peter, and to Mary Magdalene. 
Tears gain everything.

We finished the service with The Solemn Collects, the veneration of the cross, and a magnificent rendition of Bach’s passion story according to St. Matthew by Beth Linnartz, Ehsan Samei, and Todd Granger (Aus Liebe Will Mein Heiland Sterben).

Again, what a feast of feasts, these days are! And it’s not over yet! Tonight a number of us from Holy Trinity will gather for the The Great Vigil. Then tomorrow, we will sing, “Christ the Lord is risen today,” with our brothers and sisters at All Saints.

I confess, I am greatly looking forward to the end of  Lent. It has been a long and challenging one in many respects. Not just for me but for those whom I love. I agree with Tom Wright, after such a long Lent, we need more than one day to celebrate the magnitude of the resurrection. “We need days of morning prayers and champagne,” to rightly linger in the joy of this celebration!

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There was deep rest around the grave of Jesus.  On the seventh day, when the work of creation was completed, God rested…  On the seventh day of the week of our redemption, when Jesus had fulfilled all he was sent by his Father to do, he rested in the tomb, and the women whose hearts were broken with grief rested with him.  Of all the days of history, Holy Saturday–the Saturday during which the body of Jesus lay in the tomb in silence and darkness behind the large stone that was rolled against its entrance–is the day of God’s solitude.  [This holy Sabbath day] is the day on which the whole creation waits in deep rest.  It is the day on which no words are spoken, no proclamations made.  The Word of God through whom all has been made lies buried in the darkness of the earth.  This Holy Saturday is the most quiet of all days.  The quiet connects the first covenant with the second, the people of Israel with the not-yet-known world, the Temple with the new worship in the Spirit, the sacrifices of blood with the sacrifice of bread and wine, the Law with the Gospel.  This divine silence is the most fruitful silence that the world has ever known.  From this silence, the Word will be spoken again and make all things new.

—  Henri Nouwen

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Palm Sunday Miracle

Stan Winder heard a voice in his head telling him to do something that seemed impossible.

“Get up and walk.”

Acts Chapter 3, the story of Peter healing a lame beggar in the name of Jesus, was the Scripture that Winder read when he heard the voice.

Skepticism was his initial reaction.

“I thought, ‘Well, you’ve got to be kidding me.’ ”

At the time, Winder was disabled and relied on a wheelchair to get around. At age 56, doctors told him his illness would likely get worse.

But the voice returned with its command.

Click here to read more.

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As mentioned in the previous post, we gathered “at a place apart from the church” for “The Liturgy of the Palms” and the procession. At the Holy Trinity – Chatham service, we gathered specifically at the town center, the Chatham  County courthouse. It was built in 1881 and is unique because it is situated on a round-about at the junction of HWY 64 and HWY 15-501. You may recall the courthouse was severely damaged in a fire last year. You can see it in the background of some of the images below. It has long been a source of pride and a symbol for Chatham. It is currently being repaired and restored – a symbolic renovation of the heart of our community. How fitting it was for the first Holy Week of  Holy Trinity-Chatham to begin from there.

As we walked from the courthouse, we processed down the main street of Pittsboro, singing Hosannas and waving palms. It was a beautiful experience to hear the sounds of praise echoing down the street and reverberating off of the neighboring buildings. I believe the Lord was delighted by the worship of these faithful people!

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Palm Sunday Procession in PBO

Palm Sunday Procession in PBO

What a blessed day the Lord’s Day was yesterday. Three services: two at All Saints Church and one at Holy Trinity.  To reenact our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem and to cross over the threshold of Holy Week together with these two communities was exceedingly meaningful. There is no other season in the Church year more special to me than this one. The liturgies and the prayers are incredibly moving.

It begins with such a flurry of ceremony with the liturgy for the “The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday.”

I love to gather “at a place apart from the church,” as the prayer book recommends, for the “The Liturgy of the Palms.” The words of the opening prayer enjoin our hearts and minds asking for God’s merciful help to assist us, “that we may enter with joy upon the contemplation of those mighty acts, whereby you have given us life and immortality.”

The blessing over the palms reminds us to hold before us the triumph of Christ our King during Holy Week:

The Lord be with you. And also with you.

Let us give thanks to the Lord our God. It is right to give him thanks and praise.

It is right to praise you Almighty God, for the acts of love by which you have redeemed us through your Son Jesus Christ our Lord. On this day he entered into the holy city of Jerusalem in triumph, and was proclaimed as King of kings by those who spread their garments and branches of palms along his way. Let these branches be for us signs of his victory, and grant that we who bear them in his name may ever hail him as our King, and follow him in the way that leads to eternal life; who lives and reigns in glory with you and the Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen

No small joy of this season are the hymns we get to sing. Think of them, old and new, brimming with God’s love.

“All Glory, Laud and Honor”

All glory, laud and honor, / To Thee, Redeemer, King, / To Whom the lips of children / Made sweet hosannas ring.

“What Wondrous Love is This”

What wondrous love is this, O my soul, O my soul!/What wondrous love is this, O my soul! /What wondrous love is this/  That caused the Lord of bliss / To bear the dreadful curse for my soul, for my soul, / To bear the dreadful curse for my soul!

How Deep the Father’s Love for Us”

Why should I gain from His reward? / I cannot give an answer / But this I know with all my heart / His wounds have paid my ransom

At Holy Trinity, I particularly enjoyed responding to the reading of the Passion of our Lord Jesus Christ according to St. Matthew with the words of “O Sacred Head, Sore Wounded.” We read from 27: 1-31 and responded with the first two stanzas of the song. Then vv. 32-44, again responding in song. We finished the reading and responded with these incredible words:

What language shall I borrow
to thank thee, dearest friend,
for this thy dying sorrow,
thy pity without end?
Oh, make me thine for ever!
and should I fainting be,
Lord, let me never, never,
outlive my love for thee.

Thank you, Todd for your creativity. This was a wonderful way to gather around the Passion narrative while having time to pause for reverently responsive reflection.

What a rich treasure we’ve been given. The liturgy, the prayers, the music bring us right into the events that Scripture unfolds before us and allows us to be witnesses to these saving acts and to enter into them and receive them as our own by faith.  O Christian, do not deprive yourself of the great joys of these days!  It is a fabulous feast that is set before you!  Come, and behold the marvel of all marvels, and join in singing that Love that no death could destroy!

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