Online Worship Services

April 11, 2021

Stories of a Resurrection!

Today, this Second Sunday in Easter, we find ourselves again in John's Gospel where we are told that the disciples are gathered in a room late on Easter Sunday, and the mood is bleak. Every plan and hope for the future rested with Jesus, and now he is dead. There are incredible stories of a resurrection, but the disciples remain unconvinced. How can it be?

 

Then, without warning, Jesus appears in their midst. "Peace be with you," he says, and he shows them his hands. The disciples recognize Jesus by his words and his wounds, and they rejoice; The Lord is alive; all is not lost! 

But Thomas isn't there when this happens. Likely lost in the throes of his own grief, Thomas misses his chance. Later the others are telling him wild tales: "We have seen the Lord!"

 

This is too much for Thomas. Didn't they all dismiss Mary Magdalene's story? So he makes an outrageous remark: "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe." It's a brazen statement and some people interpret it as unfortunate doubt. Is it? Come and explore more about this powerful Gospel story in Sunday and Monday's Bible study!  

 

Mother Anita

April 4, 2021

Easter Sunday

Welcome Happy Morning Age to Age Shall Say!

Welcome to Easter, the day and the 50 day season Christians hail above all others. The reality is that Easter story is preposterous - if we view it in strictly a literal way. But, if the truth is not limited by our human understanding then we live in a new situation: "a new heaven a new earth," as the Book of Revelation says. Let us not minimize or make light of the resurrection by trying to explain it. Trying to explain mysteries will always get us bollixed up, as I learned trying to explain and give reasons for things to curious toddlers and inquiring teenagers alike. Some things are better left unexplained. Let mystery reign. Too good to be true? Not at all, the Easter story is true.

Jesus' disciples walked through the door into a new world now suddenly brimming full of hope and possibility, of mystery and more love than they had ever imagined possible. Frightened, discouraged, grieving men and women somehow were transformed overnight into brave, hopeful, loving bearers of good news. If ever there is the time and the year to be brave and hopeful it is this one following 13 months of Covid.

 

As Peter Marty writes,"Easter is an ideal day for us to shake off nostalgic notions of faith and get serious about God's confidence in the future. One of our most unfortunate mistakes is to view the Bible mostly as a book about the past. It certainly contains an ancient record, but its direction is forward, not backward. We like to look backward, probably because retrieving or preserving the past feels more manageable than discerning an unknown future. We're drawn to the rearview mirror, the scrapbooks of faith, the trudge to the cemetery, the warm sentiments of childhood church. Yet the God of scripture is always out ahead of us, leading into the future."

 

Let's be led into the future by the truth of the Easter Story. Gospel. Welcome Happy Easter Morning!
 

Mother Anita

April 2, 2021

Good Friday

Veneration of the Cross 

We glory in your cross, O Lord, and praise and glorify your holy resurrection; for by virtue of your cross joy has come to the whole world.


May God be merciful to us and bless us, show us the light of his countenance, and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth, your saving health among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you.


We glory in your cross, O Lord, and praise and glorify your holy resurrection; for by virtue of your cross joy has come to the whole world.

April 1, 2021

Maundy Thursday

A Reading from First Corinthians

11:23-26

I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was be- trayed took a loaf of bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way he took the cup also, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

The Word of the Lord.

Thanks be to God.

March 28, 2021

Sunday of the Passion:  

       Holy Week has begun ~ We wish to see Jesus

 

I invite you this "Sunday of the Passion," when we reenact the passion, the story of Jesus' suffering, to take one step, and thus one day at a time. Egeria, a Spanish woman in the year 400 called this week "the Great Week," as she embarked on a multiyear pilgrimage to the Holy Land. There is truly no fast forwarding to Easter. Oh, you can try to fast forward to Easter, thereby skipping the difficulty of Holy Week. However, skipping Holy Week will greatly diminish Easter, and thereby greatly diminish how you understand the "passion," the suffering, of our Lord Jesus Christ, which begins today, this Passion Sunday. 

This day, The Sunday of the Passion, or as it is most often called, "Palm Sunday" because of the palms, we look on with wonder as Jesus makes a difficult and risky decision out of his love for God, his friends, his country, his faith. We look on with wonder because of the sense that we are all called in his name, to love and live that passionately, to journey so that we too may be empty, and can fill ourselves up once again with Jesus' love. Holy Week beacons us to join in Jesus' journey to the cross so let the journey. We wish to see Jesus.

 

Mother Anita

March 21, 2021

Seeing Jesus

"Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him, 'Sir, we wish to see Jesus.'" 

 

Crowds have previously flocked to Jesus or heard or interacted with him. What makes the visit of this delegation of Greeks in today's Gospel so remarkable is their step-by-step approach. Philip speaks with Andrew, and then Andrew and Phil approach Jesus together. In response, Jesus concisely sums up his message and states that the critical moment has arrived. Then a voice from heaven utters confirmation. "And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself." 

Seeing is one of the central themes of John's Gospel. Over and over again, we hear about those who see and believe.

 

Holy Week, the most important week of the year for us, is about seeing Jesus - all of him. Since the fourth century, Christians have found it vital to see and know Jesus by telling the story of his last days on earth. From the early Christians, to the formalization of practices by the fourth century, to today, Christians have told the story of Jesus' life, death and resurrection every year. Like the Greeks in today's Gospel we wish to see Jesus and become part of the story of the life of Jesus' disciples, the church.  Thank you for joining us in telling the story of Jesus in our worship and in our lives.

 

Mother Anita

March 14, 2021

Snakes, The Cross and the Fourth Sunday in Lent

Anyone who has had surgery knows something about the terror and healing of snakes on a pole. The American Medical Association adopted the image of the ancient Greek god of healing, a snake twined on a staff. Danger frequently paves the way to new life. Often an image of ugliness and death can be the means to wholeness. In this way, the story from Numbers echoes the larger story of salvation, which may be why it was chosen for this fourth Sunday in Lent, Laetare Sunday.

As we read and hear this story from Numbers in the context of our worship and today's Gospel, we see that the snake on a pole story foreshadows Good Friday and Easter morning. John states quite plainly in today's Gospel that just

as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up. Seen through the eyes of the church, the image of death lifted high on a pole is not that of a serpent, but that of God in Christ lifted high on the cross.

Suzanne Guthrie writes in her blog, "At the Edge of Enclosure," When I worked at Holy Cross Monastery (West Park, NY) in the late 80's and early 90's, my desk faced a window looking across the driveway to the entrance to the Guesthouse. Many times a day I read the words carved above the door: "Crux est Mundi Medicina" (The Cross is the Medicine of the World). I particularly needed healing at that time in my life, and I gazed upon the text like the desperate Israelites surrounded by poisonous snakes, looked upon the brazen serpent lifted up upon the pole (Numbers 21:4-9). John's Gospel takes the brazen serpent as a prefiguring, or "type" for the lifting up of Jesus on the life-saving cross.

 

Ponder with me this second half of Lent how the cross, like the snake on a pole can mean both danger and new life. 

 

Mother Anita

March 7, 2021

The holy anger of Jesus

After the wedding at Cana (2:1-12), we come to John's version of Jesus overturning the tables in the temple. This is significantly earlier than in Matthew, Mark and Luke's Gospels, where Jesus turns the tables at the end of his ministry, an event that arguably becomes the impetus for the religious leaders to seek his arrest. In John's Gospel, it is paired in chapter two instead with his first miracle, the first sign: turning water into wine. 

"Destroy this temple," Jesus says to the leaders who ask him for a sign, "and in three days I will raise it up." In John's Gospel Jesus isn't talking about changing the policies around who sells what when, and reforming temple practices. Jesus wants to turn over not only tables but also overturn the very pillars of existence through his very existence. 

In Chapter 4 when Jesus encounters the Samaritan woman at the well he says to her, "Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem." The hearers of this Gospel would have today's Gospel image in front of them-the rubble and wreckage of their temple. As this week's passage concludes, after the resurrection the disciples remembered Jesus' words about the temple, "and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken." 

 

This is no meek and mild Jesus in today's Gospel. We see the holy anger of Jesus in full display. What practices do we see and experience for which are right to get angry?

 

Mother Anita

February 28, 2021

Suffering love

In the gospel lesson for this second Sunday in Lent, Jesus is no longer in the wilderness. For 8 chapters Jesus has been casting out demons, healing the sick, walking on water, calming the storm, and feeding the masses. Jesus demonstrates that he has the power to do anything he wants to do. This is seemingly what Peter means when he says, ‘You are the Messiah.’ Perhaps then  the disciples can hardly be blamed for being stunned when Jesus, for the first time, mentions the cross. “The Son of Man must undergo great suffering.”

But Jesus is being tempted nonetheless. This time one of his own—his disciple Peter—is doing the tempting. Peter hears Jesus' teaching and responds: "No, Jesus. No suffering and death. What are you thinking of?  You are the

Messiah—the promised deliverer of God's people, Israel!" Jesus rebukes Peter: "Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things."

In today’s gospel Jesus makes some astonishing promises. As was true for John the Baptist, Jesus also must undergo great suffering. Two things need to be said about this great suffering. First of all, the suffering of which Jesus speaks is chosen. Secondly, the suffering itself is never the point. Jesus does not choose to suffer, nor does he call his disciples to suffer. Suffering is the result, the consequence of faithful love (think Abram and Sarai here as well!) Frederick Buechner describes this kind of love “suffering love.” May we consider this kind of suffering love in our Lenten meditations.

 

Mother Anita

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