Saturday, March 30, 2013

Easter Eggs and other signs

 A reflection on the Gospel of Luke 24:1-12 for Easter morning, year C

The darkness of Good Friday has passed. The pain and suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane is over.

The tomb is split open and Jesus is on the move again. In this parish we symbolize the signs of the resurrection in a variety of ways.

Gone is the simplicity of Lent, the barren features of our worship space and the glass chalices.

Gone is the hearty rye bread and the dry burgundy wine.

In its place we have our finest silver, and a light white bread with a sweet wine.

Gone are the dried sunflowers and rocks.

And the chest at the foot of the altar….

All of Lent this chest has been closed and locked,

holding within it the “Allelulia’s” our children created,

and symbolizing Jesus’ tomb…..

Now  - with the celebration of Easter the chest is burst open, the Allelulia’s are released,

(and proclaimed in beautiful array on the bulletin board in the hallway)…

the chest has fallen to its side,  eggs pouring out.

Easter eggs are a primary sign of Easter. They come from a very long, ancient custom in which eggs were a symbol of new life.

Decorated eggs come from an ancient Persian custom for celebrating the New Year, which falls on the Spring Equinox around March 20th.

Persians still celebrate this New Year with decorated eggs.

The ancient Hebrews, who lived under Persian rule for many years, adopted the use of eggs as a symbol of new life and incorporated them into the Passover Seder meal, a symbol of God doing a new thing by freeing God’s people.

And the ancient Romans used eggs as a part of their spring celebrations of new life. Eggs (and rabbits) are both ancient symbols of fertility.

There is even a story about Mary Magdalene and eggs.

Mary Magdalene, faithful disciple who stayed with Jesus to the end.

Mary Magdalene who discovered, on Easter Day, that Jesus was missing and ran to tell the rest of the disciples that Jesus was on the move again.

As the story goes - one day Mary Magdalene went to Rome to see the Emperor Tiberius.

She took with her an egg and began to tell the Emperor about the resurrection.

The Emperor scoffed at her, saying that a person could no more rise from the dead  than the egg in her hand could turn red.

At which point the egg in her hand promptly turned red.

The Greek Orthodox believe that the color red has protective power. 

When people in the Orthodox Church gather after the Easter services,
(hard boiled) eggs are blessed and given to all. 

The worshipers then go about greeting one another with "Christ is Risen!", and hitting their eggs together, cracking them open.

Breaking the eggs emphasizes that Christ has conquered death and is risen, granting new life to all.
After cracking, the eggs are eaten, symbolizing the end of the Lenten fast.

On Friday we held a Stations of the Cross for kids.  At the last station we dyed Easter eggs in cups filled with dye and water and vinegar. Over forty kids gathered, heard the story of the life of Jesus, learned about God’s love, walked around this building as we traveled the Stations of the Cross, and at the end we dyed Easter eggs.

Did you know that the way to make red eggs is to boil eggs in water with the skin of yellow onions, the darker the skin the better, and a little vinegar?

Boiled eggs were a common food served in Jesus’ day. And so the tradition around the red egg grew. A whole red egg symbolizes Jesus’ passion and death. A cracked red egg symbolizes new life.

Including the red egg story ancient Christians adopted other pagan myths and Jewish customs for spring, for new life, and reinterpreted them through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

Today after our service we will have an Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. Not your old fashioned egg hunt, like when I was a kid and my parents hid our hard boiled eggs and we had to find them. No, these are plastic eggs filled with sweet treats. I’ve heard we have some 200 eggs and in a little while Monica will give some instruction on where to find the Easter egg hunt.

So we have reinterpreted one more sign of the resurrection, that sweet gift of new life, through the sweetness of candy filled egg treats. Kids young and old alike can crack open their Easter eggs and proclaim with joy and delight,

 “Alleluia! Christ is risen!”

Revealing the Fullness of God's Love: Mary Magdalene from The Mary Passions, part three

 A reflection on the Gospel for the Great Vigil, reimagined through the eyes of Mary Magdalene.

Whether from gray skies
 and starless nights
or the weight of grief
pressed against my heart -
I do not know.

But I had not slept—
Could not sleep
For -
my mind raced,
struggling to grasp
our crushing loss. 

Was he truly gone,
 Jesus, my friend?
No one should endure
the agony of
tortured and
stolen from them. 

The darkness of night
Swallowed us,  
and there
we women remained -
until the song of the birds
alerted us
to this dawning day.

We gathered our
oil and spices
and ventured into
the early morning light
to go to the tomb.

We did not speak.

The ritual of this
loving obligation to the dead
was well known to us,
 the only conversation
between us
in the sorrowful echoes
of our footsteps.

The tomb
looked as it did
when his body
was laid to rest
 two days before.

The entrance to the tomb,
 small -
but easily accessible -
was marked
by the scars
of its recent hewing,
 jagged and raw.

 I felt oddly comforted
by its gaping darkness,
as it reflected
the state
of my own soul—
and bleak.

 Perhaps it was for
this reason
that I gathered
the folds of my dress
around me
without hesitation
ducked through the opening
 to confront the reality
of my lifeless beloved.

The others
and as our eyes
adjusted to the darkness
 our hearts
were puzzled. 

“He is not here,” -
my  startled voice
broke the silence.

We looked at one another,
 fear creeping into our blood.

 I set the ointment down
 beside the lonely shroud
that had wrapped his body
and made my way around
the perimeter of the tomb.

It was as empty as I felt.

 the tomb was filled with light,
as though the sun
had breached the horizon
and directed its rays
to illuminate
our devastated world. 

So vivid was the light
that at first
we did not see
the two angels
who stood before us
in radiating brilliance.

One of them spoke gently –
“Do not be afraid,”

“Why do you look
for the living
among the dead?
He is not here,
but has risen.

My thoughts reached deep
into the mystery
remembering that
 this man
whom we loved -
Jesus -
taught us about
God’s love –
He and his love
changed our hearts
changed  our lives. 

The experience of
God’s love
Poured out
 in Jesus,
began to take hold
and banish the fear
that had settled
 in my heart.

 I had no answers,
neither was I afraid.

I heard my voice again
“He is not here!”

Could it be?

Was it possible
that the promise
of his triumph
was more than
a metaphor,
 that it was,
 in fact,
the miracle
were blessed to witness
in this tomb?

“He has risen?”
one of my companions,
and another
shouted with excitement,

“He is risen!”

In one heartbeat we turned
And found the angels gone.

 The light, however,
 to fill the emptiness,
permeating our hearts
with a love - full
and rich,

Our grief
gave way to a  
shattering awareness -
we began to
 leap with a joy
that we had never known.

Before we knew it
we were
rushing from the tomb
 toward the village,
and before long
we came upon the place
 where the disciples
 had gathered.

hearing our ruckus,
 got up
and began to move toward us.

When he saw who he were
he stopped,
 puzzled by our exuberance.  

One by one
the others got up
and moved toward us,
 and by the time
we reached them
they were drawn together
 in a cluster of
confusion and concern.

Peter grasped my arms in his hands.
 “What is it?” he demanded,
 I think,
that our mourning
had given way
to delirium.

We began to talk all at once,
sharing the gleeful news –
Jesus was risen!

The significance of our words
began to sink in,
 but the men were
backing up
turning away,
dismissing our claims as
 fantasy and
wishful thinking.

 Only Peter continued to listen,
but doubt
clouded his eyes, too. 

At last
we fell into silence,
and Peter
looked at each of us,
furrows of
and the weight of sin –
of his own betrayal of
Jesus, of God’s love -
 etched across his forehead
his mouth drawn down.

“Go home,”
 he said at last.
 “You are tired.
We are all tired.
We will talk soon.”

In stunned silence
we turned away
and began our walk home.

I turned once to look back,
and saw Peter
walk away -
 in the direction
 from which
had come. 

He was going to the tomb.

He picked up his pace,
before he
disappeared from view
 I thought I saw him
 begin to run.

That evening
Peter came to see us,
 bringing with him
the oil and spices
we had abandoned at the tomb.

 I knew
when I saw him enter the doorway
that he had seen
 and believed.

His face was no longer ravaged
 by the bitterness
of the last few days,
 but was illuminated
by the light of
joy and renewal.

I took the jars from him
and wrapped
 my arms
around him,
 and in that moment
we felt buoyed
by the love
that been
bequeathed to us
 would now sustain us.

We talked
 long into the night
until the full impact
of all we had witnessed
and come to understand
 was within our reach.

We then yielded
 to the fatigue
we had pushed away,
and Peter took his leave
 as I sought out my bed.

Outside the door,
hidden from my view
the previous two nights
seemed to sparkle
with a new brightness,
 and though my heart
still ached with loss,
coursed through my veins
like a soothing tonic.

 The world
might appear the same,
 but everything
was made new!

For the fullness
Of God’s love
Is Risen!

The Mary Passions are a three part series written by Kate Hennessy-Keimig, Anne Wolf-Fraley, and Terri C. Pilarski reimaging the last days of Jesus through the eyes of Mary, the Mother; Mary of Bethany; and Mary Magdalene and offered this year for Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, and The Great Vigil of Easter. 

Homily for the Festive Eucharist at the closing of the Episcopal Women's Caucus

The readings that we chose for the service tonight were all picked specifically for this service because they lift up the role of women ...