The Strangest Easter

I woke up this morning and looked out my window. it was snowing. If it weren’t for the calendar on the wall, I would have thought I had entered some strange dimension and it was Christmas not Easter! Yet we are in a world that has been flipped upside. In a lot of ways, we are living in a new dimension.

New York City’s Times Square is not bustling with people. Broadway’s lights have been turned off. Our grocery stores are filled with people buying groceries with masks on. Our sanctuaries are empty. The Olympics will not happen this summer but instead they will happen next summer. Our essential workers are all putting themselves on the line for the safety of all of us.

Yet today is still Easter. We are filled with all the same emotions that come with loss and grief and were the same emotions Mary Magdalene & Mary felt that very first Easter morning. We are frightened and afraid. We are full of anxiety. We are lonely. And we are sad!

That’s the thing about death. When someone we love dies, we grieve. We want them to still be here on this side of heaven with us. Yet the dead don’t come back to life. Only God has the power to overcome death. God sent God’s Son into the world for us. Jesus was murdered for love but then three days later, he was raised.

The tomb is empty! Jesus has been raised. He has gone ahead of us. There are days to come that it will still feel like we are stuck in an eternal Holy Saturday; stuck between despair and hope. The hope however comes in knowing that the tomb is still empty. Jesus is here.

Yes, there are days that we will not want today to come. However when we are lonely from being separated from the rest of the world, the tomb is empty. When we are frustrated with our children, the tomb is empty. When there are overwhelming amounts of death, the tomb is empty. When we feel like all hope is lost, the tomb is empty. When this pandemic eventually ends, the tomb is still empty. Christ has overcome death. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there (Clarence W Hall)!”

In a broken world, filled with all those same emotions the women felt that first Easter morning, we cry out, Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. As we too, like the disciples, are locked away from the rest of the world, we cry out, “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Together, as the body of Christ and for such a time as this, we cry out confidently “Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

Tomorrow we might come to the tomb and still think we see the stone is still in front of it. But the stone has been rolled away. Death has been defeated. Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia! That’s a promise I can trust in. And when I can’t say the words, I know that the rest of the body will say them for me until I can say them again. So if you can’t say them today, know that I’m saying them for and with you.

Christ is risen. He is risen indeed! Alleluia!

The Gratefulness of Tears

Usually I have no problem letting the tears come out. But this year, the tears have been sitting on the edge, welling up inside of me. I wanted so desperately for them to come out. Little did I know how much I needed the holiness of the triduum (the three days leading up to Easter).

I have needed to sit at the foot of the cross. I have needed to cry holy tears at that cross. I have needed to sit in the liminal space of Holy Saturday. I don’t know about you friends, but the world feels like Holy Saturday every day right now. We are stuck between the reality of despair and hope. We are continually crying out “How long, oh Lord?!” Yet the answer is unanswered. We do not know how long this night will last.

After leading worship on Maundy Thursday, I came home and sat down on my couch. I pulled up YouTube and began watching the beauty of the Triduum Project unfold. There was vulnerability shared in storytelling. There was bread baking. There were people who invited us in to sit with them at their family table. There was prayer. There was laughter and tears. There was music of all shapes and sizes. There was simply so much holiness.

As I have broke bread and wine and held vigil with all of these holy people, the tears have finally let loss. I am crying for the reality and pain of our world. I am crying that we murdered love as our Lord was crucified and hung on a tree. I am crying as we sit in the midst of an eternal Lent and Holy Saturday. I am crying and marked by the cross of Christ. I am crying tears that will not stop. Tears that remind me that the sun is going down but tomorrow the sun will rise again.

This Easter vigil has been one of the holiest things I’ve ever experienced. Gathered from all ends of the earth, I have been reminded that the church is still very much alive. I have seen the beauty of the body of Christ coming together as we walk to the empty tomb. I know more and more that I am not a lone and we are in this together.

In a few hours, the vigil will end and we will gather to raise a glass for Jesus; for the one who died for each of us. And as we raise our glasses, the tears will come again. But this time, they will come knowing that morning will come again. We just don’t know how long this morning will be. The tears will be a sign of healing. The tears will be in thankfulness and hope. A hope that was embodied over three days in a holy online experience that the church has needed in this time and place.

Tonight, the tears are rolling freely down my face! And I am so grateful!

A Unique Holy Easter Vigil

I am no stranger to loss and grief; no stranger to death. From October 2017-December 2018, there were nine losses in my life…friends, colleagues, and family. Death is a part of life. However, I would prefer not to stay there. Death can be so overwhelming. In fact, we are at a time in our world when the death seems so incredibly overwhelming. I need Holy Week more this year than ever!

Yet I honestly had low expectations. Palm Sunday didn’t include kids singing and shouting hosanna as they waved palm branches. I knew that I wasn’t going to get to wash my parishioners feet. I knew that there would be no first communion. I knew that there would be no stripping of the altar. I felt so lost walking into Holy Week. Yet a few weeks ago, I was asked to be a part of this really cool thing called The Triduum Project. Creative souls coming together to hold vigil over three days.

Little did I know what a gift holding vigil would be in the midst of this peculiar and strange Holy Week. I love what Jason said on Twitter about holding vigil. His words really spoke to me as I debated whether to go to bed or stay awake until my hour. After reading them, I knew that I needed to stay awake. Jason wrote, “There’s something sacred about being up when you’re used to sleeping. It’s like you’re delineating with your body that this time is different. It’s set apart. Consecrated time, a concept that isn’t the worst thing for your self–Sabbath-deprived tradition to consider.”

I was awake when I am never awake. I found myself sitting and holding watch as we entered into the day Jesus was murdered for our sins. I got to see the sun set and the sun rise. I thought of all those working in the hospitals in the midst of the Co-Vid19.

After preaching Maundy Thursday worship, I came home and listened to Tyra and so many other musicians usher us from Maundy Thursday into Good Friday. Their music balm to my soul. In the wee hours of the morning, Jason made the passion story come alive in a way I will never forget. Joe and David talked honestly and allowed me to be vulnerable and cry the tears I needed to shed. There was also beautiful storytelling. There was bread baking.

This is all holy! An idea that came together over a few weeks has totally been blessed by God’s Spirit. A vigil that embodies the beauty of the body of Christ. Together we are caring for the body as we walk to the cross and stand tears streaming down our face. We are not alone. We see each other standing at the foot of the cross.

The Triduum Project is an incredible gift to the church in a time when we need to be together. We need to grieve together. We need to see each other’s stories. We need to hold vigil until the stone is rolled away. This, my friends, has been and continues to be holy space! There will be no other vigil that compares to this one.

A Palm Sunday Reflection

Children dressed in their best, march into the sanctuary, as the congregation sings “All glory, laud and honor to you, redeemer king.” Joyful celebration carries us as our king arrives into the city with a glorious parade. Yet it doesn’t take long for the parade to be dampened as bystanders begin to cry “Crucify him.”

Today, those shouts of Hosanna are especially muted. Yet as video clips came in, of children of all ages, with unbridled joy, shouting Hosanna, I couldn’t help but listen to them over and over. A holy celebration now in social distance style. The holiest of parades I’ve ever seen in my 42 years on this Earth. A parade fit for the one who God sent into the world for each and every one of us.

Jesus still arrived this morning. I saw that in all the worships and colleagues I watched. Jesus arrived as palms on our hands, tree branches, colored palm branches, and palms of all shapes and sizes waved, announcing our king’s arrival.

Jesus still arrived in the midst of isolation, anxiety, fear and even stupidity. Jesus still arrived as our medical professionals continue to work on the front lines of this pandemic. Jesus still arrived as we sat in our own homes shouting Hosanna to our king. Jesus still arrived and will walk us from the holy table, to the cross, to the tomb and ultimately to the empty tomb.

I don’t know about you, my friends, but I need to wave my palm branch today. I need to celebrate the joy of this one who rode into the city. And I need to sit at the table with Judas and Peter and to be reminded that even the ones who betrayed and denied him where welcomed there. I need to stand at the foot of the cross, grieving his crucifixion and death. But most of all, I need to come to the empty tomb next Sunday to hear my, to hear our shouts of “Hosanna” turned to joyful proclamation of “Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!”

So today, as you wave your palm branches and shout Hosanna, may you be wrapped in God’s love and peace. May you be reminded that this week begins the holiest of weeks where we journey from the triumphant entry into Jerusalem, to the Lords tables, to the cross and finally to the empty tomb; where death is ultimately defeated.

The Cries of Psalm 13

The tears have been sitting there on the edge for a few days now. Today those tears finally came forth. Tears that tell me that this is not over. Tears that tell me, tell us that it’s all about grief; anticipatory grief. I’m no stranger to grief. I’ve grieved a lot these last two years, but this grief, this grief is different. It’s a grief that comes due to canceled trips, graduations, and so much more.

I’m grieving that the beginning of a new call doesn’t look the way it’s supposed to. I’m grieving my friends and how lonely it is to be in my new house, in a new community. I’m grieving that mom is in a nursing home and I can’t go visit her. I’m grieving that Holy Week and Easter will look drastically different this year. And I know that I’m not alone. All of us are grieving in our own ways.

Grief is a human response. It’s how we all respond to the death of things. Grief often paralyzes us and hits us in unexpected ways. This grief came at us full throttle. It hit us as life around us was completely halted, completely stilled. But with that forced stillness, fear and anxiety still take hold as the world around us is topsy turvy. The not knowing is hard. There are days I think I’m ok but the next day I am simply hanging on. And I’m sure you all have found yourselves there too.

Jesus himself was as much human as he was divine. Jesus himself wept. Jesus promises that he will never leave us or forsake us. Yet even with that promise, I find myself shouting out,”How long, oh Lord, will you forget me ever?” How long will this last? When will I wake up and not think about this pandemic?

It’s the cry of Psalm 13; a cry that the world is crying out In the midst of this pandemic. As a ship pulls into a harbor in NYC, as more positive cases and even deaths are reported daily, and as we settle in for another month of quarantine, that cry becomes louder and louder. A cry that will still lead us to the Last Supper, to the cross, and finally to the empty tomb.

I need to sit at the table with Jesus and have him declare “I give you a new commandment: love one another.” Love this year means social distancing and staying home. It means not gathering as a community around the table.

I need to stand at the foot of the cross and sing, “Where you there when they crucified my Lord? Sometimes it causes me to tremble, tremble, tremble.” During this uncertain time, there are days the news is too much, too heavy. So much so that if I keep watching, my anxiety will continue to climb and I might tremble in fear.

But most of all, I need to come to the empty tomb and find it empty. I need to be reminded again and again and again that death has been defeated. “Easter says you can put death in the grave, but it won’t stay there (Clarence W Hall).” I need to be reminded that our God is all powerful and will always be triumphant over the cross and the grave.

I may wake tomorrow and the tears may find themselves sitting on the edge again. Or I may wake to a new renewed hope. Whatever the day brings, I know that God’s grace is enough. God loved us so much God sent Gods one and only Son into the world for each and everyone of us.

And tonight, that love, the resurrection promise is enough!

Adjust

I hope you all are doing well and are social/physically distancing yourselves. I’m so thankful for technology and you all during these days. The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “adjust.”

Life and work have been all about adjusting in these days. Learning how to record a worship video to post on our FB page. Reaching out and making sure everyone is ok. My days are filled with less travel to our serve churches but rather is now phone calls, emails, FB live and so much more.

Yet I’ve come to realize I’m pretty good at adjusting. I love being creative and coming up with new ideas. I’ve been reading books to my friends kids online. I’m doing a nightly prayer live also on Facebook. It’s a little crazy in these days. But I pray that I am being Gods hands and feet sharing the Gospel in these days.

I’m praying we come out of this sooner rather than later. But we must do what is best for the collective whole. I look forward to the day all I’m adjusting is my radio dial and not adjusting because life is uncertain.

For Such A Time as This

Several years ago, I found myself stumbling across the Slate Project in Baltimore. I was so excited and intrigued by the ministry I saw unfolding there. And then I found #SlateSpeak; a progressive online conversation on Twitter. It was one of the coolest, most interactive things I’ve ever participated in. Now I can’t miss a Thursday night if I can help it.

Over time, new hashtags have been created by the Slate Project; #slatereads and #slateprays. More and more of us are joining in online. We’ve created a deeply grounded community where everyone is welcome. These people mean the world to me. I can’t wait until we meet in real life. But for now, it is this community virtually that continually blesses me.

As a blogger and social media fan, I’ve learned so much from the Slate Projects founders Jason C and Jen D. I’m continually learning from them. Because of them and others, I’m not afraid to try something new and if I fail, I fail.

And here I am, in the midst of a new call and now a pandemic. To say I’m overwhelmed is an understatement. But then I’m reminded of how I’ve been made for such a time as this. I’m live streaming prayer on my personal page. I’m jumping right in and leading virtual worship on my new parishes Facebook page. They are a seven point parish and don’t have much of a history of using media, etc.

I can’t help but think that a God has been preparing us all for this time. We have the gifts and tools to worship and remind people that the church is more than a building. It is the people.

My community is a smorgasbord of blogging friends, seminary classmates and friends, former parishioners, ministry colleagues, professors, friends that are more like family and many many more. As I see each one trying new things, streaming live worships, I feel like I’m in their sanctuaries, sitting around their kitchen tables and so much more. It gives me an overwhelming peace.

Friends, this is not the time we want but it’s what we are called to. A year from now, I pray we look back and say, “Wow…we did that. We made it through that.” The truth is God is with us. Turn to him and ask him to calm your anxious fearful hearts. Turn to the truth…trusted sources but most of all the truth of God.

For such a time as this……

Trusting Joy Will Come Again

I’m sitting with a cup of tea from my favorite store in Chelsea Market in NYC in my hand. It’s in one of my favorite mugs with one of my favorite verses from Psalm 30:5 written on it. “Weeping comes for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” I need that reminder right now,

I just finished doing my nightly Facebook prayer live. It is such a gift to gather. As each name popped onto my screen, I found such joy in knowing we weren’t together physically but virtually. Each person connected through time and space; a weaving together of community.

It is a weird time to be a leader in the church. It is an even stranger time to be starting a new call. Yet I care so deeply for my flock already. I want to keep everyone safe.

These virtual gatherings are such a gift. A time of knowing that we are not alone. A time of caring for one another. A time of gathering over virtual coffee.

It gives me peace in the midst of this scary and uncertain time. I’m not sure how long this night will last. But I do know that joy, joy will indeed come again. I’m clinging to that promise tonight!

The Liar Named Fear

The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “less.”

More love, less hate

More peace, less war

More hope, less fear

More kindness and compassion, less hate

There is so much evil in our world. Yet God shows us to show kindness, compassion, and love. The world needs to be founded in God’s goodness and grace and not in hate. Too often we let fear take over. But in the words of a well loved Christian song, fear is a liar. God is in control in the midst of uncertainty and fear.

365 times we hear the words “Do not be afraid.” I don’t think that’s a coincidence at all. God is with us.

The Table of Grace

The weekly Five Minute Friday word prompt for this week is “table.”

Bread and wine

Broken and Poured

At the table of grace

Jesus himself

Life given and shed

Father, forgive them

For they know not

What they are doing.

At the table of grace

Forgiveness offered and given

Love embodied for us all.

At the table

The communion of saints

Now and then

Saints gathered in every time and place

A reminder that God welcomes all

Welcomes all to the table of grace.

It is here

At the table of grace

That I, that we come

Knowing the body and blood

The bread and wine

Are given to us all.

The body of Christ

Given for you

The blood of Christ shed for you!