Every Easter brings to mind, for me, the following blessing:
Risen Christ, give us a heart for simple things: love, laughter, bread, wine, dreams.
Fill us with green-growing hope and make an Easter people, whose song is Alleluia, whose sign is Peace, and whose name is Love. Amen.
I learned the prayer from the late Rev. Edward H. Kryder, a friend and teacher. And, really, one of my heroes in the faith. Edward taught Gena and me at Virginia Seminary, became a dear friend, and presided at our wedding.
The Light of Christ shone through Edward. To borrow a line, to know him was to love him. To know him was be be inspired to live a more Christ-like life. Because that's what he did. Every day. His spirit had both an iron strength as well as a kind warmth.
Eastertide is as good a season as any to take a moment to think about those in whom the Light of Christ has shone brightest for us. Who has that been for you, and who is it now?
Let us thank God for those Christ bearers, each and every one.
As together we move through Holy Week, I’d like to offer you, for your reflection, the following excerpt of a poem, “The Everlasting Mercy,” by the English poet John Masefield (1878-1967). In the poem, the poet speaks from a place of struggle (“red and torn”) toward a vision of new life (“fresh and fair”), in company with Christ. It is the arc of Holy Week, it is the arc of our shared life in Christ.
It is one of the great prayers in all of modern Christianity, one whose return is always welcome, like an old friend. I was reminded of Thomas Merton’s famous prayer while listening to an episode of the podcast "On Being," in which Krista Tippett interviews Fr. James Martin, S.J., who describes Merton’s prayer as “a prayer everyone can pray.” Indeed. And somehow it seems especially timely as we prepare for the journey through Holy Week.
There is a centuries old saying, Lex orandi, lex credendi. It means literally, “The law of prayer [is] the law of belief.” What it means for us Anglicans is that, if you want to know what we believe, you’ll find that in our Book of Common Prayer. Indeed. In a word, praying shapes believing.
Afterward, I asked Fin (our seven- year-old) what he thought he would remember about the experience. The word he used was that it was "important." Which led me to ask Nelson (our eleven- year-old) how he'd sum up what we'd participated in. His word was "gathered." And Nelson was very conscious of and impressed by the wide array of people and faiths represented, as we stood with, I suppose, a couple of hundred Richmonders on Sunday, at the Emek Sholom Holocaust Memorial Cemetery.
Pete Nunnally shared a fresh take on an old classic this week in staff meeting. Entitled "The Prayer of St. Patrick," it has traditionally been known as "St. Patrick's Breastplate." With St. Patrick's Day coming up this Friday, it's a pleasure to offer you this newer and different version of one of the great old prayers of the Christian tradition:
I remember distinctly the first time I heard the words spoken: "human flourishing." It was in an Anglican theology class at Virginia Theological Seminary, on a sunny, cool day, with Dr. Scott, one of our theology professors, speaking in his animated, earnest way, a glow about him. And immediately I found the words nothing less than exhilarating, the fullness, the comprehensiveness, the goodness of God's desire and vision for all the children of God.
Some words carry an electric charge. They are high voltage, we could say. They get our attention, and perhaps leave us disconcerted, even shocked. “Hypocrite” is one of those words. Nobody wants to be called a “hypocrite,” and, indeed, nobody wants to be a hypocrite. Someone who acts a part. An imposter. Versus someone who is authentic: The real McCoy, the real deal, the real thing. That's what we want to be. + Alms, prayers, fasting. Spiritual practices, disciplines. That’s fine, Jesus says. That’s good and right. But don’t be merely going through the motions, making a presentation, giving an impression. Otherwise, there will be no blessing in it, no reward. The reward, the blessing comes when the outer and the inner are aligned, our Lord wants us to know; when our heart and our actions are one; when, through those spiritual disciplines, we offer our hearts to God, we make our hearts available to God. I can’t help but think of what we call the Collect for Purity, which we pray every Sunday morning as a part of each Eucharist. The Collect for Purity began, centuries ago, as a private prayer the priest said in the sacristy while preparing for worship, but, eventually, it was incorporated into the service itself, so it could be prayed on everyone’s behalf, as some of the very first words spoken in worship: Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid: Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord. Amen. + This exquisite prayer lays the matter bare, in the same spirit that Jesus does in today’s appointed gospel: that, with God, there are no secrets. God knows our hearts, God knows our secrets, God knows the truth about us, and God is ready to get on with it.