Category Archives: Easter

A mediation from St. Augustine looking towards Holy Week

Man’s maker was made man . . . that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on its journey, that Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.

St. Augustine, Sermons 191.1

icon cross Central Plaque of a Cross, ca. 1185–1195

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Redeem This… by The Rev Brad Acton

Liturgy is a pattern. The order of worship and the calendar of the Church are the unfolding of life itself. Good Friday is, of course, not only a twenty-four hour period for penitence. It is the darkness of our lives, and it is played out in the most dramatic horror that we can fathom: the death of God’s only Son. Easter Sunday is not, then, a mimicry of resurrection and new life. It is hope laid out anew, pulsing some type of light back into the darkness.

But both days end, and Easter Tide rolls on and will slowly melt away into Ordinary time with the coming of Pentecost. These may be a lot of strange words that mean nothing to the reader; regardless, we all know the dragging grind of life and the interplay between life and death. These are the absolutes of human experience. To be alive is to expect death, but death cannot exist without life. Somewhere in the middle of these forces resides the peril of human thought and the crucible of faith. It generates the questions that drive humans mad, or gives them life. Why believe, believe what, or simply, why?

We never stop asking these questions. Whether we ask them of God or the stars or just the silence of our souls we all ask them. I am soon to be an Anglican priest, which in part means I have to take reality very seriously. This is called being “sacramental,” which is just a big word meaning the very real stuff of this world communicates the most fundamental truths of the universe (whether you call that spiritual, divine, holy, or Godly). In other words, all this spiritual talk doesn’t “float between our ears.”

My family has experienced waves of death in the past three years. Grandparents, parents, siblings, and even children have been lost.

And we miss them…

That loss, for example, communicates the despair of the human condition. Death is the great and looming threat of loss that stains every single, beautiful reality of this world. It is not “simply” anything, as in being ‘natural,’ or ‘routine,’ or ‘normal.’ Death is the abyss, the final threat. And there is no beauty in it.

If death is a sign for the swallowing up of all beauty, then new life is the promise that all will be made well. This Easter Sunday I held my month-old-daughter in my arms, and she was baptized today, a week later. Her life is a sign, a type of witness of change, of making new. Maybe redemption. By this I mean that if God works this way, then her little life may be a demonstration that some things, at least, will be healed. But this is only a sign.

Because, of course, I will lose her, too, and she will lose me. To be Christian is not to ignore death, or hold resurrection as a type of comfort blanket when death reaches out to us. Instead, it is to walk in the valley of the shadow of death. This is the Christian story itself, that the Author of life took on much shadow and the weight of human flesh so that even the deceased could taste resurrection. It’s a promise, to be taken on faith and in the midst of our sufferings. It is certainly not an escape. It is only more horrible because of how much we value life. Life is everything, and if a God can’t save that, He’s not worth having.

I certainly don’t have neat answers to these questions or these problems, so I end this with a blessing for all of you this Eastertide: May you have peace in the midst of life, but especially in death. May you find life in shadow. May you receive love, even the love of God. May you find forgiveness, even if you must forgive yourself. May you find deliverance, even if you are lost.

May the God of hope guard your hearts and minds in all things, for Christ came to bind up what was broken, to heal the afflicted, and to die for us all. I pray you all many, many mercies this evening.

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Filed under Church Calendar, Easter, The Holy Spirit, Worship

PASCHAL HOMILY OF ST. JOHN CHRYSOSTOM

The Paschal sermon of St John Chrysostom is read aloud in every Orthodox parish on the morning of the Great and Holy Pascha of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. According to the Tradition of the Church, no one sits during the reading of St John’s sermon, but all stand and listen with attentiveness.

If any man be devout and loveth God, let him enjoy this fair and radiant triumphal feast! If any man be a wise servant, let him rejoicing enter into the joy of his Lord.

If any have laboured long in fasting, let him how receive his recompense. If any have wrought from the first hour, let him today receive his just reward. If any have come at the third hour, let him with thankfulness keep the feast. If any have arrived at the sixth hour, let him have no misgivings; Because he shall in nowise be deprived therefore. If any have delayed until the ninth hour, let him draw near, fearing nothing. And if any have tarried even until the eleventh hour, let him, also, be not alarmed at his tardiness.

For the Lord, who is jealous of his honour, will accept the last even as the first. He giveth rest unto him who cometh at the eleventh hour, even as unto him who hath wrought from the first hour.

And He showeth mercy upon the last, and careth for the first; And to the one He giveth, and upon the other He bestoweth gifts. And He both accepteth the deeds, and welcometh the intention, and honoureth the acts and praises the offering.

Wherefore, enter ye all into the joy of your Lord; Receive your reward, both the first, and likewise the second. You rich and poor together, hold high festival! You sober and you heedless, honour the day! Rejoice today, both you who have fasted and you who have disregarded the fast. The table is full-laden; feast ye all sumptuously. The calf is fatted; let no one go hungry away. Enjoy ye all the feast of faith: receive ye all the riches of loving-kindness.

Let no one bewail his poverty, for the universal Kingdom has been revealed. Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shown forth from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Saviour’s death has set us free. He that was held prisoner of it has annihilated it.

By descending into Hell, He made Hell captive. He embittered it when it tasted of His flesh. And Isaiah, foretelling this, did cry: Hell, said he, was embittered when it encountered Thee in the lower regions.

It was embittered, for it was abolished. It was embittered, for it was mocked. It was embittered, for it was slain. It was embittered, for it was overthrown. It was embittered, for it was fettered in chains. It took a body, and met God face to face. It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took that which was seen, and fell upon the unseen.

O Death, where is thy sting? O Hell, where is thy victory?

Christ is risen, and thou art overthrown! Christ is risen, and the demons are fallen! Christ is risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is risen, and life reigns! Christ is risen, and not one dead remains in the grave. For Christ, being risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.

To Him be glory and dominion unto ages of ages.
Amen.

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Filed under Anglicanism, Church History, Discipleship, Easter, Prayer, The Holy Spirit

He is Alive!

He blesses every love which weeps and grieves

And now he blesses hers who stood and wept

And would not be consoled, or leave her love’s

Last touching place, but watched as low light crept

Up from the east. A sound behind her stirs

A scatter of bright birdsong through the air.

She turns, but cannot focus through her tears,

Or recognise the Gardener standing there.

She hardly hears his gentle question ‘Why,

Why are you weeping?’, or sees the play of light

That brightens as she chokes out her reply

‘They took my love away, my day is night’

And then she hears her name, she hears Love say

The Word that turns her night, and ours, to Day.

by Malcolm Guite

Almighty God, who for our redemption gave your only begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Acquainted with Grief

“A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” I was absentmindedly chopping potatoes; Luke was at school, and Anastasia was happily unloading the Tupperware drawer. Suddenly, that snippet of a verse from Isaiah 53 was running through my head. Although I’ll admit that I have been the last few weeks, I wasn’t at that moment feeling particularly sorrow- or grief-filled. But for whatever reason, God chose that moment to give me those words. “Acquainted with grief.”

To be honest, when I think about that phrase as it describes Jesus, I’m tempted to think, “Yeah, but not this grief. He can’t understand this sorrow of mine.” Do you do that, too? It’s fitting, I think, that I was suddenly struck with that thought on the threshold Holy Week. My suffering and sorrow worse than His. My grief more unbearable than That. Really?

I trust I’m not the only one that thinks that way some days. I’ll admit (dare I say confess?) that I’ve been reading the Hunger Games books this week. The tale of an astonishingly creatively repressive government, devising ways to slaughter its citizens, is appalling and nauseating…and thankfully fictional. But what of the places on earth where governments do just that? Where citizens are in fact murdered by violent dictators and appalling regimes? Forget my silly unbearable suffering; isn’t theirs beyond His understanding? Surely. I’m not much for comparing sufferings (here are my thoughts about that, if you’re curious), but surely those persecuted citizens’ suffering is worse than mine. And surely He doesn’t understand theirs.

Does He?

Writing has long been my escape. But unfortunately, despite a more-powerful-than-ever need for solace in my life, this isn’t the season for me to write. As I chop potatoes, I am solely responsible for all of my children’s needs, day and in and day out; my phone is never far from my pocket, anticipating as I always am calls from various people in official capacities, deciding innumerable details about my life and my children’s; my ministry is ever and always on my mind, either in the forefront with planning to do and curriculum to write and emails to answer, or percolating in the background, ideas simmering and sputtering at all hours. And I most want to write about what I know, what I experience; but there are some seasons of life when those things are not fit for public consumption, for recording on the page or the screen. Not for now. Those things are mine alone, and not to be shared. Except.

Except when I heard (did I hear it, exactly?) this snippet of a verse from God, here on the cusp, the very edge of the week when we revisit and re-learn just what it means that Jesus is in fact acquainted with all our sorrows and griefs, more intimately than we could ever imagine—when I heard that, I couldn’t help but write it down. To remember. And to share. For the days unlike today when, in fact, I am overwhelmed by the sorrows and griefs that I deep down believe to be impossible for anyone else to understand. My suffering is not my own. Maybe that will mean something to you today—or another day—too.

And as I attempt to deflect the tears from my potatoes (good thing I planned to salt them anyhow), I’ll thank God afresh for that, for Holy Week, for the reminder that—try as I may—I can’t possibly own those sorrows for myself.

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Seventh Sunday of Easter

Collect of the Day
O God, the King of glory, you have exalted your only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph to your kingdom in heaven: Do not leave us comfortless, but send us your Holy Spirit to strengthen us, and exalt us to that place where our Savior Christ has gone before; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

Exodus 19:1-6
Colossians 1:21-29
Matthew 28:16-20

Message: “For the Life of the World” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Check back soon for sermon audio!)

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Sixth Sunday of Easter

Collect of the Day
O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as surpass our understanding: Pour into our hearts such love towards you, that we, loving you in all things and above all things, may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, on God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Ezekiel 36:22-27
Ephesians 2:1-7
John 21:1-19

Message: “Life from the Dead, Part 2” by Rev. Steve Breedlove
(Check back soon for sermon audio.)

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Filed under Bible, Discipleship, Easter, Evangelism, Prayer, Preaching, Services and Special Events, The Holy Spirit, Worship