Monday, April 25, 2011

Christ is Risen! Now what?

It is Monday of Easter week, and I just got off a conference call with other clergy who are also leading redevelopment efforts in their respective parishes, all in California. It was a smaller group than usual, and we were pretty much all worn out from the busyness of Holy Week. Normally one gets into a rhythm: Monday you de-stress from the wildness of Sunday and, as the week progresses, you do both sermon and other service preparation in amongst all of the other things that leading a church involves--administration, pastoral visits, the occasional solicitation call, and hopefully time for prayer and some personal Bible study as well. With a weekly worship service, there is generally ample time to take a breath before the next Sunday rolls around. Not with Holy Week. We have a comparatively light schedule here (see last week's post), but the tiredness is still there.

There's a deeper weariness, though, that I also heard from my colleagues--the weariness of living in a world that appears stuck in Good Friday (death) while trying to preach and live Easter (resurrection life). It is also quite a challenge to lead an entire church composed of people engaged in this same struggle. What does a mission-minded church faithful to God's call look like in this place and in this time, and how do we get there from here? That is the challenge we face as individuals and as a community of faith.

One person's answer to that question, in that time and in that place, is my colleague Rebecca Stevens, founder of Magdalane. Becca's efforts just "went national" with a spot on National Public Radio (NPR). The story shows what transformation looks like--and how difficult it can be.

Regardless of our own context, the video does demonstrate one truth: we may not be able to do everything, but we can do something. For now, the "something" that our church can and does do is provide a place for various 12-step groups to meet, groups that respond to a real need and that have been life-changing for many people. God may be calling us to do even more, but that's where we are now.

We'll see where we go now....

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Day After Palm Sunday (or "Monday in Holy Week")

Less than an hour ago I finished praying Noonday Prayer as the first in the series of daily liturgies we will move through this Holy Week. We'll repeat Noonday Prayer tomorrow and Wednesday, then move to Eucharist and Stripping of the Altar at 7 p.m. on Maundy Thursday, Good Friday Liturgy and Solemn Collects at Noon on Good Friday, Procession with the Cross from Cambrian Park Plaza Shopping Center at 6 p.m. followed by the Stations of the Cross, then joining Trinity Cathedral on Saturday evening for the Great Vigil of Easter. All in all, a full week!

But for today, it was just me in a semi-darkened church reading Noonday Prayer, surrounded by the Palm Sunday decorations (palm branches reaching to the sky, palm fronds scattered in front of the altar, a lone palm cross left on the floor at the church entrance, etc...). As I prayed, I thought: "What must have that first Monday been like?" After the chaos, celebration, and fear of Palm Sunday, what might it have been like the day after? Perhaps some loose palm fronds scattered along the road, an expectant hush over the city wondering where the revolution (and the revolutionaries!) went, and everywhere the remnants of what must have been a wild day. In a short time, all of the palms will be gone from the church. In likely as short of a time, all traces of celebration would have been gone from the streets of Jerusalem.

I keep thinking about all of the "players" in this drama--Jesus, the disciples, the Pharasees, the crowds--what were they up to that first Monday? A week later and it would all be over--literally, death would be vanquished and the resurrected Jesus would begin a succession of appearances to his disciples. But, for now, the remnants of a celebration, and an expectant waiting....