Saturday, April 07, 2012

Holy Saturday II

The shadows are drawing long on Holy Saturday.

Holy Saturday

From this morning's Gospel reading:
When it was evening, there came a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who was also a disciple of Jesus. He went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus; then Pilate ordered it to be given to him. So Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a clean linen cloth and laid it in his own new tomb, which he had hewn in the rock. He then rolled a great stone to the door of the tomb and went away. Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were there, sitting opposite the tomb.

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, "Sir, we remember what that impostor said while he was still alive, `After three days I will rise again.' Therefore command the tomb to be made secure until the third day; otherwise his disciples may go and steal him away, and tell the people, `He has been raised from the dead,' and the last deception would be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard of soldiers; go, make it as secure as you can." So they went with the guard and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone.

The day that had been was like few ever experienced on this blue orb circling the sun. Outside the city walls of Jerusalem, a cosmic collision of the temporal and eternal took place, affixed to a cruel Roman cross. In the eyes of some, it may have appeared as the death of a desperate hope of throwing off the yoke of Imperial Rome. To others, it represented the messy death of a wide-eyed Sophist. Still to others, it appeared as the timely demise of a troublesome meddler who was bent on usurping a culture and religious system. Irrespective a body, now still and lifeless, hung between heaven and earth. The eyes that stare in from outside of our timeline saw something completely apart. To these eyes, there on Golgotha's hill hung the only propitiatory offering that could satisfy a Holy and Just God. Just moments prior, this God-man suspended above the earth cried out "Tetelestai"! The debt for sins ancient and future were paid. The God-man then stepped out of our timeline and willingly yielding his life back into the hands of the Father.

Those who were devoted to the decedent now had approximately three hours to see to the matter and in doing so, would render themselves ceremonially unclean for the coming feast Yet in their devotion, they sought the body of Jesus who might have otherwise been cast into the burning garbage dump outside of the city walls, gehenna. Instead of becoming food for carrion, the remains of the Christ were lovingly laid in a rich man's tomb.

Now, on the next day, the Jewish priestly aristocracy was nervous. They knew that in spite of the Christ's resounding declaration, that this was far from over. With the Roman governor's approval, the tomb was sealed with the signet of Imperial Rome. This seal was a dire warning to would be hoaxers that should they attempt to steal Christ's remains, they would suffer the same fate as the one lying on the other side of the stone.

From the standpoint of the Apostolic band, this had to be a crushing day. One of their own had handed Jesus over to the authorities and was now dead by his own hands. Their "class president" made a profanity-laced denial of their Master and was now living with the disgrace. The rest were hiding somewhere in the city, for fear that perhaps after the feast, they would be next.

Yet, we soon learn just how one day changes everything.

Friday, April 06, 2012

Good Friday II

I didn't deserve this... Thank you though. Help me to live in the light of so great, so perfect of gift

Good Friday

Praying this Morning's Collect:
Almighty God, we pray you graciously to behold this your family, for whom our Lord Jesus Christ was willing to be betrayed, and given into the hands of sinners, and to suffer death upon the cross; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Were the weather on that dire day anything like the weather experienced in Jerusalem this afternoon, it would have been clear with temperatures in the mid 80’s. This would certainly been warm enough to take the chill out of the air experienced before dawn when St. Peter made his fireside denial. So its no wonder that that St. Luke, physician and keen observer of history, made specific reference to the preternatural darkness that descended over Jerusalem for three hours. Perhaps, as it is in the case of modern executions, this was the LORD's way of closing the curtain in order to shield creation from the agony of its creator. Perhaps. What is known however is that the very icon, or expression of the inexpressible God was now suspended between earth and the heavens. The very fact that the Christ was still alive at this point was its own miracle.

Jesus had now been awake for close to thirty hours. During this, he had suffered crushing emotional distress to the point that the capillaries feeding his face ruptured, allowing holy blood to leech out of his pores. He had been pummelled and beaten in the facial areas to the point that most did not recognize him. At the hand of the Roman cohort, he received a brutal beating that few survived. Then, after carrying a 100 pound plus beam out of the city, he was then nailed to a Roman cross. (And we whine over a paper cut?)

Suspended, He endured the mocking of the many, ranging from those sharing his fate, to those in the religious establishment. The one who could have mustered heaven's power to shatter the earth into space dust, simply interceded for his tormentor's forgiveness. Naked, he was robbed of all his rightful heavenly splendor as the sins of humanity fell on his shoulders with the force of a pile driver. In the midst of this agony, he sensed the absence of the Heavenly Father as he quoted Psalm 22.

Some point before 3:00 PM, Christ raised himself on the nails that impaled his hands and declared "It is finished!" Moments later and rising on the nails one last time, he commended his spirit into the Father's hands. What did Mary or John see? What did the other women observe? Whatever it may have been was punctuated by the violent shaking of a planet in mourning.

Perhaps God cried...

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Wednesday in Holy Week

From this morning's Gospel:
At supper with his friends, Jesus was troubled in spirit, and declared, "Very truly, I tell you, one of you will betray me." The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he was speaking. One of his disciples-- the one whom Jesus loved-- was reclining next to him; Simon Peter therefore motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. So while reclining next to Jesus, he asked him, "Lord, who is it?" Jesus answered, "It is the one to whom I give this piece of bread when I have dipped it in the dish." So when he had dipped the piece of bread, he gave it to Judas son of Simon Iscariot. After he received the piece of bread, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, "Do quickly what you are going to do." Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. Some thought that, because Judas had the common purse, Jesus was telling him, "Buy what we need for the festival"; or, that he should give something to the poor. So, after receiving the piece of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

St. John paints an interesting picture of the unfolding betrayal. Of the eleven faithful disciples, only St. Peter and the evangelist are initially aware of that Judas, the man from Kerioth, is about to betray the Master. In fact, the remaining nine seem to thing that the Teacher has sent their brother out on a charity, or chow run. No, this was hardly the case.
Judas, according to Matthew's account, had in fact already agreed to throw the master to his enemies and was paid well for the deed. Now, he simply had to work out the logistics of making sure that Caiaphas's goons would make it to the garden in time to collar the Christ.

There are volumes of apologetic works explaining or conjecturing just why Judas betrayed the Master but in truth, these are little more than thin whitewash. Both scripture, and Judas' own conduct would tell us a different story. Mr. Iscariot was motivated by the same things that tweak fallen humanity today: greed, recognition, fleeting fame, the list goes on.:

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Tuesday in Holy Week

From this morning's Gospel reading:
"Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say-- `Father, save me from this hour'? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name." Then a voice came from heaven, "I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again." The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said, "An angel has spoken to him." Jesus answered, "This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself."

So much had happened in a few dozen hours; a man dead four days was walking among the living, the words of Zechariah 9:9 had been fulfilled and now the voice of God the Father was rolling like thunder. Doubtless, many of those gathered in Jerusalem for the passover may have sensed in their hearts that they were on the cusp of something epic, something that was paradigm-shifting. Yet for all of this, the Christ is standing center stage, with a heart that grows heavier with each beat.

A heavy heart is not an enviable possession and I have to confess that I have been living through a season of heavy heartedness for some time, but this thought isn't about me and I digress.

What weighed on Christ's heart? Was it the knowledge that in less than 72 hours, he would become the recipient of 15 hours of hell on earth? Was it knowing that the city where he stood would be leveled and her residents the recipients of imperial genocide? I suspect that what was occurring at present was certainly a cause for sorrow. At this point, the city was swelling and surging as pilgrims filled Jerusalem in preparation for the Passover. The lion's share of those coming for the Lamb of Passover would ultimately reject the Lamb of God.