Lessons from Thomas

This week mirrored the Easter week for me. I went to a funeral of a good family friend and within 24 hours I was at a birth and welcomed Grace into the world – her name seemed rather fitting

The rapid turn around from sorrow to joy was a little jarring. Lent and Easter have a similar breakneck u-turn. 3 o’clock on Friday there is no joy left in the world and by Saturday night we are ringing bells and get the alleluias back. I am not convinced that humans are capable of such a swift emotional change. As was mentioned in a previous post, Easter is longer than Lent to help us get our minds around it. However, in the moment there is little time to process.

I try to imagine what it was like for the disciples. To go from having their hopes crushed, then getting a truly unbelievable story of Jesus being alive, and then finally having him appear to them as they are huddled in room blocking out the outside world. You feel for them. Jesus encourages his friends to stop building walls against the world to go out. To leave the locked doors behind and to start interacting with people. Thomas initially gets left out. Who can blame him for not believing the others. He gets stuck in good Friday for a full week longer than the rest. Intellectually and emotionally he isn’t ready to make the jump.

I have a soft spot for Thomas. He is genuine. A little bit before Jesus’ crucifixion Jesus is planning on going back to Judea. A place where “a short while ago the Jews there tried to stone you, and yet you are going back?”. His friends know that it would be a foolhardy idea to return. It certainly doesn’t help that Jesus is talking vaguely and in riddles. But go ol’ Thomas realizes that Jesus’ mind won’t be changed and says “Let us also go, that we may die with him”. It is pessimistic for sure but he is a true friend – willing to to give his all for a friend on a suicide mission to see someone who is already dead. No questions, no hesitation, just a faithful friend. You can see why he can’t believe that Jesus is alive even though everyone else is telling him the same story for a week solid. It’s too fast and the emotions too raw. The man he would die for is gone and his future is directionless.

Jesus has a special challenge for Thomas (please note that the doors are once again locked so maybe the other disciples are still unsure about the reactions of the Jewish leaders and even though they have been “sent” they are still all together). Thomas is asked to do a 180. His bold statement of “unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” has been put to the test. Here Jesus asks him to reach out. Literally reach out and touch him. Much like the disciples were sent out to the world, Jesus also asks that we reach out, to get outside of our personal bubble. Thomas’ grief was keeping him from having a relationship with his community and with his God. The little Christian community’s fear was keeping them locked away and in both cases they needed to be set free. They needed someone to stand in front of them and help them make it to a point where they could be whole.

Thomas and the others still need time to work out what has happened. After Jesus appears to them in the room for the second time they go out into the world fully understanding what has happened, that Jesus is alive, and start planting churches everywhere … not even close. They go back and do what many of them grew up doing, they went fishing. Jesus shows up again, although initially unrecognizable, and preforms a miracle and has breakfast with them on the beach. He helps them process. He takes the baby steps that they need to go from Good Friday to Easter Sunday. The pillars of the Christian church, who got to see Jesus, can’t do it in 3 days. So if you are like me and find the change is hard and that sometimes you get stuck in one liturgical season while the calender moves on I would encourage you to take time to process. You might even have to take a few steps back before moving forward is even an option but that is ok. People around you understand because I think that we’ve all been stuck at some point in the church year and more importantly our God understands and is willing to go at the pace we need. I find that very comforting.

Amy Eagle

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God help us (a meditation)

There is a time for asking questions

but there is also a day for decision.

 

There is a time to discuss who Jesus is,

but there is also a time to take up your cross and follow Him.

 

There is a time to weigh the issues carefully,

but there are issues which will not wait until tomorrow.

 

If we wait until we understand everything

we will wait for ever.

 

If we do not follow the light which we do see,

we will receive no more light.

 

If we, today, miss this opportunity

then God help us.

 

Ian Cowie (in Eggs & Ashes, published by Wild Goose Publications, Iona Community, Fourth Floor, Savoy House, 140 Sauchiehall St, Glasgow G2 3DH, UK)

Luke 23 – the death of Jesus

Then the assembly rose as a body and brought Jesus before Pilate. They began to accuse him, saying, ‘We found this man perverting our nation, forbidding us to pay taxes to the emperor, and saying that he himself is the Messiah, a king.’ Then Pilate asked him, ‘Are you the king of the Jews?’ He answered, ‘You say so.’ Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowds, ‘I find no basis for an accusation against this man.’ But they were insistent and said, ‘He stirs up the people by teaching throughout all Judea, from Galilee where he began even to this place.’

When Pilate heard this, he asked whether the man was a Galilean. And when he learned that he was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him off to Herod, who was himself in Jerusalem at that time. When Herod saw Jesus, he was very glad, for he had been wanting to see him for a long time, because he had heard about him and was hoping to see him perform some sign. He questioned him at some length, but Jesus gave him no answer. The chief priests and the scribes stood by, vehemently accusing him. Even Herod with his soldiers treated him with contempt and mocked him; then he put an elegant robe on him, and sent him back to Pilate. That same day Herod and Pilate became friends with each other; before this they had been enemies.

Pilate then called together the chief priests, the leaders, and the people,and said to them, ‘You brought me this man as one who was perverting the people; and here I have examined him in your presence and have not found this man guilty of any of your charges against him. Neither has Herod, for he sent him back to us. Indeed, he has done nothing to deserve death. I will therefore have him flogged and release him.’

Then they all shouted out together, ‘Away with this fellow! Release Barabbas for us!’ (This was a man who had been put in prison for an insurrection that had taken place in the city, and for murder.) Pilate, wanting to release Jesus, addressed them again; but they kept shouting, ‘Crucify, crucify him!’ A third time he said to them, ‘Why, what evil has he done? I have found in him no ground for the sentence of death; I will therefore have him flogged and then release him.’ But they kept urgently demanding with loud shouts that he should be crucified; and their voices prevailed. So Pilate gave his verdict that their demand should be granted. He released the man they asked for, the one who had been put in prison for insurrection and murder, and he handed Jesus over as they wished.

As they led him away, they seized a man, Simon of Cyrene, who was coming from the country, and they laid the cross on him, and made him carry it behind Jesus. A great number of the people followed him, and among them were women who were beating their breasts and wailing for him. But Jesus turned to them and said, ‘Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves and for your children. For the days are surely coming when they will say, “Blessed are the barren, and the wombs that never bore, and the breasts that never nursed. Then they will begin to say to the mountains, “Fall on us”; and to the hills, “Cover us.” For if they do this when the wood is green, what will happen when it is dry?’

Two others also, who were criminals, were led away to be put to death with him. When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left.  Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.’ And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, ‘He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!’ The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine,and saying, ‘If you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’

One of the criminals who were hanged there kept deriding him and saying, ‘Are you not the Messiah? Save yourself and us!’But the other rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation?And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we are getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ He replied, ‘Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’

It was now about noon, and darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon,while the sun’s light failed; and the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, crying with a loud voice, said, ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit.’ Having said this, he breathed his last. When the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God and said, ‘Certainly this man was innocent.’ And when all the crowds who had gathered there for this spectacle saw what had taken place, they returned home, beating their breasts. But all his acquaintances, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.

Now there was a good and righteous man named Joseph, who, though a member of the council, had not agreed to their plan and action. He came from the Jewish town of Arimathea, and he was waiting expectantly for the kingdom of God.This man went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Then he took it down, wrapped it in a linen cloth, and laid it in a rock-hewn tomb where no one had ever been laid. It was the day of Preparation, and the sabbath was beginning. The women who had come with him from Galilee followed, and they saw the tomb and how his body was laid. Then they returned, and prepared spices and ointments.

On the sabbath they rested according to the commandment.

Maundy Thursday

Every year on Maundy Thursday (the Thursday of Holy Week), the church I grew up in held a Tenebrae service.  We would gather in a circle in one member’s unfinished basement by candle-light, read the Bible passages leading up to Jesus’ crucifixion, sing some hymns in minor keys, and celebrate communion and foot washing.  After each Bible passage was read, the reader would extinguish a candle; at the start of the evening, we could easily read by the light of the candles, but by the end, all but the youngest eyes needed a flashlight by which to read.

This service was, for me, one of the high-points of the church year.  Not that it was a joyous occasion (it was not), but that it made me feel very connected to the church and to the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection.  I felt connected to a community of believers stretching back 2000 years, as we took communion and washed each others’ feet in remembrance of the Last Supper. For whatever reason, this was the one time per year when unbaptized people were permitted to take communion — and this was very special to me, especially before my baptism.

Having felt the hopeless emptiness of Jesus’ death, I was able to appreciate the joy (the relief, even) of Easter at a much different level. A topic that has come up repeatedly at Dinner with the Chaplain, Fermented Faith, and in the Ministry Centre, is whether suffering is necessary for joy.  While the general consensus is that we’d take the joy without the sorrow if we could, my experience with celebrating Easter makes me realize that we experience joy very differently when we have experienced sorrow — although it can be hard to move from sorrow to joy (which is, perhaps, why the season of Easter is 50 days, longer even than the 40 days of Lent), there is also a greater depth to that joy.

I encourage you, this Holy Week, to experience the deep grief of Jesus death, to feel the pain and emptiness of having lost a great leader, teacher, and friend, that you may approach Easter with a new appreciation for the relief, the joy and gladness, which comes with the passing of this nightmare.

~Sylvia

St. Bede’s is holding a Maundy Thursday service with communion and foot washing at 7pm tonight, March 28th, and a Good Friday service with the stations of the cross and Tenebrae influences tomorrow, March 29th, at 11am.  We are also going on a field trip to St. John’s Ancaster for the Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday night; if you would like to join us and need transportation, please contact Megan ASAP.  As usual, there will be communion at 10:30 on Sunday.

When God Sends Sparrows and Songs

This year, I have not really been observing Lent. I am very aware that this is the “biggest Christian holiday of the year!” and “Anyone who call themselves Christians need to observe Holy Week”, but this year has been a busy one. If getting caught up in one’s own world could count for a Lenten practice, I would score full points.
However, God has a way of reaching out to us when we least expect it. On tough days when I am dealing with a lot of stress due to different ongoing things in life, for some reason my spirit notices small love notes from God all over the place – sparrows perched in the trees having morning conversations over breakfast, spouses exchanging hugs before seeing one another off on the city buses, kids reading with their parents on the train. These small things grab my attention and draw my spirit away from worrying about what’s next on my agenda to focus instead on the present moment and the tiny miracles that happen everyday around me. It’s not that they don’t exist when I’m in a great or rough mood, but I think that I just don’t notice things like this enough and appreciate them for the beauty and love they bring to my life.
Here is a song I heard on CBC Radio 2 several weeks ago that made me literally stop my work, sit up and take notice to do nothing but listen. Tom Allen, our loyal host, told his audience that this music has existed for over a thousand years, and still even now it is being sung. It amazed me that an expression of beauty and praise for God is capable of living that long and still remaining so awe-some, and I still can’t help but sit back and focus all my energy on listening to the lilt of the music even now.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=taanHO13WXE&list=PL4930590D1C95AE87&index=148

Ainsley

Appreciate This

As I enter and participate in Holy Week,  and the Lenten period comes to a close it seems only suitable to leave you with this quote,

“So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, it will be opened.” Luke 11:9-10 (New American Standard Bible)

And don’t forget,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fgHzsY9J0go&feature=youtube_gdata_player

Ashamed

I tripped across this blog post by Rachel Held Evans (author of Evolving in Monkey Town and A Year of Biblical Womanhood), and it really struck me — to the point that I decided to sign up for a second Lenten blog entry in a week when I would already be posting (I have other things to say on Maundy Thursday).  It’s a fairly long piece, but well worth reading in its entirety if you have some time.

Here’s an excerpt from the blog post:

I am ashamed.

I am ashamed that the Church has become the scariest place to come out instead of the safest, that it  routinely shuts out the most vulnerable, the most hurting, the most despised, when those were the people Jesus started with, the people he loved most.

I am ashamed that we are so quick to speak and so slow to listen.

I am ashamed by our lack of imagination, ashamed by our hypocrisy, ashamed by the heavy loads we bind up to place on people’s backs, ashamed by the logs in our eyes and the stones in our hands.

I am ashamed by our failure to love.

She goes on to say, however,

But I am not ashamed of the gospel.

I am not ashamed that when God strapped on sandals and walked among us, God fed the hungry, wept with the mourning, touched the untouchable, turned water into wine, cracked jokes about religion, obeyed his mom, defended the defenseless, bantered with children, forgave his enemies, and reminded us that the whole point of it all is to love God and love our neighbors well.  That’s it.

I am not ashamed that when God strapped on sandals and walked among us, God rode a donkey instead of a war horse.

I am not ashamed of the good news that we don’t have to wait around for the right leader or the right government because there’s a new and better kingdom growing in us and around us, a kingdom that welcomes all to the table.

I am not ashamed of the good news that Jesus is Lord and Caesar is not.

You can read the rest over on Rachel’s blog.

This post speaks to me at a deep level.  Sometimes I don’t want people to know I’m a Christian, simply because some very vocal (and far off of main-stream) Christians have given the rest of us a bad reputation.  But this isn’t just about the far-off-mainstream.  This is about our everyday actions. This is about our thoughts, words, and deeds, the things we have done, and the things we have left undone.  This is about not loving God with our whole hearts, and not loving our neighbours as ourselves. This is a radical confession that we do not always live our lives according to Jesus’ example.  However, it is also a radical confession of our faith in God and the gospel — the good news for the poor and for those in need. It is a call to hold up our heads and unashamedly follow Christ’s example, and to remember that we are citizens of God’s kingdom.  It is a call to be more Christ-like.

I, too, am ashamed of how the church is perceived — and the basis for those perceptions.  I am ashamed that the church is not a leader in welcoming the marginalized and working for equality for all people. Ghandi reportedly said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. They are so unlike your Christ.”  I am ashamed of the truth in that statement. I am ashamed that I too often stay silent in the face of injustice, afraid to speak out lest I offend someone.  However, I am not ashamed to follow one of the greatest revolutionaries in recorded history, one who ate with the outcasts, and called for radical changes to the status-quo.  I am not ashamed to follow one who loved others unconditionally, and didn’t change his behaviour just because people didn’t like it.  I am not ashamed to follow Christ.

~Sylvia

Healing?

I read a blog posted by the Ministry Centre last week (http://natepyle.com/confronting-the-lie-god-wont-give-you-more-than-you-can-handle/). The phrase “God never gives you more than you can handle” is a phrase that I have heard all too often during my life. I may be pointing out the obvious but it is not helpful; neither are the phrases: “this will make you a better/stronger/more caring etc. person”,”It’s all part of God’s plan”, and “Others have it worse than you”. I know that these words are not said be mean, but they hurt.

Two weeks a wonderful person I know passed away after a very short illness. I would rather someone not suffer, but it makes it a lot harder for everyone who cares about this person. Before I had my illness I would use similar words to the ones above, but now I know just how unhelpful they are.

Many denominations teach that God will heal you. I struggle anytime that the word heal was used – in any context.  I am a music person and hymns were especially difficult for me.  A few weeks ago we talked about We Cannot Measure How You Heal by the Iona Community.  This is one song about healing that makes sense to me:

We cannot measure how you heal or answer every sufferer’s prayer,
yet we believe your grace responds where faith and doubt unite to care.
Your hands, though bloodied on the cross survive to hold and heal and warn,
to carry all through death to life and cradle children yet unborn.

The pain that will not go away, the guilt that clings from things long past,
the fear of what the future holds are present as if meant to last.
But present too is love which tends the hurt we never hoped to find,
the private agonies inside the memories that haunt the mind.

So some have come who need your help, and some have come to make amends,
as hands which shaped and saved the world are present in the touch of friends.
Lord, let your Spirit meet us here to mend the body, mind and soul,
to disentangle peace from pain and make your broken people whole

We are coming into Holy Week; the week that starts out with celebrations and parades and ends with Jesus` death and the Resurrection. The emotions that we see Jesus and his friends and family go through resemble the emotions that we experience when faced during a difficult time. Things are going well; then we see the denial, the betrayal, the tears, the anger and finally the relief and happiness when Jesus is resurrected.

The song above brings me a great deal of comfort when I am struggling and I think it might have brought comfort to Jesus and to others who feel that God has abandoned them.

This week we will go through the emotions, but for today, let`s celebrate. Hosanna in the Highest!!

Laurie