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

(Vincent Van Gogh, "Starry Night over the Rhone," 1888)

I Corinthians 15:40-44:

"There are both heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one thing, and that of the earthly is another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; indeed, star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body."

I had a magnificent set of evenings over Memorial Day weekend sitting out among the moon and the stars--even sleeping out all night in my yard one night, it was so glorious--and seeing the lightning bugs begin their summer debut for the season. It was simply a magnificent weekend to be a speck in God's Universe. The sheer size and awesome timelessness of the "big" things in nature--the sky, the stars, the ocean, just to name a few--have always been the major spiritual grounding rods for me, my entire life. People just don't do it for me the way nature does.

I looked at the stars these last few nights and pondered the paradoxical dance that "people" seem to occupy in my existence, thinking how each star, in its own way, is its own "person." How like the stars in the sky, we are called to community, and how each of us in our own way feels called to individuals in that community. Yet for me, the paradox has always been nothing gets my goat like people sometimes. I can only handle people for so long, and then that secular monastic in me takes over and I retreat to my safe hermitage of my country life. There is my daily retreat from work, as well as "add on" forms like my occasional "silent Saturday morning," and my "stay-cation retreats where I never leave home." Yet I never feel "un-called" to be a part of a community. When I am home alone, after a certain amount of time enjoying my alone-ness, I think of what it is I am supposed to "do next" when I enter back into community. When I am in that community, after a while I start daydreaming of what I want to do next in my "alone time." Each needs the other, and truthfully, each feeds the other.

On one of those nights, I sat out and thought about different people with each star--what they were experiencing in their lives, and how it is that I am supposed to combine with them to light up the sky, yet maintain my own individual "star-ness." Each one of us with the incarnational light of God within us, but manifested in so many unique ways.

There seem to be at least three kinds of stars in my life experience. Most valued are the "stars I can always see"--for instance, in the winter, I can always find the constellation Orion, and in the summer I can always fix my gaze on Scorpio. They are like the people in my life who have now been my friends for three decades or more. How we relate to each other has changed drastically over the years--sometimes not even close to the roles in which our relationships started out--but we somehow can always adjust. Sometimes their light is very intense and intimate in my life, and vice versa; other times, the light is dimmer. But they are constants. They are appreciated for both their longevity and their versatility.

Then there are the stars that once were a major focus, but I now no longer pay much attention to. I really don't pay much attention to the Big Dipper, the Little Dipper, or the North Star itself, per se. But there was a time I always looked for them. They are like the people who were once very involved and intimate in my life--old lovers, intense best friends, etc.--and somehow no longer figure much into the tapestry other than to be a thread once cherished, but no longer. Some of these fizzled out in a supernova of conflict, whereas others just sort of atrophied and slowly burned to extinction. Sometimes their light returns--but it is almost never of the same intensity that it once was, nor does my need to tend to that light return with the same intensity. I appreciate those stars for the history they have given me, even if it includes hard lessons.

Finally, there are the stars I just got around to noticing, like the time I first recognized all of Ursa Major, rather than just its "dipper." The first time I realized the dipper could be converted to a bear, it was an exciting time. It made the sky seem a little bigger than it used to be. I think about the gifts and talents in people I just now got around to appreciating in people who have been around me all along, or about the new people that come into my life over the years, and something about them challenge me to tend their light and let them tend mine. I appreciate those stars because they represent hope and promise.

Even the stars are perishable--which enhances my knowledge that people are perishable. It makes me understand the urgency of the Gospel of Mark, and in Paul's letters. If even stars are perishable, then people definitely are. Yet timelessness and infinity rides within all of them. What a beautiful, but messy, dance it all is!

In that odd way that only people who have worked around a hospital can appreciate, I have found the fact that Trinity Sunday coinciding with Memorial Day Weekend (Or, as I like to call it, "Opening day of major trauma season,")--rather amusing.

I've got a confession. I find thinking about the Trinity too long, rather traumatic. My clergy Facebook friends find preaching about the Trinity on Trinity Sunday rather traumatic. Most of them refer in some way that it is a week where they feel compelled to teach those in the pews about the Trinity, and have to admit they really don't understand much about the Trinity.

Now, I can handle the diagram above. It's pretty straightforward and simple. I recognize God is in all three entities, and each of the three entities are not in each other--well...sorta. One person told me in a recent discussion, "I know I'm not my brother and I know I'm not my sister, but the family DNA is in all of us." That is kind of what the diagram parallels. I agree with all of that. But that's where it ends.

Here's my heresy...

I have this nagging feeling that the Trinity is a representational being--like the wave or particle theory of light. Although I would be the first to tell you that the Trinity and the statements in the Nicene Creed (well, except for that add-on about proceeding from the Father AND the Son--the Son half of the filioque was tacked on later to the Creed) are "true," I would tell you I think the reality lies behind the Trinity, and the Trinity is what we use to explain what is actually a single entity made of infinite parts.

For instance...

Light, in some ways, behaves like a wave. In other ways, it behaves like a particle. Odds on, it's something that is neither or both a wave or a particle. But we can function in our world, make great discoveries and inventions involving the spectrum of light, by acting like it is a wave when it's useful and convenient, and acting like it's a particle when it's useful and convenient. The fact that it probably is NOT exactly what we theorize it to be isn't relevant. We don't sit and bemoan that it's not "true." Truth is perception, more than anything.

But the fact that the Hebrew Bible has between 40 and 70 words (depending on which rabbi you consult) that describe one aspect of what Christians attribute to a function of the Holy Spirit, or God the Father, or the Messiah, makes me suspicious that the Trinity is to Christian thought what the wave or particle theory is to light--a representation we can wrap our brains around, at least to a basic degree, that allow us to be connected relationally to God, and not just function in that world, but imagine, invent, and share with others in community.

Did you ever notice humans, by and large, no matter what their culture, like "threes?" We like to think bad news comes in threes. We tend to use threes in literature, in our phraseology. Many things in science, if you repeat them three times, creates a greater than two standard deviations level of confidence, statistically. We tend to only start to "get" things after the third time we've experienced something. We say, "three's a charm." I used to think that was a function of Judeo-Christian culture, until I learned that many other religions--Hinduism, Buddhism, Paganism, ancient Celtic religion, ancient Norse religion, etc.--also have many examples of the significance of the number three.

My theory--and that's all it is--is that for some reason, humans brains are hard-wired to be ok with three. Maybe it is because it's simply one more than what we can grasp in our own two hands. It's manageable. So when the Trinity was being "figured out," people like the folks who came up with the Nicene Creed sat there pondering this God with infinite faces and forms, and gravitated to explaining it in an iconic representation that is the default human level of understanding--three.

So for me, the Trinity is simply a three-pronged representation of an infinite concept--and here is where some people are going to shove me into the Express Lane to Hell for saying this, but I'm going to say it anyway--the Trinity seems to me to be more of a functional theory than an actual fact. There is truth in it, but the truth actually lies BEHIND it, not IN it, and I am willing to accept the "model" because it allows me to function in my world of "understanding my relationship with God." To accept the Trinity as "truth" also means I must accept the mystery that it is a representation of a bigger reality that I cannot possibly understand.

It's why I don't trust anyone who claims he/she can "explain" the Trinity to me. I think part of accepting the truth of the Trinity is to also accept that my brain, in my living human form, cannot possibly understand it, but I can understand enough of it to function as one of God's children within the confines of what it represents. To say "I believe in the Trinity"--to say the Nicene Creed and mean what I say--means I believe the reality it represents is only fully fathomable in the next world.

I'll be honest--this is a hard realization for me. I like to think I'm smart enough to "figure most everything out." But to accept that I cannot possibly figure this one out, is to accept another part of my life as a child of God--faith. Faith that this representation can take me everywhere I need to go, to live in service to God--and in that, I believe.

I was thinking just the other day, I had for some reason been getting a lot of hits on this old blog post, so maybe it was time to add to the list of obscure things that would say "You might be Episcopalian..."

You Might Be Episcopalian...

...if you know what Whitsunday is, and that the church paraments should be RED.

...if your Shrove Tuesday fundraiser in the undercroft features beer.

...if you visit someone else's church in March, see a vase of flowers behind the altar and think, "You don't do flowers in Lent!"

...if you have a very distinctly fixed set of songs in your head that qualify as "processional hymns," and you complain that anything outside that list causes you to remark, "That's not a processional hymn."

...if you've watched a podcast of a bishop being ordained, and raved about how cool it was.

...if you know what the sursum corda, the Sanctus, the Anaphora, and the Agnus Dei are.

...if you have a preference of Eucharistic Prayers A through D.

...if you know what The Book of Occasional Services is, as well as what EOW stands for.

...if you can point to the narthex, the nave, the sacristy, the chancel, and the undercroft.

...if you give directions of where to put things in church as "The Gospel side" and "the epistle side."

...if, when someone tells you they read the Bible every day, you respond with, "Oh, I do the Daily Office, too."

...if you've ever wondered why you kneel in Eucharistic Prayer B, when the line says, "worthy to stand before you."

...if you are absolutely certain that some parts of the Nicene Creed are "just not right," but say it anyway.

...if you have a strong personal theological opinion why the announcements are at the beginning, the middle, or the end of church--or not have announcements in church at all.

...if you've ever refered to a regular household activity as the "sacrament of," or the "liturgy of," such as "The Saturday Sacrament of the Laundry," or "The Liturgy of the Nap."

...if you know the names of at least ten bishops, and in which diocese they reside.

...if, in true "Six degrees of Kevin Bacon," fashion, you brag that you are three degrees from the Presiding Bishop...but when you get to thinking about it, all your Episcopalian friends are three degrees or fewer from her, too.

("The wounded angel," Hugo Simberg)

Hebrews 13:2:

"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that, some have entertained angels without knowing it."

People's Facebook status reports can be interesting, at times--not so much for what they say, but for the stories they remind us of in our own lives.

I had that experience this morning. A friend of mine recently celebrated her third year of remaining alive after a massive stroke in 2007 almost ended her life. Her story is a tale in itself. She had essentially no known risk factors. She was relatively young for this to have happened. She had been given virtually zero chance of surviving it. Her doctors had told her husband that if she did survive it, she would very likely be severely cognitively impaired. Given the fact that she is a writer by trade, death seemed like a better option. Yet she not only survived, she is pretty much the same person she was prior to the stroke, if you had known her before vs. after. She will tell you she notices some cognitive deficits, but it ultimately did not affect her ability to make a living with words.

She credits me with something I know that I truthfully don't deserve--having saved her life. For some reason, I had called her early the morning of her stroke and not reached her. It was the result of one of my habits that actually annoys my friends. The urban legend among my friends is that I don't sleep. (Well, actually I do, just not as much as most people.) As a result of my odd hours up, my friends often become annoyed with me, as I have a habit of "calling people when I think of something." That might be at 6 a.m., or it might be at 11:30 p.m., with an occasional blind eye to the time zones.

That phone call, although not answered, awakened her husband, who noticed she was not able to be aroused. She had suffered the stroke in her sleep, and his prompt action resulted in her being promptly treated.

More than once she has credited my phone call as the key event that started the ball rolling that ultimately saved her life. I am always reluctant to feel good about that credit, because I did nothing except behave like the annoying pest that I can be when I suddenly am inspired by my thoughts. Yet in her life, I am viewed upon as if I were an angel.

These are always hard things to swallow, and I don't think it's just me. I listened to another person's story recently of discovering being referred to as "beloved" in what was otherwise a very circumspect account of a situation. Most of us don't handle well the mantle of being the angel in the room. Why is that? Don't we believe in an incarnate God? Don't we believe in the spark of the divine in each of us? Sure we long as we are talking about someone ELSE.

It's so much harder to see our own divine stuff, because we think we know every single thing we have done wrong, every error, every single person we've hurt. If we extrapolate beyond that, we lean in the negative direction--we think of all those sins we probably committed we don't know about, rather than the good we did that we don't know about. It's so much easier to believe in The God Who is Disappointed in Us, rather than The God Who Loves Us Unconditionally--because we know we are incapable of that kind of "unconditionally."

When I see all the angel-related merchandise out there, I am struck by how we default to making these images of angels "someone who I'll never be." It's like the first time I remember seeing a Barbie doll as a child. I was immediately struck with a huge pang of "I'm not her." Not only, "I'm not her," but "...and there is no way I will ever be her, so why bother?"

Yet I point to people who have truly been the angels in my life, and others point to me and do the same thing, and I can't believe we aren't all seeing the same thing. We see the Incarnation in each other when we are incapable of seeing it in ourselves...and maybe that's okay. It's probably dangerous to be too full of one's own Incarnation--pathological, in fact, because to do that diminishes our capability to see it in others.

So there we are, a squad of wounded angels, carrying each other around on stretchers and pushing each other in wheelchairs, and crutching along with a steady human hand on our shoulder. The God Who is Disappointed in Us would never stand for such a thing...but The God Who Loves Us Unconditionally simply laughs and says, "I intended that, you know."

("Pentecost," quilt by Linda Schmidt)

The Fourteenth Station--The Holy Spirit Descends at Pentecost

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: God's plan for the disciples was made known in tongues of fire.

As the disciples pondered what God had in store for them next, they were more than likely not prepared for quite so dramatic an answer. As they were together in one place, a noise started to build--a rush of wind. Some of them must have looked up--was a storm brewing? There had been no distant noise of wind, no stillness before the storm, as one would expect.

Suddenly, the entire house was filled with the roaring noise of wind, as if a tornado had burst into the house--but instead of everything in the house blowing around, tongues of fire sprang from the air and landed on each of them. Many of them jumped, thinking they themselves were on fire, but the flames could not be patted or smothered out, and they did not wipe off. What was happening?

Certainly they were also noticing these tongues of fire on each other. Perhaps the one who spoke first looked at another and said, "Hey, you're on fire!" But his utterance didn't come out in Aramaic; it came out in some other language. Yet both the speaker and the listener understood each other. They must have all tried speaking after that--did each of them suddenly have this gift? As it turns out, they did, and the room must have been a marvelous hubbub of many languages and smiling faces as their bewilderment and fear turned to amazement.

Not only was the Holy Spirit in the room, she had distributed herself to each of the disciples. Suddenly, Jesus' having left them was not so worrisome, because it was apparent that they would not simply have to "soldier on without him." A power bigger than themselves would accompany them, and they would not be doing this alone.

Leader: God distributed his Holy Spirit among all the disciples;
People: Just as God has distributed the Holy Spirit among each of us.

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

God of power and might,
sometimes we long for your small still voice,
but instead, you answer us in the rush of a whirlwind.
You distribute among each of us gifts and talents,
skills that land on us like tongues of fire,
that we cannot brush off, no matter how hard we try.
Give us a sense of awe about them and speak to them
instead of stomping around trying to extinguish them.
When we see your gifts that you have distributed to others,
open our mouths to praise them, no matter what language we use,
with the trust that our words are capable of being understood.

People: Amen.

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

Concluding prayers:

Leader: Lord Jesus Christ, you rose again, conquering sin and death;
People: Empower us to be messengers of your light and glory.

Leader: We thank you, Lord God Almighty, for the miracles of Easter--stories of resurrection, recognition of your power, and the realization of the Incarnation of your Son that resides in each of us.

Remind us that we truly are an Easter people--that in each of our life chapters of exodus, exile, and repentance, resides a resurrection and a restoration.

When we feel the wind of your Holy Spirit, persuade us to merely hold out our hand and catch what your divine wind blows into it, to close our hand and hold it close, ingest it, and continue to spread it throughout the world. Make every day of our lives a Pentecost, to hear your word and speak it in many languages--the language of our willing hands, the language of our actions, and the language of a humble heart.

We ask these things of you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, forever and ever,

People: Amen.

Leader: This concludes our Stations of the Resurrection. Let us go in peace to love and serve the Lord.
People: Thanks be to God.

("Pentecost," by Sadao Watanabe)

The Thirteenth Station--Mary and the Disciples Wait in Prayer

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: Your mother and the eleven waited, but they were not sure why.

The disciples still could not wrap their brains around what just had happened. Jesus was gone again, but this time there was hope. Not knowing what else to do, they returned to Jerusalem, to the upper room, with Mary, and Jesus' brothers, and prayed--and waited--and prayed some more--and waited some more.

What did this all mean? What were they to do? Where were they to go? All eyes in the room looked at Mary. She was the closest thing they had to Jesus now. Mary looked back at them, trying to hold her composure, trying to appear steady for them. She had no idea what to tell them. She again thought back to that day the angel had announced that she was with child, and told her about Jesus. She knew this was finally all coming true. But what was she to tell the disciples? She had not received any special signs. But she knew the most important thing she could do right now is be their mother. She could not be Jesus, but she could be their mother, the mother of Jesus, and what these men needed most was a calm, unfluttered mother in the room.

Mary sat, and she prayed. She thanked God for the gift of her son. She asked God to speak to all in the room. She asked God to simply reveal his will. She had no worries about these sorts of things, she'd been in this territory before. But her heart ached for these young men. She could feel the yearning they had to follow Jesus in a way they knew he would be pleased. She could not speak for her son--but she could pray for his work to go forward in the disciples.

Once in a while she would peek at them during her prayers, and she breathed a sigh of relief. They did not appear anxious. They were earnestly prayerful, but not anxious, or fighting, or high-strung. Mary could not know exactly what was going to happen, but she knew something was in the air, in that age-old maternal way that mothers "just know."

Leader: Mary and the disciples sat, waited, and prayed;
People: They were unsure, but they were not fearful; hope filled the air.

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

Ever-patient God,
we thank you for that wonderous mixture
of Incarnation and humanity within us,
but sometimes we don't know what to do with it.
Teach us to wait and listen.
Patience is not a natural state for us,
but we desire to do your will.
When we are unsure,
comfort us to the place where we can sit still and pray.
Calm us enough to simply attune the ear of our hearts to you.
Let us look up in our apprehension
and see your Son's Blessed Mother,
a calm and consoling parent to our souls.

People: Amen.

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

("The Ascension of Christ," by Salvador Dali)

The Twelfth Station--The Ascension of Jesus

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You left our mortal coil again, but this time, in glory.

The disciples knew, as they stood there on the mountain with Jesus, that something was about to change. It brought an electric sense of excitement to the group, but it was excitement tinged with fear. Was he going to leave to create new bands of disciples? Was he going to give each of them God-like powers? What would be the chain of command among those who remained? Peter had been given a specific charge, but what about the rest of them? Certainly Jesus would explain this to them.

As they were rolling these thoughts around in their heads, suddenly a cloud appeared, and when the cloud was out of sight, so was Jesus. Instead, two men in white robes had appeared. Were they angels? "Men of Galilee," they told them, "Why do you stand looking up toward heaven? This Jesus, who had been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven."

Jesus had left them, with no further instructions. They were to figure it out on their own. But this time he had left them in glory, rather than through an indignant death. He had left them in the hope of new life rather than the darkness of death.

Leader: The cloud took Jesus from the disciples,
People: But the disciples were not abandoned; God's holy presence remained.

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

Mysterious God,
Just as the disciples were left with the presence of angels,
we are left in our daily walk not with your physical Son,
but with his presence and your presence.
We are also left with your trust--trust that we,
using our hearts and minds, can discern your will and your desires for us.
Sharpen our skills to sense your presence within us
and to willingly be led by it.
Help us to feel the glimmer of your Incarnation
when we find ourselves walking in places
that we would never take ourselves on our own.
Show us the angels in our midst.

People: Amen.

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

(Icon by Andrej Rublëv, 1408)

The Eleventh Station--Jesus Commissions the Disciples Upon the Mountain

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You told the eleven to make disciples of all nations.

Jesus took the eleven to the mountaintop and told them, "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Not everyone heard the message fully in their hearts. The passage says that "When they saw him, they worshiped him, but some doubted." We are not given a glimpse at which disciples doubted, but it's important to note that "they worshiped him anyway." They somehow were able not to let their doubts get in the way of believing in the reality of the risen Jesus.

Mixed emotions must have run high in the group that day. It probably wasn't hard to scan the faces of the group and see who was more pious, who was more doubtful, who was more attuned to a new state of being, and who was more apprehensive. The ones with doubts must have looked at the ones with stronger belief and thought, "What do those guys have what I don't? Or have they lost their mind?" The ones more committed to Jesus' message must have looked at the doubters, and thought, "What's wrong with you? Why don't you just do what Jesus says?" Perhaps they looked at each other and wondered how in the world they were going to stay together if Jesus was not around. He was sort of hinting he was going elsewhere. Why would he say, "I am with you always," if he wasn't planning to leave? Many of the disciples felt a gnawing in their gut that something was about to change, and it was a fearful gnawing. But it seemed important, somehow, that part of this was that they were to continue to worship Jesus together.

Leader: Jesus told the disciples he would be with them always,
People: And the disciples pondered the full meaning of his message.

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

Ever-present and living God,
your disciples worshiped together even they were not all of one mind
or one accord.
They could not totally understand each other's feelings,
but they somehow knew that worshiping Jesus together
was bigger than their individual differences.
Empower us each time we are called to worship
to put aside what separates each of us from the other,
and to trust in the power of a holy meal in shared sacred space,
to build bridges between us.
Turn our heads to fix our eyes upon your Son
instead of examining each other.

People: Amen.

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

("Jesus' Charge to Peter," stained glass window, St. Edith Church, Bishop Wilton, photo by Roger Walton)

The Tenth Station--Jesus Forgives Peter and Commands him to Feed His Sheep

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You forgave Peter and called him to greater things.

As Peter stayed in the periphery of the group, his heart ached and his mind was going back and forth. He wanted to be in the middle of it all and be his boisterous self. But his mind kept replaying the three times he had denied Jesus, the times he hid in the shadows, the times he feared for his own life instead of sticking up for Jesus. Loyalty was important to Peter, and he struggled with his own feelings of disloyalty to Jesus and to himself.

Jesus had noticed that Peter had been strangely quiet and a little distant. Sometimes he would notice Peter sitting at the far edge with that look of a person wanting to say something, wanting to express joy, but being "held back." He came up to Peter, put his hands on both his shoulders, looked him square in the eye, and said, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?"

Peter dropped his eyes obediently, partly because he started feeling tears well up in them. "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you."

"Then feed my lambs," Jesus replied. He took a hand and placed it under Peter's chin, so their eyes met, and cocked his head forward with a serious look. "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

Now Peter could not hold back his tears. He felt exposed and embarrassed that Jesus was calling attention to him in front of the others. He shook his head up and down emphatically. He didn't dare look anywhere except Jesus' face. He didn't want to see the looks of the others bearing down on him. "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you."

As Jesus let Peter's hot tears of embarrassment fall on his hand, he replied, "Tend my sheep." Then he placed both hands square on Peter's shoulders and for a third time asked, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?"

For a few moments, Peter said nothing and his chest heaved with each breath. Didn't Jesus get it? Didn't he understand how hard it was for him to answer when his own heart felt broken by his own feelings of betrayal? That he had denied him and hidden from the truth of who he was as one of his disciples, and now he was being put on the spot? The words came out this time in an explosive, painful sob. "Lord, you know everything; YOU KNOW THAT I LOVE YOU."

A huge smile crossed Jesus' face and Peter breathed a sigh of relief as Jesus squeezed his shoulders and nodded at him. "Then feed my sheep."

Peter's frustrated look also turned into a big grin. What he thought Jesus "wasn't getting," Peter realized HE was finally "getting it." Jesus was telling to stop worrying about what feelings were between THEM, but to pay that love for him forward.

Leader: Peter told Jesus that he loved him three times,
People: And his three denials no longer mattered.

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

Dearest Lord, you know everything there is to know about us,
yet sometimes we act like we are afraid you will see us at our worst.
We act like that recognition of us is a big surprise to you,
and will somehow separate us from you.
We know we are human,
yet think we can live up to the reputation of a deity.
In those moments, dear Lord,
call us out of the shadows,
Put your hands on our shoulders,
and remind us you only wish for us to say we love you
and embody the love of your Son in the world.

People: Amen.

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

("Christ at the Sea of Galilee," by Jacopo Robusti Tintoretto)

The Ninth Station--Jesus Appears by the Sea of Tiberias

Leader: O Risen Christ, Light of the world, we adore you;
People: You provided bounty for the disciples when none was expected.

Simon Peter sat and pondered all these events. The last few weeks had felt like a crazy dream. It was all so confusing. His emotions had been torn every which way, from fear to guilt to amazement. He knew he should feel joyful about seeing Jesus again--but it seemed all it did was stir up his own shame and guilt for denying Jesus three times. He needed some space to just think it all over.

He looked over at some of the disciples. "This all seems confusing, but I know what I need to do to sort it all out. I don't know about you all, but boys, I'm going fishing. Who wants to come?" Some of them thought that was a great idea. They could go out in the boat and just relax and be with each other but be involved more with the task.

As they were out there in the boat, Peter thought about how comforting it felt to simply be doing what he used to do before all this "disciple stuff" came about in his life. He didn't really care that he wasn't having a good day in terms of their catch. He peeled off his clothes and just enjoyed the dawning sun warming his naked skin.

Someone on the beach was calling to them. "Children, you have no fish, have you? Then cast your nets on the right side of the boat." They did, and suddenly they had more fish than they could manage. As the morning light grew, they recognized the man on the beach was Jesus. Suddenly, Peter became embarrassed again, threw on his robe and jumped into the sea.

Jesus called for them to bring their catch back to shore. The disciples coaxed Peter back into the boat, and they returned to shore with their huge haul of fish. As they cooked and ate them on the beach, Peter was unusually quiet, and hanging in the background. He was glad to be there. He was glad to be with Jesus. But he just wasn't entirely sure how to feel the full joy of Christ's presence, because he was not yet glad to be with himself.

Leader: When Jesus called for the disciples to return,
People: Peter still obeyed, despite his apprehension.

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

O God, author of the universe, provider of all things,
you place abundant bounty before us when we neither asked for it nor expected it.
Sometimes we are so inwardly focused on our own flaws
that we feel we are unworthy of such bounty
and feel too guilty to experience joy.
Embolden us to simply follow your call obediently
when we feel that way.
Meet us where we are, trepidation and all,
and help us to feel the safety that resides in your Son's presence
that can eventually overpower our discomfort.

People: Amen.

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



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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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