Fifth Sunday of Eastertide: All Things New

The celebration continues with the Great Fifty Days called Eastertide. I hope you’re enjoying the Practice Resurrection series each week. Hallelujah! Christ is risen!


Look: Sun, Edvard Munch


Listen: “Alleluia” from Receive the Glory, Glad

Spotify | YouTube

Listen to my entire playlist on Spotify: Resurrection 2019. Add it to your account by clicking ‘Follow.’


Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens!

Let them praise the name of the Lord! For he commanded and they were created.
And he established them forever and ever; he gave a decree, and it shall not pass away.

Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all deeps, fire and hail, snow and mist, stormy wind fulfilling his word!

Mountains and all hills, fruit trees and all cedars!
Beasts and all livestock, creeping things and flying birds!

Kings of the earth and all peoples, princes and all rulers of the earth!
Young men and maidens together, old men and children!

Let them praise the name of the Lord, for his name alone is exalted; his majesty is above earth and heaven.
He has raised up a horn for his people, praise for all his saints, for the people of Israel who are near to him.
Praise the Lord!”

*

”Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

And he who was seated on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” Also he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.” And he said to me, “It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give from the spring of the water of life without payment.
— Psalm 148 * Revelation 21:1-6 (ESV)

Sunday:

Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 1), using the Psalm selections for Morning Prayer. This week’s readings include the Book of Wisdom from the Apocrypha so I’ve linked to the RSV. Here’s a helpful commentary If you’re wondering if Anglicans (or other Protestants) read the Apocrypha.


Pray:

Almighty God, whom truly to know is everlasting life: Grant us so perfectly to know your Son Jesus Christ to be the way, the truth, and the life, that we may steadfastly follow his steps in the way that leads to eternal life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, Collect for the Fifth Sunday in Eastertide

Do:

In previous 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.

Choose 1 idea or 50, but whatever you do, do it with gusto!

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 @a_sacramental_life or use the #PracticeResurrection2019 hashtag.) 

I look forward to hearing from you!


(See all Eastertide posts from 2018 here.)

Fourth Sunday of Eastertide: Good Shepherd

The celebration continues with the Great Fifty Days called Eastertide. I hope you’re enjoying the Practice Resurrection series that began this past week. Hallelujah! Christ is risen!


Look: The Shepherd of Sandtown, Stephen Towns


Listen: “The Lord Is My Shepherd (Psalm 23)” on The North Coast Sessions, Keith & Kristyn Getty

Spotify | YouTube | Lyrics

Listen to my entire playlist on Spotify: Resurrection 2019. Add it to your account by clicking ‘Follow.’


Read:

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

*

”Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name bear witness about me, but you do not believe because you are not among my sheep. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.
— Psalm 23 * John 10:25-30 (ESV)

Sunday: Acts 9:36-43; Psalm 23; Revelation 7:9-1; John 10:22-30

Sunday Scripture readings are taken from the Revised Common Lectionary (Year C). Daily Scripture readings are taken from the Book of Common Prayer (Year 1), using the Psalm selections for Morning Prayer. This week’s readings include the Book of Wisdom from the Apocrypha so I’ve linked to the RSV. Here’s a helpful commentary If you’re wondering if Anglicans (or other Protestants) read the Apocrypha.


Pray:

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, Collect for Fourth Sunday in Eastertide

Do:

In previous 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.

Choose 1 idea or 50, but whatever you do, do it with gusto!

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 @a_sacramental_life or use the #PracticeResurrection2019 hashtag.) 

I look forward to hearing from you!


(See all Eastertide posts from 2018 here.)

Into your hands I commit my spirit: Erin Ware [Retrieve Lament 2019]

Holy or Silent Saturday may be the most important day in the church calendar to help us recognize what it means to live in the already-but-not-yet kingdom of Jesus. Jesus has already conquered death, but we haven’t - not yet. We still die. Our dreams, our loved ones, our relationships all face the threat of death. We know that death does not have the last word, but until Jesus comes and calls us from our graves, death tramples our hearts and homes with a vengeance. Today, this Silent Saturday, I invite you into one last Lenten fast. Would you set aside some time to sit with the mourners hiding in Jerusalem after putting Jesus’ body into the grave?

It helps me to enter their story by entering the stories of those who’ve written lament here all week. The Jewish custom of sitting shiva to mourn a family member’s death could be instructive for us today. Will you sit with me and help retrieve the lament that’s been omitted?

My introduction (Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.)

Walter Wittwer (Today, you will be with Me in Paradise.)

Drake Dowsett (Woman, behold your son. Son, behold your mother.)

Eva Chou (My God, why have you forsaken me?)

Kirstin Dowsett (I thirst.)

Marcie Walker (It is finished.)

Erin Ware (Into your hands I commit my spirit.)

Today’s guest is a friend I’ve met in person only once, several years ago. We enjoyed a brief but meaningful introduction, and have stayed in contact ever since, connected by our mutual appreciation for art, theology, and spiritual formation. I also love Erin’s instinct to gather people around beauty.The artwork you see throughout this post shows the power of Erin’s substantive reckoning with grief. I’m grateful for her generosity in sharing it with us this Holy Week.

Would you read Erin’s story with me, and listen with an open heart for any words Christ might be speaking to you?

 
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, 45 while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. 46 Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. 47 Now when the centurion saw what had taken place, he praised God, saying, “Certainly this man was innocent!” 48 And all the crowds that had assembled for this spectacle, when they saw what had taken place, returned home beating their breasts. 49 And all his acquaintances and the women who had followed him from Galilee stood at a distance watching these things.
— Luke 23:43-49 (ESV)
 

Retrieving Lament

by Erin Ware

Even before my mom died in May 2015, I already felt as if I’d been shipwrecked and washed up on an unfamiliar shore. I had been through an immense amount of change—some very good, like marriage, but some that was disorienting and, honestly, devastating. In the months leading up to our wedding in April 2014, Nathan and I went through things that are too sensitive and private to share on the internet, but just take my word for it: it was heartbreaking and scary stuff. As if the statement “When it rains, it pours” needs to assert itself every time something goes wrong, we also found ourselves without a church, therefore without much of our community. At the same time, I was laid off from my job, and I had my car stolen. And on top of it all, my mom’s brain tumor came back, with all the accompanying and scary symptoms, and she had to have her second brain surgery. Nathan wasn’t even able to come and sit with me in the waiting room because of an intestinal parasite he had picked up from drinking bad water. Seriously?! It is no joke that I began to laugh when I received bad news—I had begun to look for it.

The signs came as early as January 2015. If I had been paying better attention, maybe I would have noticed them earlier. The doctors found another tumor in my mom’s brain, and this time the prognosis was… hopeless. I moved home to help care for her and almost every morning found a fresh assailant—a succession of symptoms arriving more quickly than we could muster ourselves to fight them. She lost use of her left arm, all feeling on her left side, use of her left leg, ability to see on her left side, cognitive clarity, speech… the list goes on.

I had hoped—we all did—that a miracle would occur, or maybe that’s called denial. I don’t know. I will tell you this—I am a person of hope, always have been. I’m buoyant, and not easily pulled into despair, but this was too much, and I was drowning.

The morning I came to terms with the reality of my mother’s impending death, I went for a walk. I walked like she did—fast, purposeful, worship music blaring in my headphones. I didn’t care if the neighbors thought that I looked strange, pounding the pavement, arms raised high in abandon, last-ditch prayers and broken pieces of song pouring out to heaven. I held nothing back, and yet I felt that my prayers were as likely to reach heaven as a handful of paper airplanes.

I was wallowing in self-pity, I admit, when God suddenly broke through and gave me a vision: a massive golden eagle swooping down, grasping my paper-airplane prayers in its talons, and with one powerful thrust of its wings, carrying them up to heaven. I stopped right there in the road and wept, and I walked back home feeling a bit lighter, feeling—at the very least—heard.

My mom died a few days later, on May 3rd, 2015, surrounded by family and in her own bed. It was eight o’clock on a Sunday morning, and we sang her out. We like to think that she left this life to make it to the “early service” in the next. It was a good death, and she was at peace.

This was just the beginning of my grief over her death, but somehow all the events leading up to it helped me to move through it. I don’t mean that it was easy (not at all), but that I was at least equipped.

I kid you not, there was a time, not long before all of this happened, that I thought that “the worst thing that could happen” would be my car breaking down, because I was very financially vulnerable. Then, almost like a joke, my car was stolen, and I couldn’t replace it. (Spoiler alert: I got through it.) The truth is, for most of my life, losing my mom would have been the worst thing that I could imagine—and then that happened too. I don’t want to think about what my “worst thing” would be now. All I know is, through it all, I have come to realize that there is life after death in more ways than one.

Holy Week.Erin Ware1.jpg

The other thing that I have learned, though it took me a while, is that when God seems far away, or maybe even completely absent, he is actually closer than ever. About a year after my mom died, I put away my “mourning clothes.” I knew that I would always miss her, but I gave myself permission to live the way she would want me to. I suppose I thought, rather naively, that I would begin to “feel” the way I had felt before all these things had changed me. I thought that I would find God where I used to find him. But I did not. Luckily, I was in school studying theology and art, and it was my job at the time to find God in this new landscape. That search became my final project for graduation—a paper and gallery show, entitled “The Presence of Absence.” It began as a series on mourning and ended with a theophany of praise.

In the last conversation I had with my mom, the last time that she was able to feebly acknowledge that she heard and understood what I was saying, I told her that I would remember the faithfulness of God. That was her life’s message and what she wanted everybody to know: God is faithful. So I promised her that, after she was gone, I would remember his faithfulness to me and to our family, even in this dark hour.

I have not only remembered it, I have lived to see it.

 
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing;
you have loosed my sackcloth
and clothed me with gladness,

that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!
— Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV)
 

Pray:

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your 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 lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, Collect for Holy Saturday

Holy Week. Erin Ware bio.jpg

Erin is a mixed media painter and textile artist. Her interests lie in the intersection of art, faith, and daily practices, subjects about which writes about on yetuntold.com. She and her husband, Nathan, and their two-year-old boy, Felix, are happy to call Savannah, GA home after recently moving from Vancouver, B.C. She completed a Master of Arts in Theological Studies at Regent College, with a concentration in Christianity and the Arts in 2018. Her portfolio can be found at erinware.com.



Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. / Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned. /

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted.
— Ranier Maria Rilke, "Requiem For A Friend"

(See all of the Retrieve Lament stories from this year here.)

Father, forgive them for they know not what they do: [Retrieve Lament 2019]

This post completes the forty days of Lent Daybook posts for 2018 and begins a week of guest posts for Holy Week. Would you read the stories with me, and listen with an open, prayerful heart?

Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament I'll be sharing here this Holy Week.

 
When they came to the place that is called The Skull, they crucified Jesus there with the criminals, one on his right and one on his left. [Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.”] And they cast lots to divide his clothing. And the people stood by, watching; but the leaders scoffed at him, saying, “He saved others; let him save himself if he is the Messiah of God, his chosen one!” The soldiers also mocked him, coming up and offering him sour wine, and saying, “’f you are the King of the Jews, save yourself!’ There was also an inscription over him, ‘This is the King of the Jews.’
— Luke 23:33-37 (ESV)
 
PALM SUNDAY,  PETER KOENIG   SOURCE

PALM SUNDAY, PETER KOENIG

SOURCE

A few years ago, I woke up on Palm Sunday thinking about the images I’d seen of Christ entering the palm-waving crowds in Jerusalem. I jotted down the thoughts before I forgot them: 

  • If I've ever returned home after a long time gone, to people who might no longer recognize the real me, maybe it felt a bit like that.

  • If I’ve ever felt I was loved only on the condition I met everyone else's expectations and ideals, maybe it felt a little bit like that. 

  • If I've ever felt completely alone in the middle of a cheery crowd, it might be a bit of what Christ experienced on his ride into town. 

  • If I've ever thought loving these people might just be the death of me, well, maybe it felt a bit like that.

  • If I've ever chosen to forgive the same ones I knew full well would need forgiveness again and would never know the cost of the forgiveness and never be able to fully restore to me what they stole, then I might be able to identify with the look in Christ's eyes headed into that heartbreaking city.

And I might be able to echo his prayer a few days later when this same crowd called for his crucifixion: Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.

Today we remember the Christ who returned for His people. In our relentless pursuit of optimism, we've come to call this procession the Triumphal Entry when, in reality, our King showed up for his everlasting coup on the back of a baby donkey. Peter Koenig’s image caught my attention this year as I’ve continued to surrender more and more of my misplaced affection for national ideology and received greater faith and hope in the everlasting Kingdom instead.

The idea of people waving national flags in the place of palm branches adds a layer of meaning that I can’t shake. Like the cheering crowd, any one of us on any given day is worshiping Jesus through the lens of our cultural, religious, and political wish dreams rather than the true Christ who carries the government of the Creator on his shoulders.

Yet, he forgives our fickle, idolatrous hearts. Then he enables us to do the same. We can forgive the flag-wavers of every ideal and system we encounter. We can choose instead to love mercy, do justice, and walk humbly with our God, the one riding toward a cross-shaped, cosmic coup.

Hosanna, save us now!

Each year during Holy Week I invite several friends to share their own experience of suffering so that we may look together for the true Christ, always present to the suffering in us and around us. The guest writers tell stories of walking with Jesus on the path of suffering, and include every sort of mourning - illness, relational disillusionment, anxiety, joblessness, death of loved ones, death of dearly-held dreams. Their stories have helped form me in my understanding of suffering and I believe they could also encourage you too. 

Somewhere along the decade of my thirties I realized I needed a sturdier foundation for all the grief I saw in my own life and in the lives of people around me. I began to rely on others who could sit with me in my grief rather than try to persuade me out of it.  This became the sort of value that defined my relationships -- those who welcomed me into their own suffering and shared mine became my dearest friends.  

A few years ago during Lent as I researched mourning practices around the world for a writing project, I stumbled on the words of Ranier Maria Rilke in his Requiem for a Friend:

"Once, ritual lament would have been chanted; women would have been paid to beat their breasts and howl for you all night, when all is silent. Where can we find such customs now? So many have long since disappeared or been disowned. /

That’s what you had to come for: to retrieve the lament that we omitted."

This phrase "retrieve lament" added to my understanding that part of Christ's ministry to us through His life, His Spirit and His people is to "retrieve the lament that we omitted".

Toward that end, each day of Holy Week, I'll share one story of lament from a friend's account of suffering as a way to help us walk with Christ toward the cross. Jesus gave us a litany of last words as a Sufferer; we refer to them as the Seven Last Words of Christ. The deathbed words of the Suffering Servant provide a framework for the stories of lament we share here this Holy Week.

Thank you, friends, for walking with me here on the blog these past five weeks. Will you keep watch with me for this final week of Lent?


Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
— Book of Common Prayer, The Collect for Passion Sunday (Palm Sunday)
Rilke+quote+2017.jpg

Lent Daybook, 32: Stupor

 Lent Daybook, 32: Stupor

Welcome to a Lent daybook for these 40 days of prayer. Click through the title link to see the full post.

Look: The Waiting Room, George Tooker - Source

Listen: “Something to Believe In”, The New Respects - Spotify | YouTube

Read: Psalm 131, 132; Jeremiah 26:1-16; Romans 11:1-12; John 10:19-42

Pray: from Psalm 131

Do: Fast from spending money, and feast on giving alms.

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