Beyond Belief

John 20:19-31

221px-The-Maesta-Altarpiece-The-Incredulity-of-Saint-Thomas-1461_Duccio.jpgThomas wants proof. And who can blame him. Things had been going so well. Just a short while ago Jesus had triumphantly entered Jerusalem. Thomas found himself in the entourage of a super-star. Then suddenly his whole world collapsed. Jesus was arrested and stuck up on a cross. Scared out of their minds, the disciples were on the run. Thomas was certain that he and his friends would be next on the hit list. So he’s hardly in the mood for all this happy talk about Jesus returning from the dead. Unless he gets rock solid evidence that he can see and feel, he’s not going to get swept up in some fantasy. And then the risen Jesus delivers proof beyond all doubt.

Thomas had stated adamantly that: I will not believe. Now he proclaims the risen Christ as: My Lord and my God. So now that Thomas believes and the other disciples believe what does that mean? Do they conclude: Well this has all been very interesting. But we have nets to mend and fish to catch. See you in temple sometime. What was the real impact of the Resurrection on their lives? What is the real impact of the Resurrection on our lives? For an answer we turn to another Thomas, Thomas Merton who tells us: It is not enough to believe in the Resurrection, we must participate in it.

The Resurrection changes the whole ball game. Now we are both the beneficiaries and the legacy of the risen Christ. We are the beneficiaries because now life has new meaning. We are showered with grace. We are cleansed of our sins. We are meant for eternal happiness. That’s because Jesus was not just another gentle holy man who ran afoul of the tough guys and got the chop. Sadly, history is full of those stories. But the risen Jesus is infinitely different. He is God, the Son of the Father, come to earth for our salvation, in total command of both life and death. As his legacy, our lives were never meant to be business as usual, with a religious flourish thrown in at Christmas and Easter.
You may believe in the Universal Theory of Relativity, but unless you are a practicing atomic physicist, that belief has little impact on the way you live your daily life. Not so with belief in the Resurrection. We are the living legacy of the risen Christ. Beyond private, personal belief, our lives are meant to proclaim: He is risen. Christ lives in us. He is risen in us. We are the Body of Christ …the risen Christ.

For us the Resurrection cannot be some abstraction, only peripheral to our real lives. As Christians, the Resurrection gives us meaning and direction. It necessarily shapes our thoughts and actions. Thomas Merton captured this centrality when he wrote that Christianity gives us the power to confidently face the inevitability of suffering and death “… because the Resurrection of Jesus has robbed them of meaning.” In the risen Christ, death is not a destination. It is a passage. Beyond belief in the Resurrection lies actively living and sharing the joy of the Resurrection… both now and in eternity. And that’s as good as life ever gets. Alleluia!

The Reverend David Sellery, Author, Resource Creator and Retreat Leader. Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, I serve as an Episcopal priest who seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, congregational development and community outreach, while continually engaging our wider culture with dynamism and hope.

The Stone in the Way

Monday, April 21, 2014 – Easter Week, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 93, 98 (morning) // 66 (evening)
Exodus 12:14-27
1 Corinthians 15:1-11
Mark 16:1-8

One nice thing about being visibly "expecting" is that people are always offering to carry things for me. I rarely have to take my own groceries to the car these days. I was similarly in awe of people's instinctive kindness when I took a somewhat foolish solo plane trip with my son when he was just three months old. There was no way that I could carry our luggage, a car seat, and an infant without some serious help. Fortunately, we found just enough strong and sympathetic strangers to get us through.

These experiences of having too much to lift or carry by myself make me feel especially connected to the women from today's gospel reading. Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome are bringing spices to anoint the body of their Lord, lovingly and properly. When they faithfully set out on that first Easter morning, they have no idea how they'll remove the stone from Jesus' tomb.

The women have a clear sense of what they should do, and yet they have no practical plans for confronting a most obvious obstacle. As the gospel says, they "had been saying to on another, 'Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?'" Notice, though, how this question doesn't stop them. I guess they figure that they'll cross that bridge--or move that stone--when they come to it!

Every so often, when we take faithful steps forward, we find that our path has been cleared for us. When the women actually get to the tomb, they discover that the very large stone has "already been rolled back." Some source of greater strength has stepped forward just in time to help with the intentions that they knew they must pursue, even when they weren't fully capable of carrying out their plans.

Of course, the women don't get to fulfill their original errand of anointing Jesus' body. It turns out that removing the stone was the least of their worries! Instead of tending to the corpse and the grave, they encounter an angelic young man and receive instructions that they're too afraid to follow. The man asks the women to tell the disciples that Jesus is going to Galilee ahead of them, and that they will see him there.

The women flee in amazement and keep silent in fear, and that's where the original gospel of Mark ends. However, since these women once set out to serve the Lord's body in spite of their doubts about moving the stone, they will probably discover the courage to serve the risen Lord in spite of their fears. A resurrection faith often unfolds in these small steps forward, keeping just one step ahead of where our doubts and fears would tempt us to stop. Today, in the first week of Easter, we can continue to live the resurrection one day at a time.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul's in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Alleluia, Christ is risen

Exodus 12:1-14 (Morning)
Psalm 148, 149, 150 (Morning)
John 1:1-18 (Morning)
Isaiah 51:9-11(Evening)
Psalm 113, 114, or 118 (Evening)
Luke 24:13-35, or John 20:19-23 (Evening)

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you.’After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.’ When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’

I can't help but imagine in our John 20 reading today, this visual of the disciples reacting to the resurrected Jesus breathing on them by wrinkling up their face and trying to pull away much like my dogs do when I blow in their faces. It seems improbable that all of the disciples went, "Oh yeah, sure, breathe in my face." I suspect that for at least some of them, it was, "I'm not sure that's really you, Jesus...and whoever you are, stop blowing in my face!"

It's possible that in over 2000 years, we haven't improved much, at times, in our abilities to receive the Holy Spirit. She's always out their blowing her winds this way and that, mostly under the radar, I believe, but now and then she grabs us by the ears and blows square up our noses, like some sort of cosmic C-PAP machine. Just as it takes time for someone diagnosed with sleep apnea to get used to the idea of a mechanical gizmo pushing air into our respiratory tract at night, it takes some getting used to those unexpected (and at times unwanted) nosefuls of the divine breeze of the Holy Spirit.

First, we have to accept that all of us really do have a bit of spiritual sleep apnea at times. That's where community comes in. Any family doc will tell you that a classic line overheard in the office, when working up sleep apnea, is "I don't snore that much!" but if that person's bed partner is along for the doctor visit, the bed partner pipes up with, "Oh, yes you do!...And you stop breathing sometimes. It scares me to death!" What can our dearest friends in faith tell us, if we're willing to listen with the ear of our heart?

Second, it takes agreeing to commit to wearing the C-PAP. Many of us have tried some new spiritual practices out for size during Lent. What practices can we continue with conviction? How have these practices renewed us? Getting used to those unexpected puffs of the wind of the Holy Spirit takes some adjustment, but in that process of letting go and letting her breathe for us, we might discover she becomes a welcome friend in our lives.

Finally, when we look back, where are the places we can smell Easter? When was that moment we suddenly realized that, instead of smelling the fetid, moldy dank-ness of the tomb, the cleansing, chlorophyll-laden aroma of green growing things filled our lungs? When did we first notice our sleep became refreshing and renewing again? It's a story many sleep apnea sufferers are happy to tell when they gave in to the healing powers of their therapy. Spiritual sleep apnea isn't much different, it seems.

Alleluia! He is risen! Breathe deep. Let the healing breaths of the Holy Spirit fill your lungs today, and continue to let her breathe for you, not just in these 50 days of Easter, but all year long.

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

Holy Saturday

AM: Psalm 95 (for the Invitatory), Psalm 88, PM: Psalm 27
Lamentations 3:37-58
AM: Hebrews 4:1-16
PM: Romans 8:1-11

Each Holy Week we walk the final days of Lent. On Palm/Passion Sunday we read Passion Gospel, this year from Matthew, beginning with Judas' deal with the chief priests and runs through the entire story until we get to the tomb being sealed. That's where we are today, with a sealed tomb and memories of a royal entrance into Jerusalem, some disturbance at the temple, a family meal in an upstairs room, a night of prayer and mental agony, an arrest, a shotgun trial, and culminating with a crucifixion, death and burial. And there we are.

Had we been with the disciples, we would have been hunkered down somewhere, trying to keep a very low profile because of our known association with Jesus, and yet still in shock and deep mourning for the man we had followed and trusted as a leader. Was it really supposed to end this way? Wasn't Jesus the man we thought would rid us of the Romans and bring back the glories of our ancestor, David? What do we do now? Being in a fishing boat on a stormy sea without a rudder or sail would have been easier to deal with because we would have dealt with that before. This was something unplanned and unfamiliar.

Jesus had warned the disciples of what was to come but they didn't catch it. Even the nearest and dearest missed the words and signals. When the worst happens, all that can be done is to sit, grieve the loss and wonder why: why it happened, why to this person, why now, why didn't we see any signs to tell us this was looming on the immediate horizon?

Holy Saturday is a very real time, even in June or December. It is any time a sudden and traumatic death happens. A beloved parent suddenly collapses and is gone within the span of a heartbeat, or a beloved child is found dead by their own hand. There might have been signs, and we wrack our brains, fogged as they are, to try to see what we had missed and berate ourselves for having missed what might have been a crucial clue that might have saved a life. We are left with an emptiness and a nothingness that doesn't let us see beyond the next breath or the next moment. It was probably that way for the disciples as surely as it is for us in our situations. It was undoubtedly the way it was for Mary, the woman whose son had been laid on a stone slab with a stone slab sealing it shut. Mary would understand the Holy Saturdays of any family in a similar circumstance, no matter what the day or season.

With our Holy Saturday, though, we have the advantage over the disciples because we know what happens next. Good Friday was the cliffhanger and Easter Sunday the resolution but in between we are left to occupy ourselves with other things while we wait. We dye Easter eggs, make sure the kids' Easter clothes are neat and ready for church tomorrow, make mental inventories of the marshmallow chicks and chocolate bunnies stashed in the highest corner of the back closet out of sight of small children, and double check to make sure we've remembered all the ingredients for the big family dinner. We don't spend the day sitting in a secluded hideaway somewhere, hoping to remain unnoticed until a way could be found to get out of Dodge, in a manner of speaking. That was the reality of Holy Saturday a bit over two thousand years ago. And we don’t spend the day wondering what we could have done or said or seen that could have changed an outcome. That’s the reality for many people in this day and time.

We know what is coming. We've been preparing for it for the last forty days but it isn't here yet. Perhaps this Holy Saturday, we can stop, even for a few minutes, and think about the days and weeks just past. Perhaps we can spend a few moments beside the tomb that has been closed and pray for those for whom Holy Saturday, even on a Tuesday, comes not as a prelude to Easter but to another day of grief and loss.

Easter will come. We just have to hold on to that thought and wait for it. It might seem a long time coming but it will come. Meanwhile we wait and we pray.

Linda Ryan co-mentors 2 EfM Online groups and keeps the blog Jericho's Daughter . She lives in the Diocese of Arizona and is proud to be part of the Church of the Nativity in North Scottsdale.

The Crux

Friday, April 18, 2014 – Good Friday, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 22 (morning) // 40:1-14(15-19), 54 (evening)
Lamentations 3:1-9, 19-33
1 Peter 1:10-20
John 13:36-38

How do we make the journey from the first to the last verses of today's reading from Lamentations? The only way to get from beginning to end is to walk straight into the crux of our faith.

We start with the voice of one who believes that his suffering is orchestrated by God. The voice says, "I am one who has seen affliction under the rod of God's wrath; he has driven and brought me into darkness without any light; against me alone he turns his hand, again and again, all day long." This "God" breaks bones, wastes flesh, builds walls, blocks ways, binds in chains, and shuts out prayers and cries for help.

Yet, by the time we reach the end of the passage, the voice has something very different to say about God: "He does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone." The lamenter suddenly recalls that God is none other than unceasing and steadfast love.

This lucid proclamation that God is lovingly present in suffering--not actively imposing or permitting suffering--stands out from the many other hypotheses in the lament. Elsewhere in this chapter, the voice searches desperately for the causes and purpose of his suffering. The voice suggests waiting patiently and bearing pain silently, looking for unforgiven transgressions that may have triggered this punishment, or fantasizing about the payback that God will surely visit on the human agents of injustice and cruelty.

All of these possibilities have found their way into the Christian contemplation of the cross where Jesus hung and of the crosses that we bear in our own lives. We speculate that perhaps this suffering was necessary to instill the virtues of patience and humility. Or perhaps this suffering was required as a punishment for our sins. Or, perhaps this suffering will pale in comparison to the suffering that God has planned for our enemies.

Or perhaps, just perhaps, "God does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone."

Today, can we look into the face of Christ on the cross and hear the loving voice of God declare these words to us? Instead of looking for reasons or causes or purpose or meaning, can we simply be a loving presence for Jesus, who came to be God's loving presence for us?

We may need to confront the crux of our faith, which is to find our way from a view of God as a source of pain or condemnation, to the God revealed to us in Christ. From a God who causes suffering to a God who wishes affliction and grief on no one, we can make our way from a tightly-bound cross toward a tomb broken spectacularly open from the inside.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul's in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Holy Thursday

Mark 14:12-15

In recent years I've often begun Holy Week petulantly, grudgingly. And each time I wonder, will this be the year when I decide not to do it at all? It's such a chore. And what would be so wrong, for a woman who has pondered the Passion for over forty years, with just, once, making the glib jump from Palm Sunday to Easter? No washing feet. No Holy Thursday communion. No stripping of the altar. No trying to stay awake in the middle of the night. No stations of the cross. No contemplation of cruel and taunting guards, nails tearing flesh, terrified disciples, devastated women. It's the central week of our liturgical year – and it's all about suffering, torture, being tested and failing, losing everything, being scared witless, being alone and without God. Why do we do this to ourselves? No other religion does. Even among Christian denominations it's not so very common.

But something in the story always ambushes my heart. Some new understanding always lays me low and then opens me to the incredible love of God.

Today it is this tale of the last Passover Jesus celebrates with his disciples. His betrayer is with him. His betrayer is with him, and them, eating and drinking, integral to the little gathering. When Jesus says, “this is my body,” the betrayer, right along with everyone else, takes it into himself. When Jesus says, “this is my blood of the covenant,” the betrayer drinks with the rest of them. He has not been abandoned or excluded, despite what is in his heart. Nor will he ever be, except by his own choice.

If Judas Iscariot had repented his betrayal, if he had asked for forgiveness, if he had lived on into being the sort of guy who commits terrible wrongs and turns back, he would have been forgiven. He would have been accepted once again into the community of Jesus-followers. I am certain of it.

This convinces me that participating fully in Holy Week is important. In fact, it's all I can do. The Body of Christ transcends suffering not through blissful spiritual practices that help people detach or ignore it, but instead through the slog of accepting, embracing and transcending. There is nothing in following Jesus that encourages us to rise above human experience into some happy state where brokenness and violence no longer exist. No, we carry our betrayers along with us – in our communities and within ourselves. We carry them, as God does, with the desperate hope and longing that they will turn around and see, that we will turn around and see. We suffer them, we suffer for them, and we are ourselves suffered, always in the hope of God's love.

God makes us an Easter people not by removing the Passion but by living into it completely. God suffers even unto death – and beyond. And then God offers God's hand to each one of us, saying, “turn around, turn away, turn back. Be in this reality where I AM. Be loved and be loving. Be mine.”

Laurie Gudim is a religious iconographer and liturgical artist, a writer and lay preacher living in Fort Collins, CO. See her work online at Everyday Mysteries.

The Full Backstory

Wednesday, April 16, 2014 – Holy Week, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 55 (morning) // 74 (evening)
Lamentations 2:1-9
2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11
Mark 11:12-25

When a politician resigns, when an executive steps down, when a church leader departs, or when a personal relationship disintegrates, the rest of us are often itching to hear the fully backstory. Perhaps we're partially motivated by a taste for drama and gossip. But we're probably also led by a deep desire to understand the forces that can break human beings and human relationships that once seemed so strong and stable. Usually, we're left without a satisfying explanation, let alone a true one.

Unfortunately for our curious minds, the backstory of Paul's conflict with the Christians at Corinth has probably been lost forever. Apparently, Paul had returned to visit the community he'd founded, but someone there insulted him or caused him pain. Paul had also planned a subsequent visit, but after his very painful visit, he decided to cancel his next trip and to send in his place a letter written "out of much distress and anguish of heart and with many tears." Paul worried that a further visit would only cause more pain and misunderstanding.

We don't know exactly what the offender did to hurt Paul so badly. Also, Paul's tearful letter has not survived, so we don't know how he expressed his sadness. All we know is that Paul was susceptible to being hurt deeply, and that he was not afraid to pour out his heart.

From today's second reading, we also see how sensitive Paul is to the pain of others. He's aware of the ways that his personal presence might increase the community's pain. He understands his mission as the shared pursuit of joy, not as the increase of pain. He and his fellow missionaries should be "workers with you for your joy," not people who "lord it over your faith."

Further, this reading shows that Paul has a deep concern for the person who insulted him, and who now seems to be ostracized by the community. Paul urges the Corinthians to suspend their punishment of the offender and to instead forgive and console him, "so that he may not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow." What an extraordinary heart Paul has--to infer from his own experience of pain and separation that he should make an appeal to spare someone else from overwhelming sadness and isolation.

When it comes to the collapse of institutions, communities, families, and friendships, we almost never get the full backstory. Instead, we get bits and pieces of surviving documents, of allegations, and of gossip. The Scripture also doesn't give us all the details of the conflict or the private correspondence between Paul and the Corinthians. However, the Scripture gives us what matters: a glimpse into a heart that is woundable, expressive, and concerned not just for its own pain but for the healing of others.

May all such hearts be all that survives from the conflicts, controversies, and scandals that we consign to the rubble of history and the compost of daily life.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul's in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Easter Greetings

Matthew 28: 1-11

“Know that you are risen with Christ.” That text from Colossians is the way Christians said hello for centuries… not just at Easter, but year round. Kind of makes the whole Merry Christmas/Happy Holidays kerfuffle sound pretty tame. Imagine living in a world where we greeted each other with the plain truth of the Resurrection and our salvation in it. Jesus did more than imagine such a world, he gave his life for it.

Scientific instruments have recently captured the echo of the first trillionth of a second of creation. From that moment to this, the dividing line between what went before and all that followed, is that first Easter dawn in Jerusalem. Christ is risen and all is changed. Death, the one unbeatable absolute, is beaten. Our fate is no longer a life of flight from the inevitable clutches of death. In the risen Christ we live in the here and now… crossing over seamlessly to the there and then… in the certainty of our own resurrection. In the risen Christ we are safe from sin… knowing that beyond our falls lies the resurrection of forgiveness. Beyond our betrayals, divine mercy awaits the penitent.

Kariye_ic.jpgChrist’s Easter greeting to his followers is a clear indication of the transformative nature of the Resurrection. Significantly, the women in Christ’s life now emerge from supporting roles to become principle witnesses and messengers of the Resurrection. The fact that women are the medium of the good news is integral to the message of the good news. The word “apostle” from the Greek “apostolos” literally means messenger. Christ’s first messengers of the Resurrection are the holy women who stood by him when others went into hiding. They are the first apostles of the risen Christ.

Jesus tells them not to announce his Resurrection to his “disciples”, but to his “brethren.” In the risen Christ, clearly our relationship to him and to each other has changed. We are sisters and brothers in a bond stronger than the blood of ancestors. We are sisters and brothers in the saving blood of Jesus, shed freely for our salvation.

If this is all true… and it is… if the Resurrection is the turning point of the ages… and it is… what are we supposed to do about it? Go to church and sing a few Alleluias? Stay home and eat some jelly beans? We’ll probably say a few mandatory “Happy Easters” to family and friends, have a good dinner and then raid the kids’ baskets for a bite of chocolate bunny. But it’s unlikely that we’ll run around the neighborhood like the apostles shouting and sharing the good news of the Resurrection. We’re too cool for that… too inhibited… too sophisticated. So do we just call it a day and get back to work tomorrow.

No. Here’s a better idea. Let this feast of the Resurrection mark a turning point in our lives. Christ is risen and he wants us to be risen, too. Greet this Easter in the certainty of the Resurrection. Live this day in the risen Christ. Believe with renewed confidence. Pray with renewed conviction. Love with renewed fervor. Serve with renewed energy. Make every morning a resurrection. And God will give us the ultimate Easter greeting:

Well done, thou good and faithful servant… enter into the joy of the Lord.

The Reverend David Sellery, Author, Resource Creator and Retreat Leader. Committed to a vocation that focuses on encountering God in the midst of everyday life, I serve as an Episcopal priest who seeks to proclaim the good news of God in Christ in worship, pastoral care, education, stewardship, congregational development and community outreach, while continually engaging our wider culture with dynamism and hope.

Remembrance of Things Past

Monday, April 14, 2014 – Holy Week, Year Two

[Go to Mission St Clare for an online version of the Daily Office including today's scripture readings.]

Today's Readings for the Daily Office:
Psalms 51:1-18(19-20) (morning) // 69:1-23 (evening)
Lamentations 1:1-2, 6-12
1 Corinthians 1:1-7
Mark 11:12-25

As is my usual practice, I read every word of all three Scripture passages this morning. This approach was probably a spiritual mistake, though. Sometimes, I believe that the most effective way of letting the Word speak is by reading until something pierces the heart and then simply stopping there.

Today, I really shouldn't have read any further than these words from our first reading: "Jerusalem remembers, in the days of her affliction and wandering, all the precious things that were hers in days of old." As overwhelmed as I feel from day to day, I also realize that I am a woman who is incredibly rich in precious things that won't always be mine. That awareness alone is enough to push me into a kind of preemptive grief for the inevitable course of life.

What words or images from the Scriptures pierce your own heart today? The book of Lamentations is full of them. Is it the image of Jerusalem as a city that used to be full and vibrant, but that is now deserted and lonely? Or Jerusalem as a woman weeping "bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks," among many lovers but with no one to comfort her? Or is it Jerusalem whose nakedness has been exposed to the whole world, and who groans in shame and can't show her face? Or is it the people who desperately need bread, and who sell off all of their treasures for just enough food to sustain them in the short run?

If not today, then perhaps some other time during this holiest of weeks something will break our hearts. The purpose of this exposure to heartbreak is not simply to feel sorry for ourselves. Rather, it is to connect the pain that our hearts feel to the grief and loss of all God's people. The book of Lamentations is not about personal pain, but about the destruction of Jerusalem. It's about the loss of something precious, the loss of identity, the loss of homeland, the loss of a sense of God's presence and protection.

One of the most stunning ways that God works through our lives, and especially through Holy Week, is to prepare our hearts for the losses that will touch our lives—the loss of those we love, the loss of our own strength and control, and even the loss of God's clear presence. Like Jesus' disciples and friends, and like Jesus himself on the cross, we will one day need to live without those things.

God will walk with us to this place of loss. And yet, he won't leave us there: God will open our eyes and our hearts to each day, to each companion, to each thrill of joy and moment of peace, as a pure gift . . . as those "precious things" that are ours not just in days of old, but today. May God begin this work in our hearts during the week ahead.

Lora Walsh blogs about taking risks and seeking grace at A Daily Scandal. She serves as curate of Grace Episcopal Church in Siloam Springs and as director of the Ark Fellows, an Episcopal Service Corps program sponsored by St. Paul's in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

A wormhole of disillusionment

Psalm 24, 29; Zech. 9:9-12; 1 Tim. 6:12-16 (Morning)
Psalm 103; Zech. 12:9-11,13:1,7-9; Luke 19:41-48 (Evening)

Although the Daily Office readings for Palm Sunday seem somewhat out of kilter to the Sunday Eucharistic readings we've come to expect on Palm Sunday, our morning reading from Zechariah 9 certainly sets a prelude to what we have come to expect during the Liturgy of the Palms.

It's important to remember, as we wave our little palm slivers and holler "Hosanna!" during the Sunday Eucharistic service, that a lot of those folks in the crowd were familiar with the notion that the ruler of the Hebrew people would be "triumphant, victorious, humble, riding in on a donkey, a colt, the foal of a donkey."

Woo hoo! Let the good times roll, right?passion-sunday-posted-by-anne.jpg

Ehhh...well...not so much, as it turned out.

It speaks to those times we have expectations, and those expectations don't get fulfilled, whether that "non-fulfillment" is a slow fadeout or a cataclysmic jolt.

The problem is, it's not wrong to have reasonable expectations. Experience, by and large, is an effective teacher. I remember going to see the movie "Snakes on a Plane" a few years back, and as the passengers boarded the plane, I realized I'd seen enough movies of this type to be able to effectively predict who the snakes were going to dispatch (for instance, I knew within 10 nanoseconds that the chihuahua in the carry-on was going to be toast.)

Most of the time, our expectations are reasonably accurate--but not always, because life has a way of dealing twists and turns and emotional earthquakes. When it does, we can very easily become palpably disillusioned. So, it's not hard to imagine the absolute disillusionment of the people of Jesus' day. They had heard it proclaimed in the temple that this would be how the Messiah would appear. They expected the Messiah to be a mighty king, and I suspect they were hoping there was going to be some serious Roman butt-kicking when that happened. It must have really knocked a lot of folks off-kilter. How could they possibly believe anything after all that? How does one move forward from it?

When we are knocked off-kilter, a side effect of it is that many things that would feel at least "workable" in our more emotionally healthy times, can become crises under stress. We lose our barometer for what to expect; we find ourselves in the middle of an unfamiliar place but our GPS says "Cannot acquire satellites."

Yet time and time again, the stories of the Bible--and particularly the stories we proclaim in that time from Holy Week to Easter Day--remind us to remain grounded in an expectant hope, despite our being burned on a set of our own expectations. Howard Thurman says it better than I possibly can, in an excerpt from a commencement speech in 1943 (Keep in mind his words are from a time the word "men" was used for "humankind," and adjust your hearing accordingly:)

Curious indeed is the fact that at a time of crisis men must be constantly reminded that the crisis does not mark the end of all things. It is of the nature of crisis so to dominate the horizon of men's thoughts that everything that is not directly related to the crisis situation seems irrelevant and without significance. At such times men seem to accept the contradictions of experience as being in themselves ultimate. The crisis throws everything out of proportion, out of balance, and the balance seems always superficially to be on the side of disaster, on the side of negation...If the contradictions of experience are ultimate, then the conflict between right and wrong, good and evil, order and chaos can never be resolved and human life is caught eternally in the agonizing grip of a firm and eternal struggle between the two forces. But such a dualism has never been able to satisfy the deepest searchings of the mind and the heart of man. The human spirit at long last is not willing to accept the contradiction of life as being ultimate. There continues ever a margin on the side of the good--yes, the ultimate destiny of man is good--this affirmation becomes the ground of optimism and inspiration in the bitterest crisis when times are "out of joint," when men have lost their reason and sitting in the "sepulchers of gloom watch their dreams go silently to dust."

When is a time your expectations sucked you into the wormhole of disillusionment? How did you feel your way to a quiet place where you could avoid the dualism of those expectations and begin to regain the expectant hope that leads to a surprising resurrection?

Maria Evans, a surgical pathologist from Kirksville, MO, writes about the obscurities of life, medicine, faith, and the Episcopal Church on her blog, Kirkepiscatoid

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