EASTER MESSAGE 2020 from Fr John
Dear St. James Community,
I don’t know how many times I have begun writing this year’s Easter Message. I was actually at one point on a second paragraph, when I said no, highlighted the whole draft and hit delete. I just did not know how to begin. After a plethora of introductions, I finally stepped back and asked myself, what do I want to convey to all of us, and this letter suddenly became crystal clear. The reason I write these letters each year is for the purpose of wishing you all and those you love, a Blessed Holy Week and a Joyous Eastertide. My friends, what I want to say to you in this message is, Happy Easter!
Today we begin the Easter Triduum, albeit slightly differently than we are accustomed to. These services or perhaps better stated, the service, for we celebrate these holy days beginning with the Maundy Thursday Liturgy, moving into Good Friday and culminating in Christ’s Resurrection, as one united service, is our most sacred time as Christian people. We move from quiet celebration, to deepest darkness, to Resurrection, Salvation, light. We remember over the course of the next hours, God bringing us over from death to life. Although we are in the midst of physical distancing and perhaps fear, although currently our lives and days proceed with a fair amount of uncertainty, although we cannot gather together as a community in this building, we still gather together, together my friends in heart and mind and soul whereby we commemorate and celebrate these Holy Days. And while these commemorations and celebrations conclude on Sunday, the celebration itself does not end but continues on, with the proclamation on our lips that has rung out through twenty one centuries, Christ is Risen!
Perhaps no more so than in these days as we traverse perilous times, is it so important to remember Easter is not simply a day, but an end to the Salvation story and at the same time the beginning of the Salvation story, an end and a beginning that we carry with us throughout life. It is this gift, Christ’s Resurrection, the richest manifestation of God’s love for us, which is always a part of our lives.
I know people who are suffering during this time from COVID-19, I know some who have been afflicted by COVID-19, I know people who have lost loved ones to this disease, and some who have lost multiple loved ones. We all deal with the fear of catching this disease ourselves. No matter what, my friends, no matter what we have gone through, what we are going through, what may come, we can all say Happy Easter today and everyday. While we celebrate Easter this Sunday, I remember a Seminary professor saying, “every Sunday is a ‘little Easter’ for every Sunday is a celebration of Easter, of Resurrection, of new life.” Let every day be for us little Easters, for the darkness of Good Friday, the darkest time in the history of our world, the darkest time brought about by us, humanity, has come to an end and it came to an end in life shed upon this world through Jesus’ unmatched, unending love for us, shown in His willingly drinking the cup given by the Father, that would set us free. Willingly going to His death, willingly enduring the cross and grave.
I walked into our Sanctuary on Monday to prepare for the service. I stood in the center aisle and my eyes were drawn to one of our stained glass windows.This evening this window was beautifully lit by the sunset, giving it this shimmering pinkish glow. It was the window of Jesus with His arms outstretched and a lamb by His side. I was flooded at that moment with who Jesus is. He is our shepherd, He is our leader, He is our friend, He is our Saviour, He is the one who gave us the promise “I am with you always! I am with you always, even to the end of the age” letting us know, that He, right now, this very moment, is walking with us, with you, side by side, arm in arm. He is the One who said to us, when Coronavirus strikes, when any adversity strikes, I am with you, for He is with us always. We know these words to be true my friends, because they are His words, His promise, and if we doubt them, we need look no further than the empty tomb, a tomb which was inhabited because, and now stands empty because, God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so loved the world, so loved us. That tomb was inhabited and now stands empty for one reason, God’s love for us. A love that is with us always, for Easter is with us always.
Right now our days are different, our times are different, our celebrations may be slightly different this year, but in the end all is the same this year as any year. For this Sunday, every Sunday, every day of the year we are blessed to remember and proclaim Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen indeed. My friends be safe and know we will get through these days of pandemic together, together with each other and with Our Risen Lord. I wish you and those you love a Blessed Easter Triduum, a Happy Easter and a Joyous Eastertide.
Yours In Christ,
Fr. John’s Easter Message 2019
On Shrove Tuesday I sometimes find myself in a state of reserved joy. I know in just a few short hours it will be Ash Wednesday and Lent and although a penitential season, Lent should not be a somber one. At the Ash Wednesday Service we are offered a special invitation. The Church invites us to a holy Lent. We are invited to enter into repentance, prayer, fasting, self denial, self reflection, meditation on the Scriptures or a combination of these to help prepare us, as was the original intent of this season begun in the fourth century, to enter into Holy Week and the Paschal feast, Easter. It was the ancient Church’s hope that through a time of preparation our hearts and souls would be all the more filled with the overwhelming sense of life that comes through our celebrations and commemorations that begin on Palm Sunday.
I received a letter from my Bishop many years ago around this time of year. He ended the letter saying, “I wish you a blessed Holy Week and a joyous Eastertide.” This was the first time I had ever been wished anything revolving around Holy Week, which I found comforting. Since then, I have often included a similar closing in different letters and writings I send out at this time of year. I will end this letter with a similar ending. However, instead of wishing everyone a blessed Holy Week as I have closed my Easter messages in the past, I will wish everyone a holy Holy Week.
Just as we are invited to a holy Lent, I would like to invite everyone to a holy Holy Week. It is only in engaging with Holy Week that we find the full power, majesty and love offered in the Resurrection. When we intentionally enter this blessed time of year, our Easter celebration is all the more vibrant, for what we celebrate on this day is life, yet not just any life, Resurrection life. The Church has given us Lent to prepare for Holy Week and Easter and the services of Holy Week have been developed around the mighty acts Jesus enters into as we approach Easter. We are invited to be with Jesus as He enters the Holy City Jerusalem waving palms. We are able to walk the streets of Jerusalem with Him during His final days and hours, hours especially recalled in the Stations of the Cross. We are invited to the Last Supper to receive the Sacrament He gave us to remember Him until He comes again. We scatter into the night in fear as He is arrested and His Passion begins. We hold vigil in remembrance of that dark night as we pass from Maundy Thursday into Good Friday. We are able to join Him on the road from His condemnation to His crucifixion to His entombment and at this time we are called on to reject Him for it was humanity that nailed Him to the cross, it was for our sin He died. However in our rejection we find just how deep His love for us runs, for He goes willing to death, forgives us our rejection, and three days later Rises from the dead so that we would be free from sin and death.
Life is very busy. Our time is filled with demands, schedules, deadlines. But in the midst of all of this busyness, I invite you to enter into a holy Holy Week, so that you can know God’s perfect freedom granted through God’s perfect love. The acts Christ entered into this week, the services the Church has given us to commemorate those acts, are celebrated throughout the week at St. James and I hope you can all make it to some if not all of these services. However, if your time prohibits you from making it to Church, enter this period on your own, taking time during these days to remember what Jesus went through this week so that when you stand at the empty tomb on Easter, you perceive it is empty for you, it is empty for all of us, for Jesus Rose so that we would be free; free from sin, free from death and we can experience that freedom today.
I look forward to greeting you at our Holy Week and Easter services, I pray for safe travels for those traveling to and from Amesbury, and I wish you and your loved ones a holy Holy Week and a joyous Eastertide.
Yours in Christ,
Fr. John’s Sermons