O God, whose blessed Son did manifest himself to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open, we pray thee, the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Advent parishioners have supported our Tuesday Community Dinners every year for over 30 years. This year, in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic, is no different. Donations to support our valuable outreach program are even more critical.
On Sunday, May 3, the Briggs-Kiernan Family kept the Advent’s tradition alive and walked for 20 miles as in years past. Virtual companions joined in a shared Virtual Advent Walk in their own neighborhoods, walking virtually together. Here is a video of images from the walk:
Donations to the Community Dinner are always welcome and can be made through our secure online-giving portal. Just choose "Community Dinner" from the drop-down list on the "Fund" line.
Suzi + Bruce, Ellie + Emma
Advent’s Virtual Community Dinner Walk 5/3/2020 Team Leaders
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery hast established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Almighty God, who through thine only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened unto us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by thy life-giving Spirit; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Almighty Father, whose dear Son, on the night before he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and Blood: Mercifully grant that we may thankfully receive the same in remembrance of him who in these holy mysteries giveth us a pledge of life eternal, the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit ever, one God, world without end. Amen.
Almighty God, we beseech thee graciously to behold this thy family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was contented to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of thy dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Blessed is He who cometh in the Name of the Lord, Hosanna in the highest.
The Church’s calendar has brought us to the end of Lent and to the beginning of another Holy Week. This Lent has been unlike any other we have known. It is similar to past Lenten seasons in an ecclesiastical sense; forty days in length, more frequent Scripture reading, more intense and directed prayer, and acts of disciplined sacrifice. This was expected. From a medical, biological, and social perspective, this Lenten season has been unprecedented. The Covid-19 pandemic has dramatically and drastically altered our lives and still dominates our lives at home, at our employment, and certainly with our lives of worship. I read on a website a week ago where a man quipped, “This is a little more than I wanted to give up for Lent.” So this Lent has been like no other and on this Palm Sunday we begin a Holy Week that will most assuredly be like no other.
Prayers are asked for those afflicted with the virus, healthcare workers trying to combat the spread of the virus and caring for those infected, all those in any way affected by the virus, and all those in countries around the world battling the virus.
Holy Week re-presents for us those central acts through which Our Lord has brought us salvation. It is therefore the center of our Church Year. It is the holiest and most solemn period. Our lives as Christians all through the next year depend on and are derived from, what we live through spiritually this next week. One of the tragedies, among many tragic events brought on by the battle against the Coronavirus, is we will not have the Holy Week liturgies in our parish Churches. The opportunities we have to keep Holy Week will have to be different. The commemoration we have of those precious events of Our Lord’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem, His institution of the Mass and giving us the New Commandment to love one another, His crucifixion that wrought forgiveness, and his glorious Resurrection with the gift of everlasting life, will all be remembered in different ways given our severely altered circumstances. Every attempt we can make to remember these holy days will only emphasize how central they are to our lives as Christians.
There is a unifying aspect between how we have kept Lent and how we have fought the awful virus. It lies in our efforts as a community. The way we attempted to keep Lent with our Lenten Journey programs allowed us to keep our disciplines together. We read the same Scripture readings on the same days. We gave up the same material things during the same weeks. We prayed the same prayers of petition, intercession, thanksgiving, confession, and adoration at the same time. It was a communal effort. We were trying to grow spiritually together. On a larger but similar scale, we are being asked to make sacrifices as a nation. We are asked to stay-in-our homes as much as we can. We are asked to give to organizations that will help provide protection and needed equipment to our health care workers. Our families are asked to help, if we can, those who cannot get the essential things they need like food and medicines, or essential life-supporting needs. We could keep Lent as a parish family and we can fight to overcome this pandemic as a national family. Keeping Lent and defeating Covid-19 are both bringing us together in ways that will make us spiritually stronger.
Reliving these events in Holy Week that confront us rapidly and intensely are intended to remind us of all that God has done for us in His Son Jesus Christ. Calling back to our memories means more than “thinking” about them. We remember them by reliving them and thereby entering them in a very real, spiritual way. Those events are brought back to us to relive them in the present. That is why celebrating Holy Week is so central and essential to our individual Christian lives and the life of the Church. It’s why we relive it over and over.
This repetition we have in our Common Prayer Tradition, preserved for us in our Prayer Book, by saying the same prayers at the same time and in the same way, is intended to jog our memories. Not only do we say the same prayers at the same time, but also we do the same things from year to year. We recall the law that was given to Moses. We call to mind time after time what Jesus said and did. We bring back all that happened in those precious days before our Lord’s earthly ministry was ended. We do this for a very good reason. We want to have our memories imbued with the images from the Bible. We want the images that were revealed by God in the Holy Scriptures to become a part of ourselves. We want our souls informed so they can be formed.
The whole purpose of living through another Holy Week is that if we don’t live through it one more time two things may happen. One, we might forget and grace will not have an opportunity to convict and convert us. Every time we go through Holy Week, or the Church Year for that matter, the holy words and images from Scripture are brought back to mind and made present. When they come to our minds, they inform our souls. They are indeed saving images, because God reveals them to us. The images I speak of are the acts that God performed; saving the Israelites from slavery by parting the waters of the Red Sea. The resurrection of the bones in the valley of death spoken of by the Prophet Ezekiel. The image of the heavenly city Jerusalem. The images of Jesus Christ dying on the Cross and rising three days later to save us from sin. These are just a few of the hundreds of images presented to us.
The second reason to repeat Holy Week is when the images come to inform our souls, grace has the opportunity to strengthen, comfort and guide us back to the source of our lives, that is Jesus Christ. These images open our hearts and minds to what God has done for us to make us open to grace. The goal is to build in us clean souls. Each time we relive the Church Year and more immediately when we relive another Holy Week we are opening ourselves to God’s grace by recalling revealed images. It is only in bringing back to our memories what God has done for us that the right images are preserved for us and for our children. The revealed images that are God-given have been the reason Christianity has survived and even flourished. Thank God that we have the images from the Bible to keep us in the right faith and believing the right things.
Our Palm Sunday is marked by hearing The Passion according to Saint Matthew. We cannot have the dramatic singing of the Passion done in parts this year. We will have to hear it or read it on our own. Take time today to read it. It will help us brace ourselves to relive those images all week. Then read the Passion according to Saint John on Good Friday to relive that awful death and remind ourselves that we put Jesus there on the Cross. On Saturday reread the passages describing our salvation history from the Prayer Book’s liturgy for The Great Vigil of Easter. The whole of salvation history will reveal to us once again why we need a savior. It is all so we do not forget, because we must tell our children. But memory is far more than just an intellectual exercise to preserve history. We hear these stories and call them to mind because the stories are true and give us the saving teaching, doctrine the Church calls it, that comes only from God through His Son Jesus Christ. When that happens, grace comes to us to save us. That is what Holy Week and Easter are all about.
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.
One commentator has said that “The raising of Lazarus is the Gospel in miniature.”
I think that is right, because this miracle, unique to John, fulfills his Gospel’s intent for the reader, encapsulates all John’s major themes, and occupies a crucial place in his telling of the story of Christ.
The raising of Lazarus is the last and most dramatic of the miraculous signs done by Jesus in John’s Gospel, and yet like all signs as important as the event itself is, just as important is how people respond to it.
More than once John tells his reader that the Gospel is written that those who read it might believe that Jesus is the Son of God. It is for the same reason that Jesus performs this miracle, to demonstrate his divine origin. At the same time, I think he performs this miracle for entirely understandable reasons that emanate from not just his divinity but his perfect humanity.
First we must speak of Martha, who takes the initiative to meet Jesus on his way to her house. Her faith is strong already, surely as a result of her family’s deep friendship with Jesus: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” Martha is 100 percent confident that Jesus has power to heal the sick.
And yet Jesus will deepen her faith in him yet further. “And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.” Notice the open-endedness of Martha’s faith: She does not know how God will empower Jesus the Son, but she does believe that God will empower Jesus the Son with whatever he asks no matter how daring or unexpected.
Her faith is already open to the possibility that not only can Jesus heal; he can raise the dead, and to prove that he can raise the dead, he raises just one dead man now, his dear friend Lazarus.
Much as he provided literal bread to thousands of hungry people to prove that he is the true spiritual bread that comes down from heaven, and much as he opened the eyes of a blind man to the literal light of the sun to prove that he is the spiritual light that enlightens all people, so now he raises a man from literal death to prove the truth of his resounding words: “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die.”
Now we know that believers in Christ will face the end of their mortal lives; even Lazarus dies after having been raised. When Jesus speaks of himself as the resurrection and the life he means that mortal death is not the end of our lives, and that anyone who believes in him will never die in the sense that their life is indestructible, though of course in this world that life comes to a temporary end as it did for Lazarus.
Jesus then sharpens this extraordinary teaching and promise by putting the question directly to Martha: “Do you believe this?” It is not enough to think this might be true or to believe it in the abstract, and her answer proves that her already strong faith in Jesus is now even more profound and personally appropriated: “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world.”
There is in John’s Gospel no more perfect confession of faith, nor a more complete realization of John’s intention in writing this Gospel. It is John too who will quote Jesus as saying blessed are those who believe without seeing. Martha has not yet even seen the miracle, but she already believes in Jesus’s words of promise.
The faith of Martha is precisely what John’s Gospel is for, and what this miracle is for: to demonstrate that Jesus is the Son of God.
But we must also speak of the faith of Mary. Notice she says the exact same thing as Martha: “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.” She too, like her sister, is 100 percent confident that Jesus can heal the sick.
Yet we can learn something distinctive from her experience with Jesus too.
Mary’s companions think she is going to the tomb of her brother to mourn him with weeping; she falls at Jesus’s feet weeping; she is joined by others in the shedding of tears.
And Jesus is deeply disturbed by her pain as he will be again in the next chapter when John uses the same words to describe Jesus’s being deeply disturbed by the contemplation of his own imminent death.
Their shared grief precipitates the shortest and most emotionally poignant verse in the NT: “Jesus wept.”
Here we see I think another perfectly valid reason why Jesus performs this miracle: He is the perfect human, and like all of us he has friends, and Lazarus is a dear one.
Martha and Mary’s neighbors can see from his pain that Jesus loved his friend, so it’s not surprising that they wonder whether he could have kept Lazarus from dying in the first place.
Of course we know he could have, but this sign, like all signs, is for the glory of God, as Jesus himself says in verse 40.
Christian faith is not in denial about sickness, suffering, and death.
These are unavoidable realities for the human condition.
And when faced with sickness, suffering, and death Christian faith does not require stoicism.
Jesus was not stoical. Jesus wept. He wept because his friend is dead. He wept because death is our enemy and there is no good in it.
But Jesus did not just weep. He knew Martha was right: God would give him anything he asked, even the favor of raising his friend from the dead. He did not deny death—he used it as proof that he had been sent by God, and he used it to turn tears into joy.
He did not stand mourning by the grave, he broke it open and in a loud voice commanded the impossible: “Lazarus,” my friend, “come out.”
For the Christian death is not the last word. The last word is the glory of God, which bursts forth even from death as surely as Lazarus burst forth from his own grave, by the victorious power of Jesus Christ.
Like Martha, we have not seen what we believe. Like Mary, we shed tears of grief at all that has been lost to us in these trying times. Like their friends, we are puzzled why it could not have been different.
Like them both, may we use even this moment—may we use every moment—to build up within us the saving faith in Jesus Christ the Son of God that alone conquers death and secures for us all the resurrected life that he promised.