Saturday, April 19, 2014

Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life.’ (John 14:6)

Today's reflection is by Kori Pacyniak,
member of the Episcopal Chaplaincy at Boston University

Growing up in a Polish Roman Catholic household, Holy Saturday began with the blessing of the baskets filled with all the fixings for Easter Breakfast – ham, bread, boiled eggs, horseradish, salt, pepper, and something sweet. The blessed food would be eaten on Easter Sunday after the Resurrection service. Since Holy Saturday was a day of fasting, it seemed like minor torture to sit through a service with this basket of fragrant food sitting next to me and not being able to eat anything. Afterwards, we’d make a pilgrimage among the local churches, visiting the ‘tombs’ that were created. Many of the churches dedicated an area of the church as a tomb with parishioners keeping vigil from Good Friday through Easter Sunday. It was eerie but powerful, visiting the ‘tomb’ and pondering what it might have been like for the disciples who had just lost their friend and teacher. We at least have the solace of knowing that the resurrection will come. Nonetheless, there is a heaviness to Holy Saturday, the feeling of ‘remaining.’

Sometimes, we can’t see or feel God’s presence in our lives. Sometimes it seems like we have been abandoned, that we are in the darkness, the emptiness between death and resurrection. But we have solace in the resurrection, in the knowledge that no matter how lost we feel, how dark the world around us seems, we have life and guidance through Christ. In the words of Thomas Merton:

I have no idea where I am going.
I do not see the road ahead of me
Nor do I really know myself,
And the fact that I think I am following your will
Does not mean that I am actually doing so.

But I believe that the desire to please you
Does in fact please you.
And I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire.
And I know that if I do this,
You will lead me by the right road
Though I may know nothing about it.
Therefore will I trust you always though,

I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death.
I will not fear, for you are ever with me,
And you will never leave me to face my struggles alone. Amen.

Friday, April 18, 2014

God looked down from the holy height, from heaven the Lord looked at the earth, to hear the groans of the prisoners, to set free those who were doomed to die. (Psalm 102:19-20)

Today's reflection is by Joshua Anderson, member of the Lutheran Episcopal Ministry at MIT 

 Time and again in the gospel readings during Lent, Jesus has stepped in and broken apart the prison of societal roles based on people’s background and past choices. The Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, the woman whose pain lasted 12 years and who “had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors” (Mark 5:36, NIV). In disregarding or destroying society’s expectation, he brought these lonely, outcast people yearning for release into a relationship of equals and restoring them to full membership in their communities. There are times in my life when I’ve felt imprisoned by someone else’s narrative for what a person with my background and my characteristics should be or do. Like unnamed crowds who lived around the characters I mentioned, people around me would not have noticed that I felt trapped or would have felt that there was little chance of successfully articulating a new narrative. The disciples confront a similar feeling of helplessness in the face of society’s narrative as they watch Jesus’s arrest and trial. They didn’t know how to rescue Jesus from the role that powers benefitting from the Roman Imperial occupation had fit him into. Jesus’s death at the hands of the inexorable Roman Imperial system seems to confirm that the world has won. That there is no way to rescue this man who called his friends to live abundant lives of radical equality and justice from the literal and metaphorical prison in which society held him in his last days. That he will never get the experience he gave to so many others of being lifted up to a relationship of radical equality. Unlike the disciples, we know that God’s work on Easter is coming.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. (Ephesians 4:15)

Today's reflection is by 
Thea Keith-Lucas, Episcopal Chaplain at MIT

When we were babies, we discovered who we are by observing others. Did they smile when they looked at us? Did they laugh when we laughed? Did they help us when we cried? As we move into adulthood, we feel more independent, but we still constantly respond to the words and the body language of the people we encounter. We still find our identities in the web of our relationships.

Peter comes into that meal in the upper room with a clear sense of who is: a disciple of Jesus, the promised Messiah. But for Peter to be the disciple, Jesus must behave like the teacher. If Jesus behaves like a slave and washes people’s feet, then who is Peter now? We hear the depth of Peter’s identity struggle in his vehement and confused response: “You will never wash my feet!” and then barely seconds later, “Not my feet only, but also my hands and my head!”

We look down and see Jesus, kneeling before us to cradle our dusty, beat-up feet and gently wash them clean. We look down, to see him looking up at us with eyes that see clearly and with absolute love. We look down to see our truest selves, reflected there in our Savior’s gentle gaze.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly. (Psalm 40:10)

Today's reflection is by Thea Keith-Lucas, Episcopal Chaplain at MIT

Towards the end of college, I reconnected with my faith in Jesus and started wearing a cross necklace every day. I quickly discovered that the cross acted as a magnet for panhandlers on the subway. It had the opposite effect on many of my college friends. A classmate questioned my objectivity towards the Bible. A science major asked me how I could possibly be against evolution. One guy assumed that I was intent on a courtship towards marriage, which made it very awkward when I asked him out on a date.

Many of us began Lent with crosses of ash on our foreheads. Some of us have explained to a friend that we can’t share a dessert or some other experience because of a Lenten fast. Many of us also joined in Palm Sunday processions that took our congregations outside the doors of the church. Lent seems quiet and inward, but it can also be a time when our faith becomes visible in new ways.

We have three more reflections coming in this series. Before we turn to the great holy days of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Holy Saturday, I want to thank you for sharing this Lenten journey with us. I hope this has been a time for each of us discover the truth within us and share it with the world. May God give us the grace to move through the awkward moments towards the freedom and joy of living with integrity.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. (Romans 8:21)

 Today's reflection is by Kari Jo Verhulst
Lutheran Chaplain at MIT
and Pastor at University Lutheran Church

It’s been a long, hard Lent this year, full of rough headlines and harsh silences. The untimely deaths of students at MIT and Harvard; the life-altering violence that shattered Fort Hood, Franklin Regional High School, and now the Jewish Community Center in Kansas. The gnawing sense that what is happening in the Ukraine, Syria, and Egypt is only going to get worse. And those are only the big-fonted stories. Add to these countless fine print or wordless experiences of struggle, longing, and bondage.

It’s been a long, hard Lent this year, and I am so glad it is Holy Week. This is the week that I get to act out my own sense of longing and sorrow through the words and stories and songs that tell of Jesus’ journey to the cross, and how his bearing of such sorrow weds the Godhead with the Creation that groans for the day when it will be set free from its bondage to decay.

The 14th/15th century mystic philosopher Julian of Norwich spoke of this as a “oneing.” She imagines that as Jesus hangs on the cross—the preferred Roman instrument of torture and humiliation—he is opened up to “every sorrow and desolation” and sorrows along in kinship. The poet Denise Levertov writes of this way:
The oneing, [Julian saw,] the oneing
with the Godhead opened Him utterly
to the pain of all minds, all bodies
—sands of the sea, of the desert—
from the beginning to the last.

I pray that you, also, will get to join your struggles with the way of the cross this week. And that through this, you will know the freedom of the glory of the children of God.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. (1 John 3:2a)

Today's reflection is by Cameron Partridge
Episcopal Chaplain at Boston University

Toward the end of high school I went on a family trip down the middle fork of the American River, near Sacramento California.  For two days we learned how to steer as a group, how to push forward, how to reverse out of a jam, when to stop and let the current take over.  One section of the river included a class five rapid—“the Shoot” I believe it was called—into which we moved forward with a mixture of care and abandon.  At first we steered to the left, then to the right, paddling madly to avoid hidden vortexes.  At a certain point we shifted from our seats to the bottom of the boat, holding our paddles straight up in the air.  We hurdled through a kind of spin cycle and were spat out at the bottom, soaking but exhilarated.
Each Holy Week we journey into the Paschal Mystery of death and resurrection, a metamorphosis beyond our wildest imagining. We enter assured that we are indeed God’s children now, even as we don’t know what we will be on the other side.  We may paddle into this week with great gusto, but ultimately we must cede to the current, as we sit together on the floor of our little boat.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. (John 4:24)

Today's reflection is by Lucas Mix, Researcher in Theoretical and Theological Biology, Harvard. You can read more from Lucas on his blog:

What does it mean to worship God in “spirit and in truth”? The phrase comes from John 4:24 and I think it has something to do with a fullness of attention.  Spirit means both the Holy Spirit and the breath of life.  Have you ever been so intent on something that you held your breath?  I think we are invited to that kind of intensity when we worship God: fascination and devotion. For me, “in truth” conveys the idea that we not only have a desire to please God, but the ability to do so.  To worship in truth is to make a proper and acceptable offering of our life and love.

Has there ever been a moment in your life when you were fully wrapped up in love and service? For me it comes in moments of conversation about God and reality, the rare moment when I manage to express the truth that is in me while hearing the very soul of another.  It also comes in moments of simple, concrete service – like cleaning a bathroom for a neighbor.

When have you worshiped in spirit and truth?