Ascension Sunday (Eastertide, 7): The picture of a diver

In the final Sunday of Eastertide, we celebrate the ascended, resurrected and reigning Christ. Hallelujah! 

Ascension Swim  by Matthew Farrar ( source )

Ascension Swim by Matthew Farrar (source)

 
One has the picture of a diver, stripping off garment after garment, making himself naked, then flashing for a moment in the air, and sunlit water into the pitch black, cold, freezing water, down into the mud and slime, then up again, his lungs almost bursting, back again to the green and warm and sunlit water, and then at last out into the sunshine, holding in his hand the dripping thing he went down to get. The thing is human nature; but associated with it, all nature, the new universe.
— C.S. Lewis

Today's readings: Acts 1:1-11, Psalm 47, Psalm 93, Ephesians 1:15-23, Luke 24:44-53

Listen to my Eastertide playlist on Spotify:  Resurrection

The Collect for the Seventh Sunday of Easter:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing; Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

Good Shepherd Sunday (Eastertide, 4): I shall not want

The celebration continues with the Great Fifty Days called Eastertide. Stay tuned for a variety of celebratory posts here on the blog!

The Good Shepherd  by Julien Dupre ( source )

The Good Shepherd by Julien Dupre (source)

For all the poetry I could have presented on the subject of Christ as the Good Shepherd who leads us by quiet streams and gives us peace in the valley of the shadow of death, these are the lyrics I couldn't stop thinking about this week.

May the peace of Christ and the comfort of all of His Spirit's leading, guiding and nurturing be yours today, friends.

I Shall Not Want by Audrey Assad (via Trinity Fellowship on YouTube)


Today's readings: Acts 2:42-47, Psalm 23, 1 Peter 2:19-25, John 10:1-10

Listen to my Eastertide playlist on Spotify:  Resurrection

The Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people; Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer

50 ways to Practice Resurrection during the 50 days of Eastertide

The last couple of years, we've celebrated the Great 50 Days between Easter Sunday and Pentecost Sunday (aka, Eastertide)with a series I've dubbed Practice Resurrection (after the Wendell Berry poem). It's one of my favorite series all year, and I'm excited to start again. I need your photos and captions to make it work. To help prime the pump, I thought you might enjoy the list of ideas I brainstormed for simple ways to practice resurrection.

Before I share the list, here's how to share your photo story:

1. Add something to your day that helps you practice resurrection (one day or fifty days -doesn't matter).
2. Take a picture and write a description in 1-50 words. 
3. Share it with me via email, share on my Facebook page, or tag me on Instagram (you can tag me with @asacramentallife or use the #PracticeResurrection2017 hashtag.) 

 

  1. Listen to the Easter portion of Handel's Messiah.
  2. Use a special candle at family meals.
  3. Add a "hallelujah" song (or proclamation) to the grace you say before each meal.
  4. Talk about baptism, retell baptism stories, set out family baptism photographs.
  5. Read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (or the entire Chronicles of Narnia series), preferably out loud, and with children in the room. 
  6. Drape crosses and other liturgical art in your house with white or gold ribbons or strips of cloth.
  7. Take a short trip to a beautiful cathedral or prayer garden.
  8. Visit a botanical garden.
  9. Sing and play instruments often (or invite friends over who do).
  10. Plan an evening sing-a-long (maybe the first campfire of the season).
  11. Host a different group of friends for dinner each week during the season.
  12. Go to lunch with a different group of friends after church each Sunday of the season.
  13. Choose a place in your home to hang a visual reminder of resurrection (print, painting, verse).
  14. Keep fresh flowers on the table throughout the season.
  15. Take walks in scenic locations - maybe each Sunday afternoon of the season. Learn how to pray as you walk.
  16. Take a half day off work for a quiet retreat.
  17. Plant a flower garden (or vegetables) as a tactile reminder of Jesus as the vine and ourselves as the branches (Jn. 15:5). 
  18. Take a dance class.
  19. Throw a spontaneous dance party in your living room. (Here's 12 dance moves I dare you try!)
  20. Order a butterfly garden kit and watch the miracle of metamorphosis.
  21. Keep a daily gratitude journal to help you pay attention to ordinary signs of life and joy.
  22. Read the Scripture passages recounting Jesus' post-resurrection appearances to his followers. (You can follow the daily lectionary readings listed in my Sunday blog posts.)
  23. Ask God for a renewed joy in the weekly liturgy of Communion.
  24. Take a picnic breakfast to the park (or just the back yard) and read the story of Jesus making breakfast for his disciples (Jn. 21).
  25. Visit a farm or petting zoo where you might see baby animals. 
  26. Visit a sheep farm or try to meet a real-life shepherd. Ask them what it means to be a good shepherd.
  27. Start a hobby you've always wanted to pursue. 
  28. Pick up an old hobby that used to bring you joy.
  29. Take an art class - drawing, painting, photography, calligraphy, ceramic, sculpting, improv comedy!
  30. Watch a movie that always makes you laugh. 
  31. Start music lessons or join a community choir.
  32. Join a local Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). Search for new veggie recipes.
  33.  Plan one or more "sunrise services" for morning prayer, Scripture reading, or just quiet contemplation at a nearby scenic location. 
  34. Build a new piece of furniture.
  35. Repair or restore old furniture, appliances or fixtures in your home (or someone else's). Maybe even repurpose curb-side trash to furniture treasure.
  36. Paint a room in your house with a fresh new color.
  37. Pray for your enemies. Forgive someone who wronged you. 
  38. Invite your neighbor over for drinks on the porch.
  39. Bake bread (or try your hand at braiding bread). Give some away.
  40. Ride a bike.
  41. Learn a new game, or re-learn a game from your childhood. (Hopscotch, anyone?)
  42. Make homemade ice cream.
  43. Rent a canoe or kayak for a day.
  44. Learn the names of the trees in your neighborhood.
  45. Adopt a kitten or puppy.
  46. Wash your car by hand.
  47. Write a poem or short story. (Read Wendell Berry's poem for inspiration!)
  48. Go to the park, and swing on the playground. Blow bubbles. Make sidewalk chalk art.
  49. Try a new ethnic food.
  50. On Ascension Day, find a spot outdoors - a park, a hillside, a body of water - some place where you can see the open sky and clouds, to sit for an hour of meditation on the exaltation of Christ to glory.

Choose 1 idea or 50, but whatever you do, do it with gusto! Also, thanks to Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God by Bobby Gross for some of the ideas above.


I've been posting some photos on Instagram, using the #PracticeResurrection2017 hashtag. You can see that I keep it pretty simple! I find a lot of joy, though, in seeing these ordinary choices during my day as ways to practice a life that trumps death, a resurrection kind of life.

I know this  looks  like Bourbon, but it's really delicious Darjeeling tea that a kind man offered us today. Grace Farms is one of our favorite places to read, write and study during the week.   #PracticeResurrection2017

I know this looks like Bourbon, but it's really delicious Darjeeling tea that a kind man offered us today. Grace Farms is one of our favorite places to read, write and study during the week.  #PracticeResurrection2017

Even if I didn't like the taste, I'd keep eating fresh veggies because they're so pretty. Looking forward to farmer's market season here in the Northeast! #PracticeResurrection2017

Even if I didn't like the taste, I'd keep eating fresh veggies because they're so pretty. Looking forward to farmer's market season here in the Northeast! #PracticeResurrection2017


Here's how you can share your photo stories with me for the blog:

1. Add something to your day that helps you practice resurrection (one day or fifty days -doesn't matter).

2. Take a picture and write a description in 1-50 words. 

3. Share it with me via email, share on my Facebook page, or tag me on Instagram (you can tag me with @asacramentallife or use the #PracticeResurrection2017 hashtag.) 

I look forward to hearing from you!

Practice Resurrection 2017: send me your photos and captions!

For the next five weeks (from now until Pentecost), will you join me in feasting on Resurrection goodness in our everyday lives?

Walking on the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath, Ireland - June 2016

Walking on the Hill of Tara, Co. Meath, Ireland - June 2016

 

During Lent, the phrase retrieve lament captures my imagination through the words of Rilke. During the Great Fifty Days of Easter, it's the lovable contrarian Wendell Berry exhorting my imagination with two words (plus many more): Practice Resurrection.

I also remember each year the passage I've fallen in love with from N.T. Wright:

... we should be taking steps to celebrate Easter in creative new ways: in art, literature, children’s games, poetry, music, dance, festivals, bells, special concerts, anything that comes to mind. this is our greatest festival....This is our greatest day. We should put the flags out.

...if Lent is a time to give things up, Easter ought to be a time to take things up. Champagne for breakfast again — well, of course....The forty days of the Easter season, until the ascension, ought to be a time to balance out Lent by taking something up, some new task or venture, something wholesome and fruitful and outgoing and self-giving. You may be able to do it only for six weeks, just as you may be able to go without beer or tobacco only for the six weeks of Lent. But if you really make a start on it, it might give you a sniff of new possibilities, new hopes, new ventures you never dreamed of. It might bring something of Easter into your innermost life...
— N.T. Wright, "The Challenge of Easter"

Last year, after attending Good Friday service together, my daughters and I talked honestly about how sometimes Eastertide feels like a let-down. It seems to be easier to understand fasting better that feasting. We thought that might be, in part, because our world is generally obsessed with feasting, and whatever we try to do to mark Eastertide feels like the stuff we're normally trying to do every day anyway. 

Maybe so. 

I wonder, too, if sometimes feasting shows more plainly how far away from God we still live. When I can be satisfied in just the right amount of wine or chocolate, that is feasting. When I can't stop either one, that turns into gluttony - which is no longer true feasting. In some ways, fasting is easier, see?

Put another way: feasting is a discipline, too. We take in the good with gratitude and contentment without making an idol of the gifts. This requires us to depend on the Creator as much (maybe more so) as any other spiritual exercise.

The last couple of years, we've celebrated Eastertide on this blog with photos and captions you send me each week. It's one of my favorite series all year, and I'm excited it's time to start again. For the next five weeks (from now until Pentecost), will you join me in feasting on resurrection goodness in our everyday lives?

It can be as simple as a special candle you use for your meals during Eastertide or as elaborate as traveling across the world to meet new people. 

Whatever it is, will you send me a photo along with a short caption to share on the blog?

Plant spring flowers (maybe a new variety this year)? Show us! Get up to see the sun rise on a Sunday morning? Tell us about it! Take a new route to work (maybe taking more time than necessary in honor of the mad farmer)? Share it!

Here's a few examples from friends I asked to contribute to our first post:

 
Granny exclaiming how it’s been a busy morning after receiving “happy 103rd birthday” phone calls! I talked to her the day after her birthday, and she gushed how wonderful it was that everyone, including her neighbors, remembered! She was busy answering the phone all day.
— Kim Akel (Austin, TX)

 
Joe Hall, who runs his own little bike repair shop in his garage, gave me this bike when I left [my pastorate at] Valleyview, and just before I got sick. So I never had the chance to ride it. I pulled it out of the shed today. I’m feeling much better and may be able to ride it this spring.
— Rev. David Murphy (Apalachin, NY)

 
I sat in on some basement playtime this afternoon. Pretty sure I’m going to have big regrets if I don’t do this more often; the cherubic lips and cheeks only last for so long. This momma heart already aches for the day they become big kids!
— Jessica Baer (Hyden, KY)

 
Sunshine and flowers blooming at UB! We took some time go out and pray for students before finals begin Monday.
— Megan Silver (Bridgeport, CT)

PR1.Charissa James.jpg
 
I almost died learning how to surf in college. Maybe a slight exaggeration - but there was definitely a “take my soul, Jesus” as I’m upside down under the surfboard going head first into the rocks moment. Which turned into a “Praise the Lord I only scraped a whole bunch of my back off!” moment - that was a total win in my book and also the end of my very short surfing career. Which brings me to - that totally SWEET moment...when you stand up on a surfboard for the first time. Surfing redemption for the win.
— Charissa James (Whittier, CA)

Three steps to contribute your photo story (after reading the Wendell Berry poem below!)

1. Add something to your day that helps you practice resurrection (one day or fifty days doesn't matter).
2. Take a picture and write a description in 1-50 words. 
3. Share it with me via an emailFacebook, or Instagram (you can tag me with @asacramentallife or use the #PracticeResurrection2017 hashtag.) I'll share some of your photo-stories with everyone here each week

The best place to start is reading this beautiful poem again.

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

 by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,

vacation with pay. Want more

of everything ready-made. Be afraid

to know your neighbors and to die.

And you will have a window in your head.

Not even your future will be a mystery

any more. Your mind will be punched in a card

and shut away in a little drawer.

When they want you to buy something

they will call you. When they want you

to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something

that won’t compute. Love the Lord.

Love the world. Work for nothing.

Take all that you have and be poor.

Love someone who does not deserve it.

Denounce the government and embrace

the flag. Hope to live in that free

republic for which it stands.

Give your approval to all you cannot

understand. Praise ignorance, for what man

has not encountered he has not destroyed.

Ask the questions that have no answers.

Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.

Say that your main crop is the forest

that you did not plant,

that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested

when they have rotted into the mold.

Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.

Put your faith in the two inches of humus

that will build under the trees

every thousand years.

Listen to carrion – put your ear

close, and hear the faint chattering

of the songs that are to come.

Expect the end of the world. Laugh.

Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful

though you have considered all the facts.

So long as women do not go cheap

for power, please women more than men.

Ask yourself: Will this satisfy

a woman satisfied to bear a child?

Will this disturb the sleep

of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.

Lie down in the shade. Rest your head

in her lap. Swear allegiance

to what is nighest your thoughts.

As soon as the generals and the politicos

can predict the motions of your mind,

lose it. Leave it as a sign

to mark the false trail, the way

you didn’t go. Be like the fox

who makes more tracks than necessary,

some in the wrong direction.

Practice resurrection.


In what ways are you practicing resurrection this week?  I'd love to hear about it!

Meal Sunday (Eastertide, 3): Recognizing the Bread of Life

The celebration continues with the Great Fifty Days called Eastertide. Stay tuned for a variety of celebratory posts here on the blog!

Supper at Emmaus  by Maximino Cerezo Barredo (sources:  here  and  here )  Inscription, in Catalan: “El reconegueren quan partia el pa” (They recognized him when he broke the bread).

Supper at Emmaus by Maximino Cerezo Barredo (sources: here and here)

Inscription, in Catalan: “El reconegueren quan partia el pa” (They recognized him when he broke the bread).

 
No, He is too quick. We never
got to say thanks. He was there
closer breath than our mourning prayer.
Remembering
backward, we can not imagine how
we did not recall His voice.

Even if we heard back then
those three years (plus seven miles) of teaching
how would we retell the new-breathed meaning His
words made Word raised upward in the air
with all His strong bones executing
every law letter? or the strange
bright tales sprouting
through crusted-over faith
like just-activated beads of yeast? Who could
preach the words into man’s heart
as the Spirit comes close enough to raise
to life the decaying rot inside? Who will
diagram the hermaneutic
of redemption, the cadence of re-birth?
or digestively analyze rhetoric
made flesh? or chew through
propositions as they moisten in the cup
passed ‘round? Will anyone sit beside
the broken loaf? and stir the bloody
grapey liquid? and explain
the symbol or substance
telling truth that no sermon made us recognize?

Enough. Refrain.
Digest a finished work. Repeat.
Today — another wordless sermon — the ingested
doctrines of our faith made plain
the Christ we need to know.
— "Recognizing the Bread of Life" (which I adapt from work by Luci Shaw)

Today's readings: Acts 2:14a, 36-41, Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19, 1 Peter 1:17-23, Luke 24:13-35

Listen to my Eastertide playlist on Spotify:  Resurrection

The Collect for the Second Sunday of Easter:

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer