Thursday, April 30, 2020

e-vo for April 30

Dearest e-votees,

In the Daily Lectionary that is found in the ELW there are daily readings appointed.  We are in Year A (first of a 3 year cycle) and one of the appointed readings for the Thursday before Easter 4 is Exodus 2:15b-25.  It is a story of Moses.



But Moses fled from Pharaoh. He settled in the land of Midian, and sat down by a well. 16 The priest of Midian had seven daughters. They came to draw water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 But some shepherds came and drove them away. Moses got up and came to their defense and watered their flock. 18 When they returned to their father Reuel, he said, “How is it that you have come back so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian helped us against the shepherds; he even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “Where is he? Why did you leave the man? Invite him to break bread.” 21 Moses agreed to stay with the man, and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah in marriage. 22 She bore a son, and he named him Gershom; for he said, “I have been an alien residing in a foreign land.”
23 After a long time the king of Egypt died. The Israelites groaned under their slavery, and cried out. Out of the slavery their cry for help rose up to God. 24 God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. 25 God looked upon the Israelites, and God took notice of them.

Exodus 2:15b-25, NRSV

This is a story that can easily be lost.  It comes after Moses is born, cast into the river and rescued by Pharoah's daughter (hence the name Moses which means "drawn out of the water"--see Exodus 2:10).  It also comes after the account of Moses coming to the defense of a Hebrew slave by killing an Egyptian slavemaster and burying him in the sand.  Pharoah had heard about this transgression and was looking to kill Moses and so Moses was on the lam.

It comes just before the account of the burning bush.  Where God declares "I am that I am" or "I will be what I will be" and sets Moses apart to be the agent of deliverance for the Hebrew people through the plagues and the Passover.  Moses is given his calling to ministry on behalf of God.

This account of Moses at the well is in some ways just an ordinary tale of a man sitting at a well during the day.  He is resting and watching and here comes seven women, including Zipporah Moses' future wife, who are daughters of the priest Reuel (aka Jethro--see: 

These women come under attack from local shepherds.  Moses comes to their defense and offers their flock life-giving water.  He breaks bread with the women and their family and he meets his wife.  Life and relationship come about through the deliverance at the well. 

I can't help but connect this account to Jesus taking a rest at a well in John 4.  He is sitting at a well that was attributed to Jacob (another shepherd of the Old Testament).  The woman comes to the well during the heat of the day (presumably to avoid coming under attack from others due to her circumstance)  Jesus brings a word of deliverance and promises life-giving water.  Life and relationship come about through deliverance at the well.

Most of us won't be miraculously plucked from the waters and enter into the household of the seat of power to begin fulfilling a divine, history-altering calling this day.  Most of us won't strike up a consequential conversation with burning foliage today.  We will be about more ordinary things.  We will tend chores and relationships.  We will whittle away at to-do lists and perhaps long for things to be different than they are.

The disciples were out shopping (whittling away their to-do list) and Jesus was tending relationships at the well.  Through those seemingly simple and rather run-of-the-mill actions life and relationship were sustained.

May we all be blessed this day as we sit by the well, strike up conversations and come to the defense of those under all manner of siege.

Jesus, meet us at the well.  Let your life-giving waters flow into, through and out of us.  Bring life and relationship, healing and deliverance.  Amen.

Monday, April 27, 2020

e-vo for April 27

Dearest e-votees,

This coming Sunday (the 4th Sunday of Easter) is also known as Good Shepherd Sunday.  Just after the gospel Jesus self-identifies as the "Good Shepherd" and the appointed psalm is the familiar and beloved Psalm 23.



You may recall when Jesus was having an exchange with some of the religious leaders of his day.  Jesus said to them "Before Abraham was, I am."  (see John 8:58, NRSV).  The response of the people was to take up stones wanting to stone him to death.  What they heard in "I am" was a divine claim whose tendrils stretched all the way back to the burning bush and Moses.  Moses asked the bush who he should say he was talking to should anyone ask.  The bush answered "I am that I am" or "I will be what I will be".  When Jesus said that he preexisted Abraham (nee Abram) and self-identified as "I am" that was blasphemy.  He needed to be dispatched.

There are a string of "I am..." statements from Jesus in the gospel of John.  One of them is immediately after our gospel lesson for this coming Sunday--John 10:11a:  "I am the good shepherd."   Jesus is asserting divinity with the "I am" and making a contrast between himself as "good shepherd" and the "hired hand".  (compare to Ezekiel 34).  Jesus is asserting that he is the kind of shepherd we need in contrast to the kind of shepherd we have had.

Psalm 23 states that the Lord is our shepherd.  His rod and staff bring comfort to us.  He leads us beside still waters.  He anoints us in the presence of our enemies.  Our futures are secure in him.

If Jesus is the shepherd then we are the sheep.  That is not a kind comparison.  Sheep are rather daft and self-absorbed.  They can march themselves into trouble obliviously eating one tuft at a time until their immediate hungers have separated themselves from the safety of the flock.  Sometimes sheep need the coercion of the rod and the staff.  There is no mention of if we are sheep that are exemplary or embarassing.  The point isn't about the sheep.  It is all about the shepherd.

The point is that Jesus is the shepherd.  Jesus is the one that will leave the 99 and go retrieve the one that snacked his way into peril.  Jesus will put himself between the predator and the sheep.  In fact in a twist of roles, Jesus, as the Good Shepherd, became like a sheep.  He went silently to the slaughter to become a sin offering.  He lived out the Passover dying as the firstborn son and shedding his blood to provide safety and deliverance for those for whom he died.  Jesus is not the hired hand.  Jesus shows us the full extent of God's love by bearing the rod and the staff of the Roman empire and laying down his life for the flock.

Jesus came that we might have life and have it abundantly.  It came through his life, ministry, agonizing death and resurrection.  May we never forget or diminish what our Good Shepherd has done in laying down his life for us, his sheep.

Jesus, come into our our sheepish lives and grant us abundant life.  Amen.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

e-vo for April 23

Dearest e-votees,

Our hymnal, Evangelical Lutheran Worship aka ELW aka the cranberry hymnal, has a daily lectionary which starts on page 1121.  Today is the Thursday after the 2nd Sunday of Easter so our appointed readings for today are Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19, Isaiah 25:1-5 and 1 Peter 1:8b-12.



Isaiah 25:4a says:

For you have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress, a shelter from the rainstorm and shade from the heat.  (NRSV)

Those who are impoverished realize that they don't have what they need on their own to survive.  They are willing to seek assistance and shelter (refuge) from those who can help them.  Pride has its place but so does shelter from the elements and food in the belly.

Those who are needy and in distress realize that the circumstances are bigger than they can wrestle their way out of.  They are willing to seek food, funds, clothing and whatever else might tend to their needs:  physical, emotional and spiritual.  They seek refuge.

The truth is all of us are impoverished in one way or another.  All of us are needy and lacking in one way or another.  Martin Luther on the day before his death wrote a note saying "We are all beggars, that is true."  We need help.  We need care.  We need love.  We need respite.  We need refuge.

We need shelter.

There is an Irish proverb that says in the shelter of each other the people live.  Jars of Clay has a marvelous song based on this proverb called "Shelter".  I would invite you to give the song a listen.

God calls us together to be shelter for one another.  It may be hard or even seem impossible with all of the strains and distresses of COVID-19.  But what is impossible for us is possible for God.

Jesus, come into our poverty and our needs and give us shelter.  Help us grow in being shelter for one another.  Amen.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

e-vo for April 21

Dearest e-votees,

So I have decided that starting with the next e-vo I will be posting them on Mondays and Thursdays.  Sorry for the smushy start into a posting rhythm.  

As always, if you have questions, comments or responses to an e-vo they are welcome.  Please feel free to mail me at:

Have a blessed day.



Last Sunday's text, John 20:19-31 about the encounter with "doubting" Thomas, was referred to at seminary at the intern Sunday text.  That is because the supervising pastors would quite often take the Sunday after Easter off and the homiletical responsibilities would fall to the intern.

Last Sunday we had the pleasure of our bishop, James Hazelwood, provide a message so I was granted a virtual Sunday off for which I am grateful.

There is work to do in the church.  There is work to do IN the church.  The church hasn't been all it has been called to be.  Scandals, personality cults, fiefdoms, power games, hypocrisy, gatekeeping and the like delight the devil and hamper the reign of God work we are called to share.

In the church, within and through her members, there is work to do.  We have been called, redeemed, sanctified, equipped and released to do ministry to those who darken our doors and those who live in the dark fringes--feeding the hungry, comforting the afflicted, ministering to the sick and dying, preaching release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, visiting those in prison, clothing the naked (see Mathew 25 and also Luke 4:18 (which is Jesus reading out of Isaiah 61:1)).  We are called to look beyond ourselves and outside our church walls to do the work that is granted to us through baptism and a life of discipleship.

Sometimes we have to get out of the way to let  other people rise to the occasion and do what we can't or won't--and maybe even in a better way than we could have imagined.  Intern Sunday is an opportunity for a new voice to be given central place.  "Doubting" Thomas gives us a glimpse into a different and perhaps more authentic way to struggle with the incredible claims of Easter.  Perhaps the people who usually do things are detained or constrained by COVID-19 and God is calling you to step up and step out.  What do you think?

The initial move of the faithful is always one of repentance.  We turn from what we have let fester IN the church.  We turn away from ourselves towards God and those made in God's image.  We trust that God has made a way and will lead us faithfully into the work and ministry that has been ordained for us.  How about it?  Up for some repentance?

Jesus, disrupt our brokenness and our plans.  Heal us and equip us and send us out.  Amen.

Friday, April 17, 2020

e-vo for April 15ish

Dearest e-votees,

I must confess I am having trouble getting back into the rhythm of posting e-vos in a timely fashion.  Truth be told it is hard to maintain our regular rhythms and patterns during this extended homestay due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nonetheless, here is the midweek(?) e-vo.



The disciples spent 3 years with Jesus.  They lived an itinerant lifestyle so there was always some degree of unsettling, resettling and adjustment.  Nevertheless there was certainly patterns of meals, chores, teaching, learning doing ministry.  Jesus and the disciples were in close physical proximity for a very extended period of time.

And then, suddenly, Jesus was no longer with them.  Deeply unsettling and needing major adjustment.  And then, just as suddenly, Jesus was back among them--risen from the grave.  Again, deeply unsettling and needing major adjustment.

Jesus comes bringing words of peace.  He eats with his disciples.  He shows them his wounds.  The disciples believe and doubt.  Grief can do funny things and maybe they're not entirely convinced things are as they appear.  And if Jesus is truly risen from the dead things can't go back to normal?  How can you unsee something that profound and that miraculous?

For mental well-being and just to manage with all the details of life we need patterns.  Things go where they are supposed to go.  Things happen when they are supposed to happen.  Rules are put into place and abided for the good of the order.

But Jesus seems intent on disrupting the patterns.  His corpse went where it was supposed to go but it didn't stay there.  As Michael Card sang "eternity stepped into time" and our schedules and time has never been the same.  Biological and religious rules were trumped by the life, ministry, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit was sent to keep us from settling back into unhealthy patterns but rather to keep stirring things up as Jesus did.  There is a quote by Andrew Greeley:  "Jesus and his troublemaking go merrily on".  Amen and amen.

Jesus, come to us again (and again and again).  Upset our patterns and frames that draw us away from you.  Make us an Easter people.  Amen.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Evening e-vo

Dearest e-votees,

We have reached the end of Holy Week.  There are not only appointed texts for Easter morning but also for the evening of Easter.  The appointed gospel for tonight is Luke 12:13-49.  It is the account of Jesus appearing to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and his subsequent appearance to the disciples in Jerusalem.

The texts talk about Jesus explaining the scriptures and how the spoke of him.  The text also talks about Jesus opening the minds of the disciples so that they could understand the scriptures.

How about you?  Do you have a handle on everything that has led up to this high holy day of Easter?  Do you have a sufficient grasp on all of the relevant scriptures?  For me, I welcome Jesus to keep opening them up to me by the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.  Will you set a welcome mat for visitations from the Holy Spirit?




Our scriptures (the books of the Old Testament and the New Testament) span many generations, many cultures, many locations and many source languages.  We can and should study them.  We should welcome others around the table with more developed understandings, with differing understandings of how scripture can be taken into our lives and we should avail ourselves of opportunities to learn.  Our postures can be like that of Mary sitting at Jesus' feet while Martha fumes, like Nicodemus seeking Jesus in the evening and like the disciples asking the unrevealed Jesus to stay for dinner.  There are times and opportunities to afford ourselves of the opening and comprehension of scripture.  This is good and salutary.

I find, at times, wondering about the parts of the stories that were left on the editing room floor.  We have the birth of Jesus and escaping from Herod, we then skip until an upstart at age twelve Jesus is impressing those in the Temple and then we jump to Jesus in his thirties beginning his 3-year public ministry.  I would have greatly appreciated a little more back story about Jesus' formative years and his voyage through puberty into young adulthood and beyond.  There are some apocryphal bits that offer a few stories but they seem to add more confusion and don't shed any real light--hence their exclusion from the canonical scriptures.  Given we take Jesus to be fully human (and fully divine) I would love some insight into how he did what is so confusing, troubling and full of regrets for many of us--growing out of the larval stage of being human.

But I find our gospel passage for tonight even more frustrating.  Jesus started with Moses and the prophets and explained what all the scriptures said about himself.  Would it have killed the two on the road with the help of the Holy Spirit to capture some of that teaching?  Even a Cliff notes version would be beyond helpful.  After the two ran back to Jerusalem Jesus again appears and opens the minds of all the disciples so that they could understand the scriptures.  Again, the gathered crew and the Holy Spirit seemed to have neglected distilling the revelation into a sharable form.  I am less than pleased.

I don't think or believe God is too concerned with my critique.  God comes to us and reveals God's self on God's terms.  That is part of the deal when you are God--you control the stage lights and the microphone levels.  How does God aka Jesus reveal himself in tonight's gospel?  First, scriptures are opened (which opens hearts)--that still works.  That is part of my own faith journey.  Second, God is revealed in the breaking of the bread.  I can't help but connect that to communion.  That was a palpable absence this year in our streaming Holy Week services.  Third, God is revealed in the mystery.  Jesus just vanishes from their presence.  God comes and goes on God's terms.  We can't keep God in a tomb or a room or trick question or a conversation without God's cooperation.  Fourth, God comes speaking and revealing peace.  Reconciliation that happened through Jesus' life and on the cross is of paramount importance.  Fifth, God is revealed in the physicality of Jesus.  He shows his scars and wounds from Holy Week.  He is resurrected and renewed but still bears the marks of his human journey. God is revealed in eating fish.  That was a demonstration that he is back among us in bodily form.  God is one of us.  We lose sight of Jesus' humanity to our own peril.  Sixth, God is revealed in an ongoing fashion through the work of the Holy Spirit--the power from on high that clothes us.  We are clothed in Christ and in that same Holy Spirit in baptism.

Blessed Easter to you and yours.  May Jesus interrupt you and teach you and feed you when God sees fit--on God's terms.  Blessings on your study of the words and mysteries of God.  Blessings on your deepening connections to the most truly human Jesus.  Blessings on your deepening connections to the most truly divine Jesus. Blessings on your sacramental life through baptism and communion.  I am glad you are on this journey of faith.  It is good to have traveling companions.

Jesus, come to us again (and again and again).  Come to us, reveal yourself to us and through us.  Amen.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

e-vo for mid Holy Week

Dearest e-votees,

Blessings to you and yours during this Holy Week where we are hunkered down in fear ( [ ] = terror [ ] = respectful awe (check all that apply) ) not of the Romans and the religious leaders but of COVID-19. This is a strange Holy Week indeed. You might find This Easter Celebration by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette of interest. Many churches and church members are doing what they can to flip over to new means of worship--may God's grace and are own patience and charity abound for all of us during these changes.

Wherever we may be locked away Jesus is coming. Maundy Thursday Jesus prepared his disciples by instituting communion, washing their feet, giving them the commandment to love one another (which is what the "Maundy" is about). Good Friday Jesus paid the full and sufficient price for our salvation and redemption. Easter Vigil is when the church waited in hope, fear, doubt and faith (perhaps we can relate) to see if Jesus' resurrection promises were reliable. Easter is when Jesus rose from the dead as a foretaste of our own resurrections. Jesus is coming. He will find us locked away in fear, in hiding, in quarantine and practicing a safe physical distance. He will come with his traditional greeting of "Peace be with you." May we all know, experience, abide and share that peace during these less-than-peaceful times.



FEAR can have several meanings.

FEAR can be terror or fright. I remember the first time I went swimming after unwisely watching Jaws. I was seeing dorsal fins (I think I was swimming in a fresh water lake but that's besides the point) and abounding with fear. I was terrified that a shark might come and get me. You can only see so much when you're in the water and swimming suits offer not so much protection. Clearly I am not alone in such fear of the apex predators as evidenced by a whole cottage industry of shark movies including: Jaws and its sequels, The Meg, Open Water, the ridiculous Sharknado franchise and Soul Surfer (the latter being a remarkable story of faith and perseverance, worth putting on your queue) and so very many (and some very unnecessary) others. We've all got to eat and the thought that we might end up on someone else's dinner plate terrifies us. (another one for your queue is the classic Twilight Zone episode "To Serve Man").

FEAR can be a deep, respectful or reverential awe. When you find yourself being pulled by undertow while in the ocean you have a sense of being in the presence something much more powerful than yourself. Wisely applied fear just might get you past a circumstance that might otherwise do you in. Our reptilian brains know that fight or flight is sometimes the best option (which evidences fear of both sorts). The annals of the Darwin Awards (given posthumously to people who have removed themselves from the gene pool) are replete with people with insufficient fear. Our adoration of celebrity might be a manifestation of this second sense of fear. People falling down as if dead in the presence of angels or in reverence of the presence of Jesus (particularly the post-resurrection Jesus) manifest this fear as well.

We are living in fearful times. But the Bible says in 1 John 4:18 that perfect love casts out fear. Jesus is the fulfillment and manifestation of God's perfect love. Death will get us, if not COVID-19 then something else, but not even death, according to Romans 8:38-39, can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Rather than fearing being consumed by Jesus we are invited and welcomed to consume him through bread and wine; body and blood. For as often as we eat this bread and drink this cup, as Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 11:26, we proclaim Jesus' death until he comes again. I'll grant you that we aren't communing as often as I would like these days but "this, too, shall pass". Let us proclaim Jesus' death until he comes again. Jesus is coming liturgically this Sunday at Easter. Jesus is coming into our very lives and circumstances as Jesus always does. Jesus is coming at the end of all time. Amen, come Lord Jesus.

Jesus, come to us again (and again and again). And speak to us your traditional greeting: "Peace be with you". Amen.

Sunday, April 5, 2020

e-vo for [ ] Palm [ ] Passion Sunday (choose one)

Dearest e-votees,

The readings that we use on most Sunday come from what is called the Revised Common Lectionary. It provides for each Sunday (and some special weekdays) an OT (Old Testament) reading, something from the Psalms, a NT (New Testament) reading (often from the epistles, or letters, but not always) and a reading from one of the four gospels. It is a 3-year cycle--one year emphasizing Luke, one Matthew and one Mark. John is sprinkled in occasionally throughout.

Some Sundays have two sets of lections. Sometimes it is because we recognize a particular saint on a fixed date which sometimes overlaps with the Sundays and rhythms of the church year. And then there's a day like today. We have a choice to make. Do we want to focus on the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem and perhaps the cleansing of the Temple and linger there? If so, today is Palm Sunday. Do we want to take in the entire scope of the week from Palm Sunday through Easter Vigil? If so today is Passion Sunday. We have a choice to make. What's your druthers?



Sometime the choice comes down to the economy of time. If we run through the whole on a Sunday morning then people are well-prepared for coming to Easter the next Sunday. People can experience, albeit quickly, the entire texture and context of the week. When I took Film Study in high school I learned that to really study a movie you need to watch it at least twice. The first time lays out the basic trajectory of the story and introduces characters and themes. It shows you in broad strokes the story. The second time you watch is with a trained eye looking for finer details. Spoiler alert: In the movie The Sixth Sense there is a boy who sees dead people. There are very specific rules that apply in this world to how dead people can and can't interact with the living. You learn all that in the first screening. The second time you watch you know from the start who is dead and who is not. You can now watch the movie to see if the filmmakers and actors abided with the rules of this world. Passion Sunday is about catching the themes, broad strokes and characters of Jesus' final pre-resurrection week on earth. There is merit and importance in this first screening.

One of the very practical considerations in most years is that not too many people will come back for services mid-week. So, if you opt for Palm Sunday you essentially go from party to party (triumphal entry to triumphant resurrection) without the important intermediary details of Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Vigil. If people are only able or willing to come on Sundays perhaps Passion Sunday is the way to go.

But Passion Sunday is kind of like drinking out of a fire hose. There is so much detail that is covered and it is hard to linger and abide in the important portions of the week. Each and every day of worship in Holy Week is powerful. It is a character that has something to say and convey to help the story be properly rendered. In Palm Sunday and the following days of the week we can really learn and engage the rules of the world of Holy Week. We can learn each character intimately and find the truths in them. We can abide with Peter, Judas, Jesus, Pilate, Pilate's wife, the earliest witnesses of the empty tomb, the crowd crying "Crucify him!" and even Barabbas. We can find where we resonate with each of these characters as well. Palm Sunday --> Maundy Thursday --> Good Friday --> Easter Vigil --> Easter is a slow and methodical way to have a "second screening" (or even more screenings) of Holy Week.

One of the realities of this year is that we have a lot more time than we usually do on our hands. If we are under stay-at-home orders and practicing physical distancing we have opportunity to linger in Holy Week more than usual. We can't do it in one another's physical presence but we can linger in the stories together. We can even dare to wash one another's feet of those on lock-down with us on Thursday. We can linger in the 7 last words of Christ and engage a remembrance of shadows on Friday. We can linger in the important family stories of the Easter Vigil and in baptismal remembrance on Saturday. We can embrace the good news of the empty tomb with a focus that many years don't allow when our week culminates on Sunday. Will we?!?

There are rules in our world for how we do or don't interact with dead people as there are in The Sixth Sense. Dead people are supposed to stay dead. When our time comes, through COVID-19 or whatever else eventually gets us, our time is over. When we are good and dead (not mostly dead as in The Princess Bride) the story is done for us. But Lazarus being resuscitated last week showed hints of the rules coming undone. And Jesus rising from the dead tore up the rulebook entirely. If we want to be people of this new and life-giving story we have to put in the time at the feet of the master storyteller, Jesus, the Word. Will we?!? How many screenings can you manage?

God, help us choose to linger and abide with you during this pivotal week in the history of the world and in our own faith journeys. Amen.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

e-vo for April 1

Dearest e-votees,

Have you ever has a special occasion that you really wanted to do up right? You had plans and intentions to make commemoration and to bring honor? An occasion that was calling you to rise and respond?

Have you ever had such an occasion not live up to your own anticipation? Maybe you couldn't pull off your plans. Maybe you pulled off your planned flawlessly yet the response of the recipients was lackluster. Your big day feels like a big flop.

You are not alone.



There is an episode of the Ellen show that is seared into my memory. It was Thanksgiving, I think, and Ellen was hosting the meal. Her stove was broken. She was fixing Cornish game hens. So she had a Cornish game hen in each of her apartment neighbors' stoves. Her friend was coming over and bringing a guest. It turns out the guest was Martha Stewart the entertaining and culinary deity. And everything that could go wrong did. I won't spoil it for you. (If you want to track it down the episode from season 3 on Amazon (only $0.99). It is called "Salad Days" and it aired in November 15, 1995. Suffice it to say things were spectacularly awful. Ellen tried so hard to have things come together. She wanted to look good. She wanted to impress her guests. She wanted to pull off something Martha Stewartesque. She didn't. The gracious line as the episode ends is worth the cost of admission. Grace is a healing balm to an anxious soul.

We have a series of special occasions on the horizon--Holy Week. We have 5 worship services to commemorate the final week of Jesus' pre-resurrection ministry. There's the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday with the tumbling of the coin changers table. There's Maundy Thursday with the Last Supper, the washing of the disciples feet and the great command that we love one another. There's the torturous trial, condemnation and execution of Jesus on Good Friday. There's the waiting between Good Friday and Easter known as the Easter Vigil--the time the church has populated with story telling, music, communion and new fire. There's the celebration of Easter itself with all of the joy, feasting, finery and marvelous singing in honor of our Lord and Savior who couldn't be held down in the grave.

These are days we really want to get right. We have plans and intentions to make commemoration and to bring honor to Jesus. Easter is one of the highest days of church attendance and participation of the entire year. Normally we bring out the musicians and the beautiful paraments throughout the week. On Easter there is brass and lilies and eating and joyous worship. The intimacy of Maundy Thursday is one of the high points of the church year for me. But this year we won't be able to have things just as we would want them. Closed buildings, forced distance and contrived electronic connections just aren't the same. We want to have things come together. We want to look good. We want to roll out the hospitality for our guests. We want to pull off something worthy of God and edifying to all. We won't. Or at least not as we usually do. This year is different. This year's empty tomb will be darkened by the shadow of COVID-19. Some of us might be anxious and want to pull it off regardless through our own strength and machinations and of those we compel to help us (think Martha and Mary). Our anxiety might be flaring. Jesus has a gracious word for us--"Peace be with you". Grace is a healing balm to an anxious soul.

One of my favorite books about the faith is by the author Matt Mikalatos. He wrote My Imaginary Jesus: The Spiritual Adventures of One Man Searching for the Real God. It is a strange and thoughtful and evocative book. It is really hard to summarize it. There is a trailer for the book which you are welcome to watch if you dare. I bring this book up because Chapter 36, "Dinner with the President" manages to capture the anxiety of "Salad Days" with the servant example of Jesus on Maundy Thursday. It will be part of our Maundy Thursday streaming service this year as we have permission from the author to play that chapter from the audio book. I hope you will bring yourself, your whimsy and your curiosity to our service. It will premiere at our MLC Facebook page at 7:00 PM, EST. Please come if you can.

God, anxiety and fear are readily on hand these days. Holy Week seems daunting and perhaps even impossible to do well. Bring your grace, your healing balm, to our anxious and troubled souls. Speak to us again "Peace be with you." Amen.