Category Archives: Easter day

Easter Day, Easter2016

A little Van Morrison get ready for Easter morning music!

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Day 39/Good Friday, Lent2016

Day 39/Good Friday—From the Gospel reading for Good Friday:
“After these things, Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple of Jesus, though a secret one because of his fear of the Jews, asked Pilate to let him take away the body of Jesus. Pilate gave him permission; so he came and removed his body. Nicodemus, who had at first come to Jesus by night, also came, bringing a mixture of myrrh and aloes, weighing about a hundred pounds. They took the body of Jesus and wrapped it with the spices in linen cloths, according to the burial custom of the Jews. Now there was a garden in the place where he was crucified, and in the garden there was a new tomb in which no one had ever been laid. And so, because it was the Jewish day of Preparation, and the tomb was nearby, they laid Jesus there.”

This story of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus in the 19th chapter of John is, in my opinion one of the most under appreciated footnotes of the Gospel.

imageIn John’s Gospel, Joseph is noted to be a “secret” disciple of Jesus. Matthew notes Joseph to be a disciple but does not denote “secret.” Mark and Luke, note that he is an upright, righteous, and respected member of the Sanhedrin, a judicial council of the Temple. Joseph of Arimathea’s credentials are impeccable. The most important notation in John is that he is a “secret” follower. Joseph apparently had a messianic expectation and believed Jesus to be the Messiah. Yet, he carried his belief regarding Jesus secretly*. Remarkably, this successful, respected elder of the community, member of the Sanhedrin, and apparently a successful person outs himself after Jesus is completely discredited and executed. With Jesus hanging on the cross dead and his messianic claim ended, Joseph publicly requests permission to remove the body from the cross. Upon receiving permission, he removes the body and buries it in his own tomb. When all other disciples appear to be abandoning Jesus and disappearing from the scene, Joseph steps from behind the veil of secrecy and reveals himself to be a follower of Jesus all along. His action is forever challenging; when all appears lost, Joseph steps from the shadows and, unlike Peter, confesses Jesus. Truly, a disciple.

As to Nicodemus in this story, this is the same respected leader among the Pharisees who visits Jesus under the cover of darkness in chapter 3 of John. This Nicodemus engages in probing questions about Jesus’s identity. He leaves Jesus puzzled, “How can these things be?” Again, like Joseph of Arimathea, Nicodemus does not appear again in the narrative until after the crucifixion and death of Jesus. He goes with Joseph to the cross and aids in removing the body. Nicodemus brings all the necessary materials to properly prepare the body for burial. Like Joseph, Nicodemus reveals his true allegiance to Jesus when any sensible person, recognizing the end of Jesus’s story, would walk away.

On this most holy day, let the witness of Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus the Pharisee remind us of our call to discipleship. We are called to be disciples even when all evidence suggests it is time to abandon the calling. Joseph and Nicodemus stepped forward and proclaimed their discipleship when all seemed lost. Their actions, hazardous and foolish in the eyes of others, are a powerful declaration of belief and commitment to the revelation of God in Jesus. They were not willing to abandon him, though at great cost to themselves, even in death. That is our call to discipleship.

“When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer, The Cost of Discipleship

*Legend suggests that Joseph of Arimathea might be Mary’s uncle and, consequently, Jesus’s great-uncle. For this reflection, that connection will remain legend.

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Day 38, Lent2016

Day 38—On this Maundy Thursday, as we prepare for the Easter mystery, there can be no greater teaching than this to prepare us:

“And during supper Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going to God, got up from the table, took off his outer robe, and tied a towel around himself. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was tied around him. He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” Jesus answered, “You do not know now what I am doing, but later you will understand.” (John 13)

Come Easter, I hope we understand.

Last night, at the Tenebrae for Justice liturgy, the choir sang the Miserere mei setting of Psalm 57 by Gregorio Allegri—“Have mercy on me O Lord, after your great goodness.” ( link is a public production, not St.P Choir).   I could not help but focus on the opening line, “Have mercy on me O Lord.” In the chaos and confusion of this world, amidst the human arrogance and hubris, I pray God’s mercy remains always the refuge of this sinner.

imageAs we begin the Paschal Triduum, I pray we feel the sacred mystery of God’s revelation burning in our hearts and souls. May we know both the challenge to serve and the blessings of mercy that are so much a part of the presence of God in Jesus, the Christ.

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Day 36, Lent2016

Day 36—From today’s reading from Paul’s first letter the Corinthians:

For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

I always find the contrast of “human wisdom” and God’s “foolishness,” wherever I find it in the scriptural narrative, a time to pay attention. I really appreciate God’s “foolishness!” The unexpectedness of the story of Jesus is the necessary antidote to “human wisdom.” Our “human wisdom” takes us down paths so frequently contrary to the grace, love, mercy, and justice of God. It is clear, at least to me, our “human wisdom” deceives us and sends us on snipe hunts, inspired by ersatz certainty and filled with self confident hubris.

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During this Holy Week, we must find the courage to see beyond our own limited “human wisdom” and embrace the foolishness of God, foolishness that radically transforms each of us and all of God’s creation.

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Day 35, Lent2016

Day 35—Isaiah 42.1-9
Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen, in whom my soul delights;
I have put my spirit upon him;
he will bring forth justice to the nations.
He will not cry or lift up his voice,
or make it heard in the street;
a bruised reed he will not break,
and a dimly burning wick he will not quench;
he will faithfully bring forth justice.
He will not grow faint or be crushed
until he has established justice in the earth;
and the coastlands wait for his teaching.

imageOn this Monday of Holy Week, there is before us this description of God’s chosen one (messiah) in first of the Suffering Servant Songs in Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1–9; Isaiah 49:1–13; Isaiah 50:4–11; and Isaiah 52:13—53:12). At the same time powerful and humble, the character of this Suffering Servant in Isaiah is a challenge for all with messianic hope. This Suffering Servant messiah is not a powerful savior appearing on the horizon with a mighty army ready to defeat all who would stand in the way of God’s purpose. Rather, this is a messiah who, in suffering, brings forth the Kingdom of God. In a time more interested in intransigent power and immutable authority, the depiction of this Suffering Servant in Isaiah seems out of place, oddly incomprehensible. Yet, as we wait this Holy Week for the mystery of God’s revelation in Jesus to be completed in the resurrection, it is this Suffering Servant image of the messianic revelation in which we must locate ourselves. Either we embrace the call to be the Body of Christ, the church/the Suffering Servant,, relentlessly pursuing God’s Justice and mercy on earth by the means described in the Servant Songs of Isaiah, or we pursue some idol the deceives and distracts us from the holy ways of God. This was not easy in the time of Isaiah, it was not easy in the time of Jesus, and it is not easy in our time. Still, this is the calling of God to the Body of Christ—the Church. It is the calling of God to you and to me.

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