Archive for March, 2008

Come…Let’s Have Breakfast!

March 31, 2008

John tells us that the story in our Gospel reading was “the third time that Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.” (John 21:14). We know that there were a number of such experiences after the initial ones on Easter Day. Writing only some twenty years after the Resurrection, St. Paul says:

“For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures, and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (I Corinthians 15:3-8)

How did Jesus reveal himself to them in these experiences? In what contexts did he appear? Well, to the Eleven once on a mountaintop, to two of them walking along the road to Emmaus, to some while they were in conversation, to Mary Magdalene in the garden, to Thomas in the upper room, and today – to Peter and the others – while they were fishing!

It’s always been striking to me that, with the possible exception of Thomas and the others in the upper room, it was not in “church” that he appeared to them. He appeared to them in the context of their everyday lives!

I’ve always loved the abrupt way, in this story, that Peter says, “I’m going fishing!” Enough of the confusion and grief and joy and challenge of these last days! I’m going to find some normality in all of this! I’m going to do what I’ve done all my life! I’m going to do something I know how to do! “I’m going fishing!”

But even here he cannot escape the presence of their Risen Lord! And does Jesus spend a lot of time shaming them for deserting him at the last, or upbraiding them for their lack of faith, or even theologizing about the Resurrection itself? Not in this story.

“Children, you have no fish, have you? Cast the net to the right side of the boat, and you will find some…Bring some of the fish you have caught…Come and have breakfast.”

For you see, those are the things our God cares about most. That we are his children…That each of us has needs…that he can take care of those needs…

All he asks of us, is that we share with others what we have received from him.

“Bring some of the fish you have caught.”

Come…let’s have breakfast!”

In The Breaking of the Bread

March 26, 2008

Some of you know that I was privileged to spend Holy Week and Easter Day in Israel and Palestine with the Presiding Bishop and a small delegation. Our visit was, in part, pilgrimage and, in part, a statement of our solidarity with the Palestinian Christians in the Holy Land and to assure them of our friendship, prayers, and support.

This is my fourth trip to the Middle East and I am always amazed at how my reading of the Bible takes on a different quality after each visit. For example, little things jump out at me that I would have overlooked before. Today’s Gospel begins, “Now on that same day two of them were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem…”

Normally, as soon as I read the word “Emmaus” I know what the story is going to be and I launch immediately into theologizing about the two followers of Jesus and who they were and how they were joined by the Risen Lord and how he’s sort of playful with them before drawing the story out of them, discussing scripture with them, and finally being “made known to them in the breaking of the bread.” (Luke 24:35).

But today I couldn’t get past the first line –“a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem!” We drove by that site (actually several sites – because there’s some dispute as to which one is exactly the location of this resurrection appearance) just a few days ago! And it really isn’t very far from Jerusalem! An easy walk – especially for people who were accustomed to getting everywhere on foot.

Everything is close over there! We walked up the hill on Maundy Thursday from the Old City to the Garden of Gethsemane and it didn’t take more than 20 minutes! We walked the Way of the Cross along the Via Dolorosa and were home for a late breakfast! You can throw a rock from the traditional site of Golgotha to the burial place of Jesus – all contained within the walls of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher! It’s all right there!

And, of course, that’s the point. It is all right there! The Christian faith is not some philosophical system of belief or even code of ethics. The Christian faith is a relationship of trust in One who was really born in Bethlehem…grew up in Nazareth…moved to Capernaum…preached and taught and healed mostly in the farm country of the Galilee…made one or more trips to Jerusalem where he was arrested, tried, convicted and executed.

The Christian faith is trusting, along with those two disciples in today’s Gospel, that “…some women of our group astounded us.  They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive.” (Luke 24:22-23).

You can visit the site of that tomb today…and all those places where our Lord lived and ministered. It’s important to know that. But it’s also important to know that you can experience that same Risen Lord right here…today…in exactly the same way as did the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

For “when he was at table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them.  Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him…They said to each other,

‘Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?’ That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying, ‘The Lord has risen indeed and he has appeared to Simon!’

“Then they told what had happened to them on the road and how he had been known to them in the breaking of the bread.”

Risen Lord, be known to us too this day…in the Breaking of the Bread!       

Easter People

March 23, 2008

Easter people, raise your voices,

sounds of heaven in earth should ring.

Christ has brought us heaven’s choices;

heavenly music, let it ring.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Easter people, let us sing.


Fear of death can no more stop us

from our pressing here below.

For our Lord empowered us to

triumph over every foe.

Alleluia! Alleluia! On to victory now we go.


Every day to us is Easter,

with its resurrection song.

When in trouble move the faster

To our God who rights the wrong.

Alleluia! Alleluia! See the power of heavenly throngs. 


Easter people, raise your voices,

sounds of heaven in earth should ring.

Christ has brought us heaven’s choices;

heavenly music let it ring.

Alleluia! Alleluia! Easter people, let us sing!


(Sung to the tune of “Praise my soul the King of heaven” at The Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr, Jerusalem, Easter Sunday 2008)


Risen Indeed!

March 23, 2008
Gathering in a dark courtyard in the early evening…a small bonfire kindled…the candle blessed…many more lighted…
Procession into a darkened church…an ancient hymn chanted by the deacon…the old, old, old, story told…Easter greetings by an apostle’s successor…baptismal vows renewed and water sprinkled…the Bread…the Wine…
Joy…in the final hymn “Thine Be the Glory” sung at the top of many lungs in a packed little church…in the laughter and smiles all around…in the faces of a Nigerian pilgrim band who could not wait to have their picture made with our Presiding Bishop….so much so that they broke into the “receiving line” outside the church and held up the whole process until every single one had been photographed with her…We laughed and laughed and laughed with joy…
Easter in Jerusalem…
He is Risen Indeed!

The One Who Has Promised Is Faithful

March 21, 2008

The scriptural lessons for Good Friday and long and rich and they tell the story pretty well.  The first reading from the 53rd chapter of Isaiah reminds us that the prophets, at their best, always knew that the Messiah would not just be an earthly king seeking to wield power and control, but would be a “suffering servant” willing to give himself up for his people.

The familiar Psalm 22 provides the words that Messiah used when he did indeed give himself up for us on the Cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…” He was that desolate in his suffering. 

The Passion Gospel according to St. John tells the story of the last hours of Jesus’ life when he crossed the Kidron valley (not far from here), was arrested in the Garden of Gethsemane (not far from here), was betrayed and denied by his best friends (in this holy city), and died on a cross on Golgotha between two thieves.

But one line from Hebrews (10:23) says what it all means for us: “Let us hold fast to the confession of our faith without wavering, for the one who has promised is faithful!”

God sent the suffering servant to this holy land – after all the centuries of preparation – because “the one who has promised is faithful.” What does that mean for us?

It means that we can be confident of our Christian faith even when we find ourselves a tiny minority – because the one who has promised is faithful!

It means that, not matter how bad things may look, God will one day establish a kingdom of justice and of peace…because the one who has promised is faithful!

It means that when you and I experience suffering and pain in our own lives, our families, our churches, our communities, healing and wholeness are possible…because the one who has promised is faithful!

And it means that when we finally close our eyes in death and whisper with Jesus “It is finished” we know that new life has really just begun…because the one who has promised is faithful!

I can’t tell you what it has meant for my colleagues and me to have been in this land during this season, and be reminded here – in a special way – that the one who has promised is faithful.

We see that promise in your faces and in your eyes. We see it in your churches. Most of all, we see it in the faithfulness of your many ministries.

We will always pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

Please pray for us as well…      

Holy Week Processions…

March 21, 2008
Last evening, after washing feet, stripping the altar, and placing the sacrament upon the altar of repose here at St. George’s Cathedral in Jerusalem, we processed in silence 3 kilometers up the hill to the Garden of Gethsemane. There, we stood in silent meditation under a full moon overlooking the olive trees…we prayed…we sang Taize chants and other hymns. Truly, the holiest “holy Thursday” I have ever experienced.
This morning (Good Friday) at 6 a.m. the congregation processed out of the gates of St. George’s College, through the streets to the Old City of Jerusalem, and walked the Way of the Cross on the Via Dolorosa itself. Again, prayers, contemporary meditations about the suffering of God’s people in all the world, and hymns sung walking through the ancient narrow streets near where “it all happened.” Some people joined us in devotion…a few spat in the street as we passed by…most ignored us — just as they would have Jesus all those years ago.
Our final devotions were held just outside the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. To share in these devotions with these people in the “Land of the Holy One” is an enormous blessing to me…and to all who are here!   

Violence and Strife in the City

March 20, 2008
The Psalmist once wrote that he had seen “violence and strife in the city.” Surely that lament is still valid today in this Land of the Holy One.
The recent tragedy of Jewish students slaughtered in their yeshiva was followed by targeted assassinations of Palestinians in Gaza which was followed, on Tuesday (while we were in the Old City), by the stabbing of a right wing rabbi near the Damascus gate.
Violence begets violence in a never-ending cycle of retaliation.
And yet here we are, about to begin our celebration of the Triduum and Easter in the land where it all happened.
Where God’s Son absorbed the violence, sin, and hatred of the ages into himself and took it down with him through his death on the Cross.
Why will God’s people not imitate his prayers?
“Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”
“Be one as the Father and I are one.”
For…”It is accomplished!”   

Weeping Over Jerusalem

March 18, 2008
We are, of course, reading Lamentations during Morning Prayer in Holy Week. The prophet is weeping over the state of Jerusalem, saying among other things “Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by?”
We traditionally apply that to those who “pass by” without recognizing Jesus’ suffering for us on the cross and that is, of course, a fruitful meditation. But we don’t really have to stretch it quite that far as we experience the suffering of Jerusalem today.
It just gets worse everytime I come.  Despair about the so-called peace process, more and more Jewish settlements built on Arab land, an increasing matrix of walls and tunnels and bridges which separate families and people from their work, fear of suicide bombers, and factionalism within both the Jewish and Palestinian communities. And, of course, alarmingly decreasing numbers of Christians in this Holy Land.
Yet, as we met with Bet Selem (a Jewish human rights organization documenting, cataloging and prosecuting instances of violence done to innocent people in the name of “homeland security”) and Sabeel (an ecumenical advocacy group committed to non-violent resistence to the Israeli occupation) it was amazing to see the deep faith, commitment, and even hope engendered by such efforts.
Perhaps even more amazing was visiting Bethlehem and getting re-acquainted with Mitri Raheb, a Lutheran pastor who has led his people to build an amazing development center out of “Christmas Lutheran Church” including a clinic, a two-year college focusing on the arts, and leadership development for Palestinian people. He is very worried about the future and viability of the “two state” solution, but continues to make a real difference in the lives of his people.
As we stooped to enter the Church of the Nativity and the Presiding Bishop led us in prayers at the site of the manger, I could not help but remember that the baby who was born in this vicinity grew up to “weep over Jerusalem.”
I think he is still weeping. 

Pray…and Work…for the Peace of Jerusalem…2

March 16, 2008
What an amazing Palm Sunday in Jerusalem! We blessed the palms in the garden of St. George’s Cathedral and processed into a packed church to (what else?) “Glory, Laud and Honor” — sung equally in English and Arabic. The congregation was made up of people from here, London, Mississippi, Ghana, and many other places around the world!. I guess every Sunday  here is like Pentecost — (Parthians, Medes, Elamites, residents of Mesopotamia…etc.)
The liturgy was almost equally divided between Arabic and English (even the Presiding Bishop’s fine sermon which was translated on the spot by the interim Dean of St. George’s). 
After lunch we joined a procession of perhaps 8-10,000 people winding their way down from the Mount of Olives through the Garden of Gethsemane toward the gates of the Old City. Roman Catholics, Anglicans, Protestants of all kinds. Hymns and chants and banners and crosses — general pandamonium. Maybe like the first Palm Sunday! 
I thought it was very cool for our Moslem sisters and brothers, standing on every balcony and every street corner, to see (as they obviously do on several occasions each year) Christians actually marching together and witnessing publicly to our faith in ways that they do so much more regularly.  They respect us most when we are clear about what we believe and why we believe it.
Later, we met with a new community organizing group made up of Israeli citizens — Jews and Arabs — who are working on the very practical issues of “life in Jerusalem.” They do community organizing and education in an attempt to prepare actual residents here for the reality of what must come in the future — a  two state solution and therefore a “two Jerusalem” future in which both peoples can live together in dignity and respect.
Truly, a day to “pray and work for the peace of Jerusalem!   

Pray…and Work…for the Peace of Jerusalem

March 15, 2008
After a long overnight flight to Tel Aviv, the Presiding Bishop, her husband and I were welcomed at the airport by Bishop Suheil Dawani’s Special Assistant, several clergy from St. George’s Cathedral and driven to Jerusalem.
Stangely, it always seems like “coming home” to me even though this is only my fourth visit to the Holy Land. There is just something about being here…so close to where it all happened! All of it, really…
After lunch we were briefed on our new bishop’s initiatives for peace and reconciliation in this troubled land including an expansion of the wonderful Kids4Peace program which brings together equal numbers of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim 10 and 11 year olds for an experience of summer camp in the USA or Canada. Amazing results which Bishop Dawani wants to duplicate here locally, and more and more in the schools.
Tomorrow, we begin the holiest of weeks in the holiest of places. Bishop Katharine will preach at Palm Sunday services here at our Cathedral of St. George and in the afternoon we will join the Latin Palm Sunday Procession from the Mount of Olives down to the Holy City intself. I’ve made this procession before…but never “on the day.” It should be wonderful!
Mainly, we are here on pilgrimage…but also to show solidarity with the brave but dwindling number of Palestinian Christians who try to exercise a moderating influence in the region and pray…and work…for the peace of Jerusalem.