VOLUME 3, NUMBER 18, MARCH 25, 2012
Some in my family and in my circle of friends wondered how I could find the strength to offer those rites for my own brother. But not only was it not a matter of finding the strength to do it, it was important for my own spiritual well-being to be able to offer those ministrations for my brother and for those who love him. It was important for my own spiritual well-being to be able to offer the rites of Mother Church—to do what the Church does—at such a time.
In doing so, things which I had known to be true on an abstract level, or even in my experience as a priest of almost nine years, had come home to me—become real for me—on a very personal level.
A long-time friend of mine meant well on the day of the visitation when she tried to explain to me how death wasn't so much an enemy, but simply a movement from one kind of life to another. I don't remember the exact word she used—it may have been something like death was a translation or a transmigration to another life—but what I was clear about then and am still clear about a week after my brother's death, is that Death doesn't feel like just some sort of painful, but basically benign 'movement.' I am more clear than ever about what the New Testament seems to say on every page—that Death is the Enemy of God. In fact, the center of the Christian faith and the point of the life of the Church (maybe their distinctive feature) is Christ's struggle and ultimate victory over that great enemy called Death.
Death came to claim my brother's life. And in the wake of his death, Death continued its attempt to hurt my family, trying to cause disruption in our lives and our relationships to one another.
But next Sunday is Palm Sunday—and on that day, the Church enters into the week of her most ancient rites, rites that make present again today God's victory over Death in Jesus Christ. The Church's great claim every day, but especially during this week, is that we no longer have to wonder whether Death is the end—the ultimate power in the universe. New, abundant and everlasting Life that is stronger than Death is not a vague wish for Christians.
The whole of the Christian faith rests on the truth that Jesus, more than just lingering on in a spiritual way after his crucifixion, was raised to new Life in his body and in this way, the reign and power of Death itself in all of its forms—bodily death, yes, but also death in its lesser forms, like despair, depression, addiction, oppression, injustice—was broken once and for all.
I am grateful for the many and varied graces poured out by God on my family and me in this past week, not least of which were the prayers for Chris and for our family, and the spiritual, emotional and practical support offered by friends and family (and even some strangers) including those at Grace Church. I can't thank you enough.
I am also grateful to be claimed by a truth and a tradition that doesn't shy away from death because it has nothing to fear from Death—the truth that, as frightening and overwhelming as death can be (and it really is both), we know that Christ is risen... the Lord is risen indeed. And so we, who have been baptized into Christ's death, have been raised also in his resurrection. Christ lives in my brother. My brother lives in Christ. Thanks be to God.
EASTER FLOWER MEMORIALS... Envelopes are in the narthex for the donation of Easter Flowers. Checks may be made out the Grace Church altar Guild. The deadline for submitting names is Sunday, April 1st.
HOLY WEEK REHEARSAL NEXT SATURDAY... A rehearsal will be held Saturday, March 31 at 9:00 a.m. for those who are offering liturgical ministry during Holy Week. Please be there if you have been assigned. Liturgical notes and pencils for particular notes will be provided.
DONATING TO FOOD FOR FRIENDS AS A LENTEN DISCIPLINE... St. Paul's Community Development Corporation Food Pantry in Paterson, especially needs high protein items, such as beans and canned meats, tuna, cereal, peanut butter, rice, coffee, and pasta. Alternatively checks may be drawn in favor of St. Paul's CDC and marked Food Pantry. Please send checks directly to St. Paul's at 451 Van Houten Street, Paterson, NJ 07501.
YARD CLEAN-UP... Did you see our flowers pushing up? It is officially spring and we are calling out ALL HANDS for Saturday, March 31st for yard clean-up before Holy week. Do you have an extra rake, clippers or weeding tool, please bring it along? We will begin at 9:00 a.m. Please let Chris Scott know you will be available.
INTERFAITH EVENT IN HOLY WEEK... Throughout most of the world, the holiday we in the United States call Easter is referred to as Pascha, derived from the word "Passover," an homage to the Jewish roots and history of the Easter story. The alignment of Passover and Easter in the calendar cycle, in history, and, to some extent, in their messages presents a unique opportunity for interfaith dialogue and learning. All are invited to attend a joint class including members and guests of Congregation B'nai Israel in Emerson and Grace Episcopal Church in Westwood. The spiritual leaders of those communities, Rabbi Debra Orenstein and Father Rob Rhodes, will offer insights and lead a participatory discussion on Tuesday, April 3 at 7:30 p.m.
Holy Week at Grace Church
The Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday
Ministers of the Assembly
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