Random and not so random musings from a 5th generation NE Missourian who became a 1st generation Episcopalian. Let the good times roll!

("The Incredulity of Thomas," by Michelangelo Merisi da Carvaggio)

The Eighth Station--Jesus Strengthens the Faith of Thomas

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You allowed Thomas to believe in the way he understood best.

Thomas had been absent from the other disciples when Jesus had breathed the Holy Spirit upon them. When they told him of their encounter with Jesus, Thomas just glared at them and did not say anything for a long time. He had no doubt his companions had experienced something--but wondered if their desire and wishes to see Jesus again had not clouded reality for them. Perhaps they had met someone who reminded them of Jesus and they wished it so. Perhaps someone had played a cruel trick on them. Perhaps they were so grief-stricken they were having delusions.

Thomas was still grieving terribly himself. He simply did not want to hurt any more than he was hurting already. He didn't want to hear these stories--it did not make his own pain any better. So finally, he growled back, "You know what? I don't want to disagree with you, but I just can't buy it, as much as I love and believe in you. I won't believe it until I see it--and I'd have to feel the nail marks and the hole in his side myself before I could even begin to believe it."

A week later, the disciples were again behind closed doors and Thomas was among them. Suddenly, Jesus was again in their midst! "Peace be with you," repeated Jesus. He looked squarely at Thomas, holding out his hands. "Thomas, put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt, but believe."

The Gospel of John doesn't say whether Thomas actually did touch Jesus--that is left up to our imaginations--but whatever did happen caused Thomas to exclaim, "My Lord and my God!" What is clear, though, is that Jesus understood exactly what it took to come to Thomas on his own terms--and he was perfectly willing to do that.

Leader: Jesus came to Thomas to the way of his own understanding,
People: Just as Christ can come to us in the way of our own understanding.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

Lord God, perceiver of all things,
Sometimes it hurts too much to simply accept and believe your truth.
Sometimes when our worries and fears overtake us,
the gentle touch of your loving hand sears our flesh like acid.
It becomes easier to doubt than to believe.
Remind us in those moments
that we are loved by a Son with nail holes in his own hands
and a gash in his side, a Son who cries and bleeds,
and will not ask anything of us in our pain
but to simply touch his own wounds and feel one with them.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

("Jesus Breathes His Spirit Upon the Disciples," by Hanna Cheriyan Varghese)

The Seventh Station--Jesus Gives his Disciples his Peace and the Power to Forgive Sins

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You breathed your living Spirit upon those who loved you.

The disciples sat in a locked house, discussing a million things with each other, in a slightly more hopeful tone of voice, but things still felt dangerous--so they discussed the events surrounding the Resurrection in a locked house. The rest of the world still seemed pretty uncertain to them.

Suddenly, in the middle of their discussion, Jesus appeared. "Peace be with you," he told them. As he revealed his hands to pull part of his robe aside to show them his wounded side, they recognized him, and as he put his hands out to them to be welcomed they literally rushed towards him in the biggest group hug one can imagine. Even in a locked house, he had come to them. Imagine all the embracing and hair-tousling that probably ensued--and some probably simply held his hand in both of theirs, looked in his face, and cried.

Jesus very likely hung on every embrace, feeling their hearts beat within their chests, hearing them breathe, and feeling their wet tears on his own face. He probably cried a few joyful tears of his own--he SO loved this group. Suddenly, a warm gentle breeze surrounded them, and they felt the breath of the Holy Spirit in each exhale of Christ's breath. Yes, they were still in a locked house, but they began to feel less "locked up" themselves.

Leader: Each time Jesus exhaled, the Holy Spirit wafted across the room,
People: Each time the disciples inhaled, they felt the Holy Spirit within them.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

O living and breathing God,
Sometimes when we are locked within
the prison of our own fears,
we forget that all we have to do is breathe,
to discover you are with us.
We think we have to come up with elaborate ideas
to serve you and do your will,
when all we had to do
is simply inhale what is already in the room.
Remind us, dear Lord,
to simply breathe and recognize your presence in our breath.
As our breath, mixed with yours, leaves our bodies,
teach us to merely follow it where it goes,
leading us to be where we need to be,
in a life led for your Son's glory.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Lately, I have noticed my Episcopalian Facebook friends, especially those of the collared set, to be posting on their status updates that they are participating in the "Post-Liturgical Nap." So just for them, I've created an order of worship for it!

An Order of Worship for Post-Liturgical Napping

By Kirkepiscatoid

(with apologies to The Book of Occasional Services of the Episcopal Church, particularly pages 166-173)

The service begins as appointed following returning home from a celebration of Holy Eucharist, particularly after one with an obtuse, disjointed sermon, a painfully tense Coffee Hour, or a long drawn-out vestry or committee meeting following worship.

Celebrant: Grace and peace be with you, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

People: And also with you.

Celebrant: Let us pray.

The Celebrant says this or some other appropriate Collect:

O God of peaceful slumber, you have taught us that in returning and rest we shall be saved, in sleeping and napping shall be our strength: By your Holy Spirit, allow us to snooze in your presence, where we may be still and know that you are God; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and forever,

Celebrant and People: Amen.

One or two Lessons are read before the Gospel. A Psalm, hymn, or anthem may be sung or said between the lessons.

For the first Lesson, one of the texts below or another suitable text may be used.

If you follow my statutes and keep my commandments and observe them faithfully, I will give you your rains in their season, and the land shall yield its produce, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit. Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and the vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your bread to the full, and live securely in your land. And I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and no one shall make you afraid; I will remove dangerous animals from the land, and no sword shall go through your land. Leviticus 26:3-6

Or this

Hear, O Israel: The Lord is our God, the Lord alone. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. Keep these words that I am commanding you today in your heart. Recite them to your children and talk about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise. Bind them as a sign on your hand, fix them as an emblem on your forehead, and write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. Deuteronomy 6:4-9

Or this

“Do not human beings have a hard service on earth, and are not their days like the days of a laborer? Like a slave who longs for the shadow, and like laborers who look for their wages, so I am allotted months of emptiness, and nights of misery are apportioned to me. When I lie down I say, ‘When shall I rise?’ But the night is long, and I am full of tossing until dawn. Job 7:1-4

Suitable Psalms include:

Psalm 3 (“I lie down and sleep; I wake again, for the LORD sustains me”)

Psalm 4 (“I will both lie down and sleep in peace; for you, alone, O LORD, make me lie down in safety”)

Psalm 23 “(He makes me lie down in green pastures”).

For the second Lesson, one of the texts below or another suitable text may be used:

As we work together with him, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says, “At an acceptable time I have listened to you, and on a day of salvation I have helped you.” See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see—we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. II Corinthians 6:1-10

Or this

Yes, brother, let me have this benefit from you in the Lord! Refresh my heart in Christ. Confident of your obedience, I am writing to you, knowing that you will do even more than I say. One thing more—prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping through your prayers to be restored to you. Philemon 1:20-22

Or this

For in one place it speaks about the seventh day as follows, “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.” And again in this place it says, “They shall not enter my rest.” Since therefore it remains open for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, again he sets a certain day—“today” —saying through David much later, in the words already quoted, “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.” For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not speak later about another day. So then, a sabbath rest still remains for the people of God; for those who enter God’s rest also cease from their labors as God did from his.

Hebrews 4:4-10

For the Gospel, one of the following texts or another suitable text may be used:

“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-29

Or this

The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. Mark 6:30-31

Or this

Now about eight days after these sayings Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah” —not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen. Luke 9:28-36

A meditation or period of silence, or both, may follow the Gospel.

The service continues with the Creed, or the Prayers of the People.

For the Prayers of the People, a Litany of Napping, as follows, may be used.

Litany of Napping

The Celebrant introduces the Litany with this bidding

Let us name before God those for whom we offer our prayers before napping.

The People audibly name those for whom they are interceding.

A Person appointed then leads the Litany

Leader: God the Father, your will for all people is sufficient rest for our health and salvation;

People: We praise you and thank you, O Lord.

Leader: God the Son, you came that we might have life, and nap more abundantly;

People: We praise you and thank you, O Lord.

Leader: God the Holy Spirit, you make us on our best behavior when we are asleep;

People: We praise you and thank you, O Lord.

Leader: Holy Trinity, in you we sleep and snore and have our dreaming;

People: We praise you and thank you, O Lord.

Leader: Lord, grant your healing grace to all who are insomniacs, weary but cannot unwind, keyed-up, and wound up, that they may nap and be made whole;

People: Hear us, O Lord of life.

Leader: Grant to all who seek the healing powers of sleep, and to all who are constantly interrupted by the phone, spouses/significant others, small children and pets at nap time, a knowledge for them to leave us alone in our few hours of slumber;

People: Hear us, O Lord of life.

Leader: Mend the annoying details of the things that keep us awake, and restore those in metabolic distress from too much coffee, tea or soft drinks;

People: Hear us, O Lord of life.

Leader: Bless quiet background music, the mute button on the TV, and those bedroom clocks with ambient sounds of nature that help us fall asleep;

People: Hear us, O Lord of life.

Leader: Grant to those who are so tired they feel they are about to die, the ability to “sleep like the dead” for a short time and awake restored and refreshed in new life;

People: Hear us, O Lord of life.

Leader: Restore to wholeness the dirty dishes in the sink, the dirty laundry in the basket, and all the things of this life we left undone simply to take a nap;

People: Hear us, O Lord of life.

Leader: You are the Lord who does wonders;

People: You have declared your power among the peoples.

Leader: With you, O Lord is heavenly rest;

People: And in your arms we find divine rest.

Leader: Hear us, O Lord of the Holy Nap;

People: Restore us, and make us whole as we sleep.

(Note: It is permissible to fall asleep during the Litany, if the spirit of sleep overtakes the people, or if spirits overtake the people should they have imbibed a couple of tequila shooters prior to the service.)

Leader: Let us pray.

A period of silence follows (if the People are not already asleep.)

If the Celebrant is not also already asleep, the service concludes the Prayers with one of the following, or some other suitable Collect

Almighty God, giver of life and naps: Send your blessing on all who are awake yet weary, and upon those who snuggle up to them, be they human, canine, or feline, that all insomnia be vanquished by the triumph of the risen Christ; who lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Leader and People: Amen.

Or this

Heavenly Father, you have promised to hear what we ask in the Name of your Son; Accept and fulfill our subconscious as we dream, even though some of the dreams may seem a little weird; you are able to sort out the Jungian manifestations of them and discern what is truly in our hearts; not as we dream in our ignorance, nor as we deserve in our sinfulness, but as you know and love us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.

Leader and People: Amen.

Or this

O Lord our God, accept the fervent prayers of your sleepy people; in the multitude of your mercies look with compassion upon our weary, tired selves and all who turn to you in a semi-somnolent state; for you are gracious, O lover of souls, and to you we give glory, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and for ever.

Leader and People: Amen.

The Celebrant then dismisses any still remaining awake with this blessing

May God the Father rest your weary head, May God the Son close your eyes with his love, and may God the Holy Spirit fill your upper airways with heavenly snoring. May God the holy and undivided Trinity guard your door while asleep, save your ears from extemporaneous noise, and bring you in somnolence to his heavenly country, where he lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Leader and People: Amen.

All are dismissed with the following

Leader: Nap in peace to love and serve the Lord.

People: Thanks be to God.

Ecclesiastes 10:10:

"If the iron is blunt, and one does not whet the edge, then more strength must be exerted; but wisdom helps one to succeed."

Well, that is pretty much the sum total of what the Bible has to say about splitting logs.

In the last couple of weeks, I've had the fence builders out here, totally rebuilding my pasture fences. My long-eared equines (mostly my mule) have taken a toll on my woven wire fence. I opted for a taller fence, and seven strands of barbed wire. The other flaw in the previous fence was that the previous builder put the staples and clips on the OUTSIDE. Equines simply lean against the fence and pop the staples and the clips bend open. It doesn't take much for determined long-eared equines and their belief that the grass really IS greener on the other side of the fence, to wreck one.

One of the decisions I made was to put hedge posts in for my corner posts. Hedge is one of the densest, sturdiest, most resistant to rot and decay woods available in this part of the world. It's even better than many of the treated posts available. The sidelight has been there are little "leftovers" of the posts given to me so I can burn them in my chiminea later on. Seeing as how hedge is also one of the highest BTU delivering woods out there, this is a bonus.

There's only one problem--some of them are too big for my chiminea. I had to break out my axe, my splitting maul, and my wedge, and revisit something that used to be a real pain in my life--but this time, as a tourist, as a pastime.

Let me share a little history. I grew up with a wood stove being the major source of heat in the house where I lived the bulk of my junior high/high school years. I grew to hate the wood stove and everything associated with it. I hated being dragged along to cut and split wood. I hated stacking wood, hauling wood in the house, and lugging out the ashes. I hated how the house was cold in the early mornings, I hated how I often had to get dressed in front of the wood stove in order not to freeze, and I hated how it seemed the entire set of activities of daily living revolved around feeding and maintaining that wood stove every winter. I hated how wood heat dried my nose out, I hated how all my clothes seemed to have a smoky smell to them, and I hated how we had a propane furnace and never used it, being told we couldn't afford it.

I vowed never to have wood heat in the house, and I have kept that promise.

Yet I love sitting outside by my chiminea fire. Go figure.

Most of the wood I use in my chiminea has been cut by someone else. But I kept all my woodcutting tools because once in a while I still have to deal with an oversized log.

As I looked at the little pile of hedge logs that was growing by my driveway, I made a radical decision--I would use splitting them as a form of meditation. I would simply split them and see what popped in my head as a result.

I pondered the first log. Suddenly it dawned on me that I was 30+ years older than when I used to do this all the time. I used to have well-tuned muscles for this task. I was younger, slenderer, better muscled, and more flexible. What am I doing? I could throw out my back or miss and cut the end of my foot off. Out of all the types of wood I could have taken on, I took on the densest, hardest wood in NE Missouri. Am I NUTS?

Just the same, I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, opened my eyes, reared back and let fly with the axe. It landed pretty much where I intended it to go, scoring the log. I took a few more whacks with the axe, then grabbed the splitting maul and started in with it. Pretty soon, after a few swings, a big chunk of that log came flying off with a pop, and I felt the rush of feeling the maul peel right through 18 inches of solid wood.

I wish I could have seen my own grin.

Over the next half hour, things came back to me I did not even realize were buried in my memory banks. Layers of clothing started to peel off as I felt myself sweat. My hands found the right spots on the handle. I automatically used already split pieces to prop up the piece I was working on. Before you know it, I had a little pile of split logs, just the right size. Realizing one little pile was enough, I quit, and got a soda and sat down to think about what had just happened. I was tired, but not sore. I wasn't sore the next morning, either--I'd done it about right.

But as I sat and drank my soda outside in my "post-splitting" phase of the exercise, I realized just how GOOD it all felt. Something I used to hate to do became pleasurable. I felt very physically and spiritually "connected". I felt empowered. I found myself saying, "God, I can't believe I'm telling you this, but I'm glad I had learned how to do that, all those many years ago."

I'm sure God laughed.

It brought me to some other interesting spiritual awakenings. Nothing that happens in our lives is for naught. It made me realize that things we hated, things that hurt us, things we discarded as "no use to us," can eventually come to good. Mistakes aren't mistakes, and things we came to regret only remain regrets if we choose to leave them there. Left the size they are, they are useless--but if we dare to take them apart, no matter how hard they are, they can come apart through the power of things we forgot we have or never knew we possessed--in other words, with God's help. Most importantly, we can turn loathing into gratitude. We can take what seemed inert, dead, and useless, and turn it into heat, light, and warmth.

That in itself, is a form of resurrection, isn't it?

("Jesus Appears to the Disciples After Resurrection," by Imre Morocz)

The Sixth Station--Jesus Appears to the Disciples in Jerusalem

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You appeared and ate fish with your disciples.

A lively discussion ensued between the eleven and the disciples who had seen Jesus on the road to Emmaus. All of them had been afraid to tell what had happened to them, until each had admitted their story to the other. What could this mean? It was still hard for them to keep it all straight in their heads. The images of the crucified Jesus, the memories of wrapping him in his burial cloth, were still incredibly fresh, and confusing.

Suddenly, Jesus appeared in the midst of them. All of the conversation suddenly stopped, and all eyes turned towards him. The speechlessness of the disciples threw a heavy silence into the air.

Jesus broke the silence with a loving voice. "Peace be with you," he smiled, as he held out his hands and showed his feet to them, drawing them near with his hands, encouraging them to touch his wounds. "Don't be afraid." One can only imagine their joy as they reached out to him, held his hands, and hugged him. "Do you have anything to eat?" he asked. Someone gave him a piece of broiled fish. Again, all eyes were upon him as he ate it. He was really swallowing it and eating it--he MUST be real! This can't be a dream, a figment of the imagination, they thought. After enjoying the fish, Jesus began teaching them again. It felt like the good days before the crucifixion. The disciples smiled at each other as they listened. It felt too good to be true.

Leader: As Jesus stood before the disciples to teach,
People: They could scarcely believe the moment was real.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

Almighty God,
we read your words, we attend worship, we speak your name,
but what we really crave is your true Presence
and the true Presence of your Son.
Enable us to see Christ's true face,
his wounded hands and feet,
and his resurrected body.
Help us to feel his true presence in us
during those times we partake of his body and blood.
Create in us his real Presence--
as real as the fish he ate in front of the disciples,
and renew us in our own resurrections.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!


Who would have thought three little Hebrew letters, Yod, Daleth, and Ain would have caused so much trouble? Put 'em all together and they spell Yada--not the "Yada, yada," of Seinfeld fame, but the Hebrew word, "to know."

In those three letters, we sure place a lot of assumption.

The online Hebrew Lexicon I often use has about 20+ meanings for the word yada. ONE of them is "to know carnally." The word is used 983 times in the Hebrew Bible. In 973 times, it means "know" in the ordinary ways you and I understand the word "know" in English. Only in ten of those times do text scholars believe yada means "to have sexual relations," and even in some of those times it probably doesn't mean "consensual, loving sex." For instance, in the Genesis 19 story--the famous "Sodom" story, the implication is "forcible sex"--gang rape in particular.

So, it turns out, that our little aside, "He knew the Biblical sense," is pretty much urban legend. Ninety-nine percent of the time, when the Old Testament says "know," well...the "Biblical sense" is "know means know"--just like you and I mean "know" when we say, "Oh, I know so-and-so." Whaddya know.

Yet on this little Hebrew word, some folks hang the moon and stars on so called "Biblical" notions of homosexuality. Go figure.

Genesis 19 is a lousy story to hang that on anyway. Lot doesn't exactly handle the situation in a manner we would now want to champion for modern family values, anyway. When the angry mob shows up, demanding they want to "know" the two strangers (angels) at Lot's house, what does Lot do? He basically tells them, "Oh, no, you can't have these two guys, they're my guests. But ya know what? I got a couple pre-teen daughters out back that y'all can have your way with--how's that instead?" Oy gevalt.

Couple that with the fact ancient Hebrew is, as is modern English, rife with colloquialisms. We find them in the Hebrew scriptures all the time. A Hebrew word for foot (regel) is translated as "genitals," in some passages. Some Hebrew words are used in their exact opposite context. There's a lot of room for getting things lost in translation.

Yet the moment we find a hidden or sexual meaning in some of the words, we totally go "Beavis and Butthead" over it. "Heh heh. He said "foot." he said "know." Heh heh."

So much of this, I think, is what Louie Crew describes as "the ick factor." He often points out that if we personally think something is icky, it's our tendency to have our feelings of ickiness validated. I would take it one step further and add, "If we think it's icky, we'd prefer our projection of God to think it's icky too." But I kind of find it all a little bewildering. There are plenty of sexual practices that are legal in this country, that I personally find icky, yet I don't feel a huge need to have God pass judgment over the ickiness.

All I'm saying, is, "There sure is a lot of yada, yada about yada."

("Supper at Emmaus, embroidery piece by He Qi)

The Fifth Station--Jesus is Known in the Breaking of the Bread

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You broke bread with the disciples and vanished.

As they drew near to Emmaus, the disciples still had not recognized they were traveling along with Jesus. They were getting ready to stay in the village for the evening, but he acted as if he was going on to another place. The disciples, not wanting him to leave, said, "Stay with us. It will be evening soon, and you can go onward in the morning. We'd like to have supper with you."

Something about sitting at the table with this man was relaxing and familiar. Again, they could not quite put their finger on it, but they knew that the presence of this man brought back comfortable memories to them. But as he took the bread, and broke it, and gave it to them, suddenly their eyes were fully opened. They had been traveling with Jesus all along! Yet, there was something different about him now. He seemed to be "more of himself" than he ever was. But before they could ask him any more questions, he vanished.

They next day they returned to Jerusalem to the eleven and their companions. As they approached, they told the two disciples, "You're not going to believe this, but the risen Lord appeared to Simon Peter!" Cleopas and the other disciple just looked at them and said, "Yes, we do believe you, because he just appeared to us on the road to Emmaus and broke bread with us."

Leader: As different disciples saw the risen Christ,
People: They began to tell their stories to each other.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

Ever-present God, who travels with us daily,
open our eyes to see that Christ is walking with us
on roads where we do not expect him.
Enhance our ears so that we can hear his words to us
when our eyes still cannot see him.
Open our hearts to his understanding
when we hear the words but try to talk ourselves out of them.
When, at last, we see, hear, and understand Christ,
grant us the courage to tell our stories to each other,
as these stories are meant to be shared openly.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

(Icon photo from

John 13:23:

"One of his disciples--the one whom Jesus loved--was reclining next to him."

Now, for whatever reason, many pieces of religious art--like this icon--tend to portray the beloved disciple with his head on Jesus' chest, although the verse specifically does not allude to it. We got to briefly discussing that in my EfM class tonight. Someone had mentioned liking the image of "hearing God's heartbeat."

My mind immediately took me back to my training days, when we medical students would strain to learn new heart murmurs. Learning these was nowhere near as high-tech as today's medical students get, with all sorts of simulators available. We had a few poor quality audio tapes and live patients, and that was about it. Woe betide the poor patient who showed up with a discernible murmur--it was a sure bet 15 or 20 medical students would line up to listen to it. Mercifully, most patients were pretty good sports about it, and some even liked the attention--to be a part of a young doctor's learning.

So without a doubt, pictures like the one above make me think of the art of listening to heart sounds.

I knew from the beginning that I was not destined for cardiology, because my ability to hear subtle heart murmurs was not exactly one of my strong suits. Yet I remember the process of trying to actually hear them. So many times, I had to close my eyes to hear them. Intuitively, that made no sense. You don't have to see someone's chest to hear through a stethoscope. Yet it seemed removing all distractions and hearing them in the dark space behind my eyelids helped more than all the practice tapes ever did. It's so easy to be distracted when trying to listen to God's heartbeat, isn't it?

Then the next thought that crossed my mind was that all those sounds I listened for in patients were pathologic sounds--the sounds of disease. What would it be like to hear a heartbeat so clean, so pure, it was perfection itself? Would we be in awe of its perfection, or would be only notice the "absence of disease?" What is the distinctive sound of the heart of God, beating in our ears?

Then I thought about those patients that enjoyed letting me hear their heart murmurs. I realize part of it was that they simply enjoyed being noticed, and being touched. They liked knowing that someone would walk out of the room, wiser for the session, and would go out and recognize it again in another patient, perhaps an undiagnosed one. How did Jesus feel, knowing he was contributing to the education of his disciple? How did he feel, knowing to some degree what lay ahead for him? Perhaps he was no different than those patients--it simply felt good to have hands laid upon him and feel the nearness of the disciples head to him. Perhaps he mused a nearly impossible question--how does a head understand a heart?

Finally, what changed for the beloved disciple after he heard God's heart in his ears? What changes for us when we hear God's heartbeat?

Oh, beloved disciple--if only we could hear what you got to hear!

("The risen Christ appears to pilgrims on the road to Emmaus," one of a series of 26 mosaic panels illustrating the life of Christ in Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna)

The Fourth Station--Jesus Appears on the Road to Emmaus

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You opened the eyes of the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Two of the disciples were walking towards the village of Emmaus, discussing the events of the past few days. They wanted to talk about something else, but no matter how hard they tried to change the conversation, the topic always rolled around to the last few days of Jesus. They were so wound up in the details of it, and their fear, that they did not even recognize that the man they had met on the road was Jesus himself. In fact, they thought for a little while that he might have been the only person around who hadn't heard of Jesus!

But as they conversed, their eyes became more open, and so did their heart. They began to hear what he was teaching them about the risen Christ, and their confusion turned to certainty. There was something about this man that they recognized, but they could not quite put their finger on why that was. All the same, they listened and began to understand.

Leader: As the disciples talked to Jesus on the roadside,
People: Their conversation led to understanding.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

O God, translator of all things,
So often we do not understand the fullness of your glory.
But as we begin to talk to you, we start to understand.
As we start to understand, it is only then that you can teach us.
Give us courage to start the conversations,
Even if we don't have the story straight.
Open our ears to hear your words,
and open our minds to understand them.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

("The Risen Lord Appears to Mary Magdalene," stained glass window at Islip's church of St Nicholas, taken by Flickr's Lawrence OP)

The Third Station--Mary Magdalene Meets the Risen Jesus

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You called Mary Magdalene by name and she recognized you.

Suddenly, the weight of the fact Christ's body was missing from the tomb hit Mary Magdalene like a sledgehammer. First Jesus had been taken away from her by crucifixion. Now his body was nowhere to be found. Who could be so cruel, as to steal the body? She felt as empty inside as the tomb she viewed, and began to sob openly, tears falling down her face in great rolls and wetting the collar of her robe. She didn't care there was a growing crowd by now. She didn't care about one single thing going on around her. All she knew was Jesus was gone, in a way worse than she could ever imagine. Before today, she at least had the comfort of knowing where his body lay. Now she had absolutely nothing left to remind her of Jesus.

She looked up, and in the tomb were two men in white. They reminded her of the man she saw earlier. "Why do you weep?" they asked her. Their question angered Mary Magdalene. "How stupid were they?" she thought. "Because they've taken my Lord away and I don't know where he is!" she spat out between her sobs. She couldn't take it anymore. This was just all too much to take in. So she turned and headed away from the tomb, still wailing and sobbing as hard as she could.

As she was walking away, a man stopped her. She could scarcely make him out, the tears clouded her eyes so. "Why do you weep?" the man asked her. "Who are you looking for?"

Mary Magdalene, thinking this man was the gardener, said, "Sir, PLEASE. If you carried him away, just tell me where he is, and I will take care of his body." The man looked at her warmly. "Mary," he whispered.

Suddenly she recognized the voice--it was Jesus! Suddenly, she was embarrassed that she had mistaken Jesus for the gardener. "Rabbouni!" she called out, and put out her arms to hug him. But Jesus took a step back and said, "Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the father. But go tell the rest, and tell them that I will be ascending to the Father."

Her tears suddenly stopped and a broad joyful smile crossed her face as she ran back to the disciples. He had been raised from the dead, just as Lazarus had been raised from the dead. Who would believe it?

Leader: When Jesus called Mary Magdalene by name,
People: Her weeping turned to joy.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

All powerful and ever-living God,
When you called Mary Magdalene by name,
she recognized the voice as yours alone.
Open our ears so that when you call us by name,
we know that it is your voice, just as the sheep
know the voice of their shepherd.
Let the sound of your voice have the power
to turn our weeping to singing,
dry our tears,
and turn our mournful cries to shouts of joy.
When we cannot quite reach out and touch your Son,
let the sound of his voice comfort us and lead us forward.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

("The Empty Tomb" by Jesus Martinez Gordo)

The Second Station--The Disciples Find the Tomb Empty

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: The disciples looked in the tomb, and saw and believed.

Mary Magdalene could scarcely catch her breath as she told Peter and the beloved disciple what she had seen. As they heard her story, they looked at each other incredulously. Was she so grief-stricken she was delirious? "This can't possibly be," they told her. The tomb was guarded. No one could have stolen the body. At this point, they could not imagine anything beyond "stolen."

"Come," Peter told Mary. "Let's go back there and you will see our Lord still rests there. The guards would not have let him be stolen."

When they all arrived back at the tomb, a large crowd was already there. More soldiers had arrived to keep order. People huddled at the mouth of the tomb but would not go in. The beloved disciple said to Peter, "Look! His burial linens are there, but he has disappeared!" Finally Peter burst through the crowd and into the tomb. "He's gone!" he exclaimed, but only after he had grabbed up the burial linens and held them in his own hands.

Leader: As the disciples looked out from the inside of the tomb;
People: They feared that their Lord's body had been stolen.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

Everlasting God,
Sometimes we cannot believe your works until we see for ourselves,
and even then, we try to rationalize it.
Teach us to fully believe in your mighty power
even when it seems distant from us.
Remind us of your continuous presence,
and that you alone have the power to conquer sin and death.
Keep our eyes ever looking forward, turning to the light, and life,
Rather than remaining in the darkness of our own fears.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

(Andrea del Verrocchio's Christ and St. Thomas (1464-1483) at the Orsanmichele of Florence, Italy, Photo taken by Samuel Maddox, Canon PowerShot S330, via Wikipedia)

John 20:19-31

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."

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, "We have seen the Lord." But he said to them, "Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe."

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, "Peace be with you." Then he said to Thomas, "Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe." Thomas answered him, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus said to him, "Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe."

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

It's that time of the year again...the time of the year I lean back in my pew and see how Thomas is going to be portrayed in the homily. It has been a minority number of years that, in my opinion, he gets a break. I don't deny I have a "thing" about how Thomas gets portrayed in the "easy" way out, just as I have a "thing" about how Peter too frequently gets portrayed as a dim-witted oaf. Most of my life, so much of what I hear and read about this passage, at the very least, makes him a doubter, and at worst, makes him a near-disbeliever. Thomas gets a bad rap.

I read and hear the passage, and invariably think to himself, "Well, of COURSE I would stick my hand in there, too, you betcha!" After all, I AM a pathologist. I'd be pushing Thomas out of the way and going, "You had your turn, it's MY turn now!"

History has left "who Thomas was," in terms of his occupation other than "Apostle," a mystery. I like to think he must have had some kind of job where it was important for him to do "hands on" work--maybe a ceramics worker, or a carpenter, or a farmer/rancher. I always wonder if before he started hanging out with Jesus, he made a living with his hands and his job required sensory feedback to do the job right.

On the contrary, Thomas had to be a man of great faith, in my mind, for one simple reason. Dead bodies are ritually unclean. To touch a dead body equals "unclean x 7 days." Those days after the crucifixion and during the Resurrection had to be a time when what anyone close to Jesus needed most of all was the touch of each other. No one in Jesus' inner circle would have wanted to put him or herself into a ritually unclean state willingly. So for Thomas to do what he did in the story, it actually shows the strength of his belief, not his disbelief. It means his inner being knew Jesus was alive.

Actually, I think the story is in John to illustrate something that is very deep and basic in all of us--our desire to touch God in some way that is not just "in our head" and not just "in our heart," but "in our hands." It's no different than when we go forward for the Sacrament on the days we just want to feel the bread in our hand, and hold the cup, and eat and drink the substance of Christ. Not one bit. It's no different than when those of us who like to serve on the altar feel when we realize we LIKE holding the cross aloft, or hold the Gospel book for the priest, or take up the offering, or bring the bread and wine forward. It's no different than when we like to make repairs on the church building, or serve in a soup kitchen, or hold the hand of someone in prayer. We are wanting to feel the touch of Jesus' self on our hands, and we are hoping, that if somehow it is in us at the moment, that others can feel it through our hands. Many of us love to "touch the holy stuff," and truthfully, we like it when the holy stuff touches us back.

Sometimes, when I meditate on this passage, I start with "I wonder what Thomas felt in there, when he shoved his hand in Christ's wound." At first I sort of laugh to myself, "Maybe he really got to feel a spleen." (Inside medical joke: One of the hardest things to actually palpate on the abdominal physical exam is a spleen. Only about 10% of healthy people have a palpable spleen, so if you're feeling a spleen on the abdominal exam, odds on that person is ill from something or another.)

But once I can get past my own inside joke, my thoughts turn to the thought, "What does Jesus feel like, if you shove your hand up to the wrist in him?"I imagine Thomas' hand, not so much feeling a "thing" per se, but feeling a light and a warmth. Or, horror of horrors, what if something grabbed on to his hand in there? He might have yanked his hand out in a hurry there, eh? Well...truth is we kind of do that, when we actually do feel Christ's touch upon us. It sort of scares us. It may freak us out a bit. We might get those old "I'm unworthy," thoughts. We get touched by something so pure and clean, we jump back and declare ourselves unclean.

That's when we have to realize God touched US. It was HIS choice. He doesn't care about your self-declared uncleanliness. He wanted to do it. We didn't get grabby and profane God somehow. We didn't do anything wrong. You reached in, and he actively took hold of our hand. All we have to do is hold still, and feel it.

Truthfully, I think Jesus wants us to stick our hands into his wounds. After all, he invited Thomas to do it. Just don't pull back if you happen to feel something in there!

("The Angel at the Tomb" by Gustave Doré)

Now that Easter is here, and I had so much fun writing my own Stations of the Cross, I've decided that, for Easter, to write my own Stations of the Resurrection (also known as the Via Lucis.) As with the Stations of the Cross, I will try to get one up every three days or so. I hope you will find them helpful for your Easter meditations!

So here we go...

Opening Prayers:

Leader: ✠In the name of God the Father, Jesus the Son, and the Holy Spirit, our sustainer and redeemer,
People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

Leader and People:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord's resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever, Amen.

Leader: You have prepared for us, O Lord, eternal joys and delights that surpass our understanding.
People: Pour your Son's everlasting goodness into our hearts and feed us with the mysterious delicacies of your holy table. Amen.

The First Station--Jesus is raised from the Tomb

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You rose from the dead and the stone of our iniquities was rolled away.

As Mary Magdalene and Mary of Clopas approached the tomb where Jesus was interred, they steeled themselves for a hostile reaction. Guards had been placed by the tomb to prevent the body from being stolen. They had already endured the guards' taunts, their wicked and rude comments, and their sexual innuendos. The kindness Jesus had shown upon them when he was alive seemed as dead as he was. But as they drew nearer, they were knocked to the ground by the movement of the earth itself. Suddenly the sky was filled with a brilliant flash of light, and to their amazement, they saw that the heavy stone covering the mouth of the tomb had rolled away from the entrance and was lying flat on the ground. Sitting atop the stone was a man in dazzling white robes, radiant like the sun. The guards wanted no part of what had happened, and the stress caused them to faint.

The two Marys shook with fear as they peeped into the tomb. It was empty! What did this angel do with him? "Don't be afraid," the angel said. "I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”

Leader: The two Marys had expected to find sorrow;
People: But instead found an angel and an empty tomb.

Leader: Let us pray.
(a brief period of silence is observed.)

Holy and immortal God,
Where we expect to find sorrow and fear,
help us to find light and life.
Where we expect to find tormentors,
help us to find angels.
Where we expect to find death,
help us to find resurrection.
In the name of Jesus Christ we pray.

People: Amen.

Leader: Alleluia! Christ is risen!
People: The Lord is risen indeed. Alleluia!

This morning I had seen over on Episcopal Cafe this very interesting virtual art exhibit of tomb statues of mourners at the tombs of the Dukes of Burgundy. I immediately became captivated by them. Evidently, the various dukes must have wanted to be mourned in perpetuity, long after those who remembered them in the flesh were gone.

So why, in the first week of the 50 days of celebrating resurrection, was I captivated by statues of mourners?

This one, in particular, struck me. He is putting his robe up to his eyes, obviously crying. But his face is covered by his hood. He does not want everyone to see that he is tearful. It made me realize that sometimes, in seasons of joy, we can become so caught up in the joyfulness that we forget to notice those in the background who are mourning. We might not have noticed this person was mourning had he not been caught dabbing his eyes with his robe. Maybe he is just a solemn face in a crowd otherwise.

Part of the spirit of the Resurrection, I believe, is to comfort those who mourn in the face of joy, because whatever causes them to mourn is not to be ignored in the face of joy, but perhaps "brought along for the ride." The Resurrection is big enough to take on mourners.

This has been one of life's lessons that maturity has brought me. It used to be unnerving for me, when I was being joyful, to have an unhappy or sad person in my midst. Weren't they "getting it?" I was happy, everyone around me was supposed to be happy, why don't they just suck it up and be happy with me, at least for a little while? I used to work really hard at "getting them to come around." I was bewildered why they found my efforts painful.

But as time passes, and I start becoming more aware that the Easter message is not of my making, nor is its power mine to control, I have become far less unnerved about this proposition. As people die out of my life, and others are born behind me, and people move away and divorce and die and relationships change, I have better come to realize that grief and joy can coexist. Another's grief cannot take away joyful things that are bigger than ourselves, nor can my mood, whether it is joyful or grieving, affect the grace and peace of Christ.

This Easter weekend, I thought back to the Easters of my childhood. I am grateful I no longer have to dress up in the ridiculous outfits I was forced to wear in church at Easter. Yet I miss the baked ham at my great-grandmother's house. Memories, if remembered correctly and fully, are always two-edged. To remember only the good, or only the bad, removes the total humanity of them.

Perhaps the more important question, as I pondered this statue, is "Why did this mourner feel the need to cover his face?" I suppose the answer lies in the same places as the answers to such questions as, "Why do I always feel I need to be the stoic in the room? Why do I feel I never have the luxury to break down?" When tragedy strikes, somehow I always seem to play the role of "the strong one." The truth is, this statue is no different than me. My tears are often hidden, just as "under my hood" as those of this mourner. Sometimes I act as if my open tears will pollute the universe. It's doubtful that would be the end result of the prospect of me mourning openly.

Then I thought for a while about the purpose of these statues. The dukes of Burgundy were not exactly doing without. Yet it seemed important--a basic human need, in fact--to have eternal reminders of being a person once worth mourning. If we do things right in this world, we WILL be mourned. We all have hopes that something of us remains in this mortal coil beyond the time frame of our lives. In short, we desire a tiny sliver of immortality. Truth be known, part of what we seek when we seek a relationship with God is a slice of our own immortality in the face of a finite life span--ultimately, what we seek when we really admit "what's under it all" is some sort of assurance of "self" beyond a finite life. Christ's resurrection becomes our hope that something of us exists beyond death. Not a narcissistic hope like the dukes of Burgundy who felt insecure enough to have ready-made perpetual mourners, but a hope that transcends space and time--and maybe that is what the Resurrection is all about.



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Kirksville, Missouri, United States
I'm a longtime area resident of that quirky and wonderful place called Kirksville, MO and am wondering what God has hiding round the next corner in my life.

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