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Apr 15 18

I can see for miles and miles

by davesandel

I can see for miles and miles

Third Sunday of Easter, April 15, 2018

I lie down and sleep in peace, for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.

–  From Psalm 4

Before Miles smiles, his eyes sparkle and his nostrils flare. The dimples on his cheeks spring up and his lips part. Just a little. And then, wow. Like the sun rising, he smiles. Today he has six teeth, and they glisten in the light. The world turns on Miles’ smile. There is no telling what today will bring.

In the morning, when we rise, Miles is sometimes siting in his crib talking to himself. He has a lot to say. We want to decipher it and talk with him in his tongue, but this is difficult.

And why, after all, would I want to mess with the mystery?

He whispers and shouts and sighs and giggles in splendiferous words of a single syllable. He moves comfortably now and then into longer songs. When he says, “Aaaahhh,” in one or several parts, I just … relax. Sometimes I can say “Aaaahhh” too! There is no place else I’d rather be. Miles loves to take us with him to his safe place, where all of us will nap in peace.

We sat on the patio one sunny April afternoon, whiling away time before supper. Miles has a new green bucket just his size. He found a few special rocks and several even-more-special sticks and put them in the bucket. After a few minutes he learned how to tip the bucket up and pour them out again. His eyes sparkled­. Yes, they did.

These specialized tasks take a ton of energy, so he is silent. He does not smile. He stares carefully at what he’s doing. He seems to reconsider, change his mind, often. He repeats stuff. Experience appears on the cavern-roof of his mind. It drips, and collects, and makes new shapes. Miles is building his own personal castle deep within, he and his Abba hanging out together. They are always together, he and his Abba. They glance now and then at the door, knowing friends will come to visit, welcoming them when they come, and learning every moment to be loved.

Miles and I listened to Winnie-the-Pooh just out of the afternoon sun. Our backyard, bit of a jungle, hundred-acre wood of our own making, beckons. I remember how A.A. Milne, soldier in The Great War who marched for the English king, lived for months in a trench with his dwindling platoon. During heavy rains flood waters raced down the trenches and trapped the men.

Now Piglet is the trapped one, smallest of the small, caught in his low-slung home with the waters rising. The rains won’t stop. Noise at night won’t let him sleep. Piglet sends out a corked bottle that carries a plea for help. With Owl flying ahead, Pooh and Christopher Robin ride their umbrella to Piglet’s rescue.

Aaahhh. Once again now, all are safe in the hundred acre wood. All are safe in our backyard jungle. We lie down and sleep, surrounded by lullaby. Every breath, every moment and hour, all the days of our life, you O Lord, make us dwell in safety. Your touch in my soul quiets every belching unseen gun.  The soldiers are all gone home and the trenches, for now, are all filled in. Your sun shines high in the sky.

Miles smiles. You, O Lord, are so pleased, and you smile too.

O Lord God, alone I cannot withstand withering fire or rushing flood, for I am without defense. I will fall in avalanche and earthquake, and settle into oblivion. O Lord, how can we do more than dwell with you in safety, sleep in peace? Even as our own constructions crack and crumble overhead, it is your house once, your house twice, your house every time in which we dwell forever.

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Apr 8 18

Jet lag

by davesandel

There are several Sundays left in the Easter season, and then comes Pentecost. I’ll send devotions on each of those Sundays, but not on the weekdays. So the next devotion will be on Sunday, April 15.

Jet lag

Second Sunday of Easter, April 8, 2018

Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

– From John 20

A couple of days ago I was thinking about Miles Tadashi Tomita, world traveler. We were about to board a plane headed for Austin to see all our kiddoes there.

Given words, Miles would have a thing or two to tell us about traveling, because he’s seen a thing or two. Last month his parents took him to Japan – to celebrate his existence, his life, the happiness of his appearing. Miles met his family in Japan, which gave them all great joy.

Andi posts pictures using an app called Tinybeans, a fantastic blessing to his grandparents and many others. A few days after they returned from Japan, she posted a picture of him smiling: “He’s happy in this moment but he doesn’t sleep much at night. Pray for jet lag to leave soon.”

And I was struck by how immediate Miles is. Immediacy is actually a learned skill taught in counseling classes. The idea is for both helpers and seekers to remember what it was like to be a kid, and re-learn to say out loud what is happening in you right now. Being in the moment is a value for all of us, but it’s difficult to maintain as we learn the adult arts of introspection, editing and self-protection.

Not for Miles. He’s right here, right now. And if that means crying to go to sleep in the middle of the morning, well, that’s what he’s going to do.

Good families follow a few simple freedoms. Here are three of them:

  1. Be free to think what you think, and say it
  2. Be free to feel what you feel, and say it
  3. Be free to want what you want, and say it

No, you can’t always get what you want, but you can say what that might be. And of all the things I learn from Jesus about how to live, this is one of the most important. He didn’t often seek conflict, but he never avoided it. He didn’t seek praise, but he accepted it. He often asked questions to parry other questions, but his were always better questions and made a point.

Jesus thought what he thought, and said it. Jesus felt what he felt, and said it. Jesus wanted what he wanted, and said it. He knew the ways of politics and persuasion; but more importantly, he knew the arts of gentle love and tough love. His honesty and transparency, his immediacy, made miracles happen every day.

John didn’t write them all down, and that’s good, because they are still happening today. I want to leave more and more space in my life for the immediacy of Jesus.

Let me learn from you, Lord, how to be right here, right now, and hear your quiet heart beating in me. When I listen to this, listen to you in the moment, life is good.

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Apr 7 18

Fling wide you heavenly gates

by davesandel

Fling wide you heavenly gates

Saturday in the Octave of Easter, April 7, 2018

The Eleven were at table and Jesus appeared to them. He rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart because they had not believed. He said to them, “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature.” … Peter and John said to the judges, “It is impossible for us not to speak about what we have seen and heard.” And the people were all praising God for what had happened.

– From Mark 16 and Acts 4

“There is a joyful shout of victory in the tents of the just. I shall not die but live, and declare the works of the Lord. Open the gates of justice; I will enter them and give thanks. This is the gate of the Lord” (from Psalm 118).

Jack is making cookies and blueberry muffins to raise money for a mission in Myanmar. His school is partnering with a school there. One of our best friends over time, Thein, is a physican from Myanmar. He has a beautiful smile, and I have known him as a hardworking, happy man who assumes the best about others.

My quick Google search on Myanmar was highlighted by, “The situation here seems a textbook example of ethnic cleansing.” In other words, men and women in one group are killing less powerful men and women in another group. Almost always, these are called “ethnic” but they are also “religious” cleansings. I will kill you if you see God differently than I do. This did not start, nor will it end in Myanmar.

Our different languages get in the way. Our cultural habits certainly clash. We raise our kids differently, and we have far different beliefs about afterlife. We think we know something about God, but what we each “know” often seems very different.


We … are only one river, we are only one sea. It flows through you and it flows through me. We are all one people … Since when did that give me the freedom to kill you or make you my slave? God wants to make me bigger than that, more loving than that, more free from fear than that. I don’t need to protect myself when God’s justice is tempered by mercy, and God’s mercy is tempered by justice.

Open up the doors and let the music play

Let the streets resound with singing

Songs that bring you hope

Songs that bring you joy

Dancers who dance upon injustice

Do you feel the darkness tremble

When all the saints join in one song

And all the streams flow as one river

To wash away our brokenness

 Many of those of us reading these lectionary texts and devotions are Christians; we are followers of Christ. I don’t want to be rebuked by the risen Jesus for closing my eyes and ears to his body and blood, for unbelief or hardness of heart. I want to be in position like Peter and John to say, “It is impossible not to speak about what I have seen and heard.”

But that urgency is as much a time to listen as it is to speak. God created us to care a lot about each other and about him, and there are all kinds of way to talk about that. Jesus wants to hear it all.

Quiet my self-righteousness, Lord, and replace it with yours. You are good, and your goodness endures forever. Let me rest in you, rest in you, rest in you, and say out loud how much you love me.

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Apr 6 18

Morning glory

by davesandel

Morning glory

Friday in the Octave of Easter, April 6, 2018

Jesus revealed himself again to his disciples at the Sea of Tiberius. Peter and six others went fishing. That night they caught nothing. At dawn Jesus said to them, “Have you caught anything to eat? Cast the net over the right side of the boat.” So they cast it and were not able to pull it in the because of the number of fish. When Simon Peter heard it was the Lord, he tucked in his garment and jumped into the sea.

– From John 21

Peter’s patience flagged, not with Jesus but with himself. What a fool he’d been. Gerard Manley Hopkins, Jesuit and master poet, wrote, perhaps as Peter:

When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite

To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but

That piecemeal peace is poor peace.

          – Hopkins, from “Peace”

So now, in the fullness of time, this appearance of Jesus is for Peter. Most good fishing is done at night. Right? But not that night, not on the left side of the boat, not alone with no touch or smile or word from Jesus. Peter might say he is going fishing, but I think he wanted solitude, and those pesky friends of his just would not let him go. They insisted on hanging out. They had, after all, seen what happened to Judas when he found himself isolated and far too alone:

I am gall, I am heartburn. God’s most deep decree

Bitter would have me taste: my taste was me,

Bones built in me, flesh filled, blood brimmed the curse.

          – Hopkins, from “I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day”

But this is the dawning of the ages, and Jesus will not be leaving Simon Peter on the shore, bereft of his anointing, no longer rock and rubbish of the night. That is not the way of the Lord who loves us and so he comes for Peter, just as after darkness comes the dawn. With the silhouette of Jesus against the sunrise, sudden fish tumble in the boat, and Peter tumbles into Jesus’ arms. Embarrassed and afraid that he might be, Peter turns TOWARD Jesus, not away.

Jesus, being God, claims God’s righteousness for Peter. Jesus can only see Peter as a son of God, not entirely unlike himself. They are brothers, children of God together. Jesus gives Peter complete permission to:

Act in God’s eye what in God’s eye he is –

Christ – for Christ plays in ten thousand places,

Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his

To the Father through the features of men’s faces.

          – Hopkins, from “As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame”

Jesus, with his words and touch, reminded Peter of his role and re-called him into the Body of Christ on earth.

This God-sent poetry-in-motion brushes all of us with the beauty of Christ. We too inhabit those ten thousand places. The joy of our salvation is a never-ending joy, God’s glory our own never-ending story:

Nature is never spent.

There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;

And though the last lights off the black West went

Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs –

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.

          – Hopkins, from “God’s grandeur”

 Beauty robin red-breast, goodness ever-dancing dove, truth-trilled songs into the bright blue sky. We join birds of the air and lilies in the field. Like them we come from you and return to you; your word never goes home void. We are those words, Lord … your words. You make us whole, you make us new, you bring us joy in the morning. This is what we can see, and this is what we can be.

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Apr 5 18

Life is in the turning

by davesandel

Life is in the turning

Thursday in the Octave of Easter, April 5, 2018

Jesus stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” But they were startled and terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. So he said to them, “Touch me and see,” and he showed them his hands and his feet. And he asked, “Have you anything to eat?” He took baked fish and ate it in front of them.

– From Luke 24

And standing on his resurrected feet, out of his resurrected mouth Jesus began to teach, just as he had before. But now, their minds were opened. Something about the resurrected Jesus brought the disciples into new life too. “You are witnesses of these things,” he said to them. They couldn’t believe their eyes, they couldn’t believe their ears … no, actually, now at last they COULD believe. This was not a dream.

No longer dense of mind or thick of spirit, these disciples would soon go on to worldwide preaching and healing, as well as sacrifice and martyrdom. Only John would escape execution.

This amazing Jesus stood before them and ate fish. This Jesus had been very very dead, and now he was more alive than ever. The nails left huge holes in his hands and feet, and he wanted them to put their fingers in and feel. The “idea” of resurrection made no sense and could not be believed, but this was not idea. This was the man Jesus in his completely physical body and his totally spiritual body.

It is the preaching and writing of his witnesses that allows us in to this story. Without them …

It is dark. But there are hands

There I can take, voices to hear

Solider than the echoes

Without. And sometimes a strange light

Shines, purer than the moon,

Casting no shadow, that is

The halo upon the bones

Of the pioneers who died for truth.

– R. S. Thomas, “Groping”

Jesus said to his disciples, “No one can come to the Father except by me.” Jesus told Mary, “I am going to my Father and your Father.” Now, after the crucifixion and its apocalyptic victory over evil, Jesus can also say, “And no one can stop me from bringing you to the Father.”

So let’s go.

Life is not hurryings

On to a receding future, nor hankering after

An imagined past. It is the turning

Aside like Moses to the miracle

Of the lit bush, to a brightness

That seemed as transitory as your youth

Once, but is the eternity that awaits you.

– R. S. Thomas, “The Bright Field”

In the moment of saving, Lord, there is no waiting, even as there is no hurry. When I find myself in the fullness of time, there is nothing more to know than your touch and presence, your smile and the sweet breath you breathe on my face because you’re so close. We are coming home.

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Apr 4 18

The shape of Jesus

by davesandel

The shape of Jesus

Wednesday in the Octave of Easter, April 4, 2018

On the road to Emmaus Jesus said to his two companions, “O how foolish you are! How slow of heart to believe all that the prophets spoke! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”

– From Luke 24

These appearances of Jesus after his resurrection take many shapes, as do those we experience ourselves. This time Jesus is pushing back on ignorance and fear, teaching his friends on the dusty road just how cosmic this moment is in the history of the universe. And of course, they were blown away.

“Were not our hearts burning within us?” they said to each other, returning to Jerusalem with shouting, and laughing, and tears of joy. That time of despair-turned-to-glory on the rocky, crooked highway with Jesus was the high point of their lives. They will never forget.

And of course, all of Jesus’ appearances were like that. ARE like that. None of us forget. As the Psalm says and we repeat so easily, “This is the day that the Lord has made. Let us be glad and rejoice in it.” Oh, yes! That might be every day in the neighborhood, and it is also and especially the day when Jesus comes and puts his hand on my head, and somehow I know he is there.

Thomas Aquinas, who re-discovered Aristotle in the 13th century, is famous for his unfinished Summa Theologiae. On December 6, 1273, after writing constantly for eight years, Aquinas stopped. For the second time in three months, Thomas went into ecstasy and tears before an icon of the crucified Christ. “I can write no more. After what I have seen, everything I ever wrote seems like straw.” The appearance of Jesus silenced Aquinas, and in a freak accident he died a few months later.

You might say Jesus came out of the blue and touched Aquinas’ mystical self. But in another famous work, Aquinas wrote four volumes persuading non-believers of God’s truth, goodness and beauty in the world God made. In Summa contra Gentiles, “the universe comes into its own, no longer just a distraction for the soul, but God’s basic means of communication with humanity” (Short History of Christianity, Tomkins, p. 120). In his short fruitful life Thomas met Christ visiting the crossroads of heaven and earth, within and without, in the created world and in his deepest self.

We are dust, and to dust we will return. But we are fearfully and wonderfully made, only “a little lower than the angels.” If only we open our eyes, we will see Jesus.

 Above me you are beautiful, Lord, and below me you are beautiful. All around me, Lord, you are beautiful, and not only beautiful, but true and good. Your mercy endures forever, and it pours on my head like honey. Even in my brief moment of time you open the windows and doors of your house and invite me to breathe in eternity.

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Apr 3 18

Joys of his appearing

by davesandel

Joys of his appearing

Tuesday in the Octave of Easter, April 3, 2018

Jesus said to Mary Magdalene, “Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. Go to my brothers and tell them, ‘I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’”

– From John 20

I know a man who worked hard in winter and in summer. One day he was fixing fence while his cows munched grass nearby. It was hot and nearly time for lunch. He whistled a happy tune.

Then in a flash he shivered and fell down sitting on the ground. His fingers stiffened, he dropped his pliers and stared straight ahead. His skin prickled in the summer air.

Moses would have said, “I must step aside and see this amazing sight.” Mary would have said, “Rabboni!” My friend said nothing, but eventually he went inside and ate lunch with his God-fearing wife. He is a man of few words, and he rarely said anything to anyone about this moment with God. But he was sure of it. He didn’t go to church before or much after this day, but he was sure of it. God visited him in the field.

In spite of all my shortcomings, God comes to me too. Of course I am mostly unawares, but sometimes I can’t help but know. We are all part of God’s family of mankind. As Jesus said so clearly, we all are going to “my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” And in the meantime, quite often actually, he comes to us.

Yesterday morning the trees shone in the sunlight, covered with sheens of crystals and ice. Our Easter snow blanketed everything dazzling white; even in April, this winter’s beauty came today. Robins might have been fooled, but they still flew, looking for worms, their red breasts shining and fat. By the end of the day the snow melted, the weather warmed, and they had found many worms, I’m sure.

In the hospital, sitting with my mom, we watched a black man help a white woman with her coat. She in a wheelchair, he driving her cab, they sat and talked while she waited for her blood draw. Of course they did not know each other. But God knew both of them, and you could feel their kinship in their words. Their faith filled the room.

As the Cubs were losing today, I switched the radio to an audio Winnie-the-Pooh. Silly old bear. In almost every story, an epiphany for someone. Maybe mostly me today. God felt near. I switched again to an audio version of the Chaplet of Divine Mercy. A priest and a group of nuns responded to each other with chant, with repetitions, with prayer.

Driving home, the moments passed too quickly and there I was, sitting in the car, silent in the driveway, fallen flat beside the unfixed fence, on my knees with Mary, sharing stories with a cab driver, taking off my shoes, too, beside the burning bush, all the while as Jesus says, “I have not yet descended to our Father.”

There was no hurry to go inside.

In your great mercy, Lord, you let me see inside myself, let me see inside my life, let me see inside our amazing world with each instant glimpse of grandeur. You, God, rise up to meet us all, not waiting for us to come to you. But, Lord, come to you we will. And when we do, we will recognize you, our friend who walks with us and talks with us and tells us you are our friend.

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Apr 2 18

The testimony of women

by davesandel

The testimony of women

Monday in the Octave of Easter, April 2, 2018

Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went away quickly from the tomb, fearful yet overjoyed, and ran to announce the news to his disciples. And behold, Jesus met them on their way and greeted them. They approached, embraced his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go tell my brothers.” 

– From Matthew 28

In The Messiah, Jacques Duquesne’s beautifully illustrated biography of Jesus, he reminds us that women were of little account in those days: “The surest means of discrediting the whole idea of Jesus’ resurrection would be to have it proclaimed by women, whoever they might be.”

At the tomb Jesus charged the women with a mission. “This was an extraordinary privilege that many Fathers of the Church would skirt around and whose underlying reasons they do not bother to elucidate.” These women kept the faith. They came first to visit Jesus’ grave, almost the first minute Sabbath was over. And they were the first to see him, risen and new but also risen and the same. “Jesus!” In that recognition tears and joy were all the same.

Maureen Day is a young mom who writes about her infant daughter, Veronica at her first Easter Vigil. “When the lights went out she was totally quiet. Suddenly the Paschal candle pierced the darkness; then Veronica did the same. She shrieked with delight. She put her feet on my belly and lunged toward the light. Her fists were opening and closing, my abdomen had become a trampoline, and her echoing squeals were unceasing.”

Taken to the vestibule, “her delight gave way to heaving sobs. When I said ‘If you can be quiet, we’ll go back inside,’ she responded with total silence. Back in the pew, however, she again saw that wondrous flame. The same wild, shrieking scene ensued. My husband Joseph and I took turns in the vestibule until the lights came back on.”

Move ahead eleven years. Veronica and her younger brother David are grumbling about going to church three nights in a row. “Everyone is given a slender white candle and we walk over to the bonfire. Veronica is watching the fire with a marked intensity. When the firelight falls on her face, she seems transfixed. Prayers begin, and the Paschal candle is aflame. The flame passes from candle to candle, and I watch as she holds hers close and looks around at the other flames.”

More than a hundred generations of women separate Mary and Veronica from Maureen and Veronica. No matter, they are caught up in the mystery of Christ’s appearing, then in flesh, now in flame. “Mom! The fire, it just kept spreading! It didn’t matter how many flames it made, it never got smaller. No matter how much fire we took away, it still kept giving.”

Maureen and Veronica made their way into the church along with the rest of the Body of Christ. “Mom, it was infinity! It was just like love, Mom! It was just like God!” Mom smiled, her “eyes stinging, feeling that crescendo-instant of God’s undeniable presence.”

Looking for words, Maureen calls this experience “glorious wonder, captivating beauty, summit of all desires.” Speechless myself, many Easters under my belt, I want to “approach this liturgical moment with a profound newness,” like an infant, like an eleven-year-old. My heart speaks louder than my words, reverberating with what the Holy Spirit surrounding Jesus sings day by day by day.

All I ask for, Lord, is to see thee more clearly, and love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, all these amazing Easter days. The snows of winter slowly give way to thaw, to buds, to new life. Let me claim the profound newness you want so much for all of us, and sing.

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Apr 1 18

Rising sun

by davesandel

Rising sun

Easter Sunday, April 1, 2018

On the first day of the week, Mary Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb … On entering the tomb they saw a young man sitting on the right side, clothed in a white robe, and he said to them, “Do not be afraid. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. But he is not here. He is risen!”

– From John 20 and Mark 16

Oh, the readers!

On Holy Thursday night at church my friend Mary Lou read the Passover story from Exodus 12. She spoke as God, announcing his judgment on Egypt. When she read, “I, the LORD!” it was as if the words caught her up into the clouds. They took my breath away.

Then at an evening Good Friday service, Virginia read Matthew 27:51-52. She often uses a walker, and it was hard for her to get on stage, so Pastor Renee carried the microphone down to her. Virginia could barely get the words out through her sobs. As the temple veil was rent and the earth shook, as the rocks split and the tombs broke open, her heart broke too, and so did mine. Shouldn’t we weep at the death of Jesus, at the violence of our lives, for victims and persecutors and all of us so certain of ourselves? Whatever else I heard that night was filtered through tears. I didn’t know Virginia, but she knew Jesus, and she brought me along to be with him beneath his cross.

And on Saturday, watching The Passion of the Cross, there stood Simon of Cyrene, 900 miles from home on pilgrimage for Passover, conscripted to carry Jesus’ cross and complaining to the Roman soldiers, “Remember, I’m an innocent man forced to carry the cross of a condemned man.”

Carrying the cross together, their faces are inches apart. With one eye swollen shut, Jesus is leading Simon in a crash course called, “Love your enemy.” The path up Golgotha is steep, and Simon’s face contorts with effort and pain. At the top, together they fall to their knees below the weight of Jesus’ cross. Simon cannot stop looking into Jesus’ face as the soldiers shout, “Get away now, you’re free to go!” Simon won’t move until they throw him away. “Go on! Go on!” He weeps at the innocence of this condemned man, Jesus, and goes to find his son.

So here we are on Easter Sunday, standing beside the grave with Mary, listening to the young man’s proclamation and running with her back to the disciples shouting at the top of our lungs, “He’s alive, he’s alive! He’s alive and he has risen, heaven’s gates are open wide.”

In these days before Easter, we have not been preparing for some minor miracle. Jesus now lives in what Paul called a soma pneumatikon, a spiritual body, both completely physical and totally spiritual. There can be no proof of this, only witnesses. We cannot imagine or understand such a thing, but we can believe the witnesses. John Updike knows his own temporizing ways and warns us:

Let us not mock God with metaphor,

Analogy, sidestepping, transcendence,

Making of the event a parable, a sign painted in the faded

Credulity of earlier ages:


This is the Day of Days. God has reclaimed the earth and all his children from the Powers of Sin and Death. The sun has risen on the victory of Jesus, our Savior forever. We are free. Jesus is alive, and so are we.

Now, Lord. This is when we fall on our knees, and then down on our faces. This is the time for us to weep with thankfulness and joy, that you, Jesus, are our friend, and you laid down your life for us. Then you took it up again just as you said you would, and now, Lord, we can follow you into freedom and peace forever.

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Mar 31 18

And there was light

by davesandel

And there was light

Easter Vigil, Saturday, March 31, 2018

Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God saw how good the light was. God then separated the light from the darkness. God called the light “day” and the darkness he called “night.” Thus evening came, and morning followed – the first day.

– From Genesis 1

During these three days before Easter, my task is to be as close to Jesus as I can be. I pray asking Jesus to be near me and I imagine myself near Jesus, on Thursday at his last supper, on Friday at his trial and crucifixion, and today with him in the grave.

Or perhaps I am alone and he is not in the grave. The Apostles’ Creed boasts that Jesus “descended into hell.” As he said to his disciples, “I am going where you cannot follow.” There’s no map, no door, no down staircase. Jesus is on his own.

And he does not descend into hell for his health. He is finishing things, restoring unto us the joy of our salvation.

But as I sit in the grave’s darkness, knowing how close I am to the light, there is a special task for me. In many churches Easter Vigil is the night of baptism and anointing. I made promises at baptism which deserve a second look, and sitting in the tomb, I can take some time for that. Here are three questions with their implied commitments:

  1. Do you reject sin, so as to live in the freedom of God’s children?
  2. Do you reject the glamor of evil, and refuse to be mastered by sin?
  3. Do you reject Satan, father of sin and prince of darkness?

It’s not that I accomplish anything when I say “yes.” But I open the way for God to do what I can never do. Although I cannot cease being guilty, and although I cannot cleanse myself, I can say “Yes.” God can, and God does cleanse my guilt and free my soul.

Fleming Rutledge asks, “How can we appropriate God’s finished work in the cross of Christ without taking it for granted?” (Crucifixion, p. 316). The answer, I think, is that I can’t. My lazy fallen self will always think too highly of myself than I ought, and expect whatever bits are wrong to be taken care of. It’s “cheap grace,” without a doubt. I am looking for that kind of deal every time I come to God.

But behind my bargain-hunting there is something that in the last sixty years (since 1965) we’ve called judgmentalism. The word might not have existed before then, but the sin has existed since Eden. And before I judge you, I subtly and silently judge myself. I am either right or wrong, good or evil. You are either right or wrong, good or evil. One of us is better and the other of us is worse. That tree we ate from in Eden, we keep on eating, every day. And it’s the wrong tree.

God sees through our comparisons and judgments. He looks further than we do, so he is not revolted by how we’ve messed up what he’s made. His acceptance transcends our unacceptability.

There is a short word, just a conjunction, that makes us better at accepting. Instead of “but,” we can say “AND.” So here’s another task for Easter Vigil: begin using the word “and.” Use it all the time. It is a shining word, and it reflects the light God made.

Here are a few both-ands from a longer list by Richard Rohr:

“And” helps us face and accept our own dark side

“And” allows us to ask for forgiveness and apologize

“And” is the mystery of paradox in all things

“And” is the way of mercy

“And” makes daily, practical love possible

“And” does not trust love if it is not also justice

“And” does not trust justice if it is not also love

“And” allows us to be distinct and yet united

“And” is the very Mystery of Trinity

Bless you, Jesus, wherever you are today, wherever you were the day after you were laid in your tomb. This is our day to realize how much we depend on you in every moment, every inch, every cell of all our lives. Our heartbeats and our breaths one by one need your kiss, your attention, your love. Thank you for all of this today, every day, all our lives.

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