A Sermon for the Third Sunday of Easter

The Episcopal Church of the Heavenly Rest
Abilene, Texas
Sunday, April 10, 2016

The Third Sunday of Easter + Year C
First Lesson: Acts 9:1-6
Psalm 30
Second Lesson: Revelation 5:11-14
Gospel: John 21:1-19

✠ In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.


Raphael’s Christ’s Charge to Peter

Several years ago, I discovered an interesting video on YouTube that was posted by an Episcopal priest. The video was entitled “Eucharistia,” the Greek word meaning, “thanksgiving” and the origin of the word that we use to identify our central act of worship in the Episcopal Church, the Eucharist.

What this priest created was a short vignette, a video meditation, about the significance of the Eucharist and its role in our walk with Christ. It featured a group of people gathered together in a large, open room. Among them was a shy young woman, a stranger to the group, who was reluctant to participate at first but eventually came to realize that what was happening around her was so important that she had to be part of it. One thing that made the video so captivating was that it was shot in the style of a silent film. So, the only thing that you could hear was a bit of instrumental music playing in the background. Essentially, it was a story told through actions and gestures rather than the spoken word. Continue reading

A look back at Holy Week

Another Holy Week has come and gone, and we are now well into Eastertide.

But, I would be remiss if I did not spend a few minutes reflecting on all of the work that was put into developing the liturgies for Holy Week this year at Heavenly Rest, especially the liturgies of the Paschal Triduum, beginning with the Proper Liturgy for Maundy Thursday, continuing with the Proper Liturgy for Good Friday, and concluding with the Great Vigil of Easter.

This year, we expanded a bit on what was already a rich and meaningful Holy Week tradition at Heavenly Rest, and I am thankful to everyone who heard and appreciated some of the ideas that I brought from my experience and worked with me to implement them.

Probably the most notable change this year was the addition of a Chapel of Repose. To my knowledge, Heavenly Rest has had a long-standing tradition of placing the reserved Sacrament on the Chapel altar following the Maundy Thursday liturgy and inviting people to “keep watch” with Christ throughout the night. This year, though, we transformed the entire Chapel into a beautiful garden with the intention of creating a space for people to meditate and pray, not only on the events leading up to the crucifixion but on the implications that our Lord’s death and resurrection have on our lives.

As part of the preparation, I formed a committee of volunteers to brainstorm and to come up with a reasonable plan for creating the Chapel garden. We began months in advance, looking at pictures of what other parishes have done in the past and creating lists of all that would be needed to pull off such a project. The result, I think, was a huge success. Below, I have included a few pictures as well as a PDF of the booklet of prayers and readings that I put together for people to use during the “All-Night Vigil” on Thursday night and early Friday morning.

Click here to view a PDF of the All-Night Vigil booklet.

In addition to the Chapel of Repose, I re-designed the service booklets for the Triduum liturgies and was very happy with the way that they turned out. One of my goals in the re-design was to create a sense of consistency in order to convey the fact that all three liturgies are a part of one long narrative, which is, I think, an essential aspect in understanding the significance of observing the rites in the first place.

Click here to view a PDF of the Maundy Thursday service booklet.

Click here to view a PDF of the Good Friday service booklet.

Click here to view a PDF of the service booklet for the Great Vigil of Easter.

A Reflection for Easter Week

15-03-02/47When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)

This past Wednesday evening, I celebrated the Eucharist at our weekly healing service at Heavenly Rest, which was great for me because the Gospel lesson appointed for Wednesday in Easter Week is one of my favorite parts of Luke’s Gospel, the story of two disciples on the road to Emmaus who encounter the risen Christ.

I began the homily by sharing a memory from two years ago. It was October of 2014, and I was preparing to be ordained as a deacon in the Episcopal Church. As part of my preparation, I decided to make time for a pre-ordination retreat. So, I headed to Cambridge, Massachusetts, to spend a few days with the brothers of the Society of St. John the Evangelist, an order of Anglican monks.

In my homily, I shared about my participation with the brothers in the daily round of prayer in the chapel and about my experience in attending the Eucharist- about how, despite having attended so many celebrations of the Eucharist in my lifetime, I was especially moved by this particular experience.

You see, rather than using the ordinary words of invitation before the distribution of Communion, “The Gifts of God for the People of God,” the priest held up the bread and the wine and invited the people to Communion by saying, “Behold what you are; may you become what you receive.” Profound words from St. Augustine of Hippo, words that I had heard countless times before that moment, but words made even more meaningful by hearing them used as an invitation to Communion. “Behold what you are; may you become what you receive.” Receive the Body and Blood of Christ, and become those very gifts, broken and poured out for the life of the world.

I am convinced that, like the disciples who encounter Jesus on their journey to the small village of Emmaus and whose eyes are opened to the truth when Jesus is with them around the dinner table, something of God is revealed to us when we gather together to celebrate the Eucharist. Something of God is revealed to us when we gather to take the gifts that God has so graciously given us, bless them, break them open, and give them back to God as spiritual food for God’s People. Not only is it the unfolding pattern of worship that we experience in the Great Thanksgiving. As disciples of Jesus Christ, it is the way that we are called to live our lives. Take, bless, break, and give.

At the conclusion of my homily, I shared a new sonnet by Anglican poet and priest, Malcolm Guite, about how, despite the loneliness and grief that the disciples must have felt in the aftermath of our Lord’s death, there is victory in the end- about how, despite the feelings of loneliness and grief that we experience in our own time, there is victory when the People of God continue to participate in the saving work of our Lord’s death and resurrection, a saving work made known to us most vividly in the Sacrament of Christ’s Body and Blood.

By Malcolm Guite (b. 1957)

We thought that everything was lost and gone,
Disaster on disaster overtook us
The night we left our Jesus all alone
And we were scattered, and our faith forsook us.
But oh that foul Friday proved far worse,
For we had hoped that he had been the one,
Till crucifixion proved he was a curse,
And on the cross our hopes were all undone.

Oh foolish foolish heart why do you grieve?
Here is good news and comfort to your soul:
Open your mind to scripture and believe
He bore the curse for you to make you whole
The living God was numbered with the dead
That He might bring you Life in broken bread.

Here is a link to Malcolm’s blog.