Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Presentation at The Gathering of Leaders

I am a part of an Episcopal Clergy Group called "The Gathering of Leaders."  I always enjoy these gatherings but I'm particularly grateful for the timeliness of this one, focused on racial reconciliation and evangelism. I was invited to offer one of the reflections and this is what I said...

I want to begin by playing just two minutes of a video from a Bruce Springsteen concert. It’s from the recent tour where he revisited The River album. This is the intro song, the “Call to Worship” if I dare say it that way. The song is: “Meet Me in the City Tonight.  

Did you catch that question? Three times Bruce asks his “congregation:” 
  • Are you ready to be transformed? 
  • Are you ready to be transformed? 
  • Are you ready to be transformed? 
  • Let’s go!
That’s a very different call and response than that old joke about “how many Episcopalians does it take to change a light bulb?” It’s an invitation, from the start, to come on a journey to the River – to go together and to be transformed.

In fact I think this is OUR story too. Bruce, he stole it. Or more accurately, he took care of it when the established Christendom Church abdicated it and we suffered from temporary amnesia and we forgot who we are and whose we are. We domesticated the Gospel and started worrying about what we needed to hold onto for dear life and what could never change (over our dead bodies!) rather than remembering daily that we are committed to the new thing God is doing in the world so that we might have life and have it more abundantly. The work of following Jesus is always an invitation to be made new - to be transformed. 

You don’t need me to tell you this. We all live with it and all of us in this room are quite familiar with the challenges and also the opportunities. But to be more specific, I am really talking primarily about the white North American mainline Church. Jemonde has reminded us of another narrative. In one sense, the story of St. Ambrose is unique. But in a much deeper sense it is a kind of case study of the black church experience in this country. Jemonde’s ministry at St. Ambrose reminds us that racial justice and evangelism – sharing the good news – are two sides to one coin. Our work is to listen and to remember and to be transformed together. 

I serve as Canon to the Ordinary in the Diocese of Western Massachusetts, which is basically the central and western parts of the Commonwealth: Worcester County, the Pioneer Valley, and the Berkshires. We are learning, with God’s help and the leadership of our bishop, to let go of that old narrative and to embrace the Jesus Movement. 

Think about what a gift to us the liturgical calendar is. Advent focuses on two transformative figures: John the Baptist out there by the River asking if people are ready to be transformed, and holy Mary whose yes allows the Word to become flesh and dwell among us. If the Incarnation isn’t about transformation I don’t know what is. From there to the Journey of the Magi, to Cana in Galilee (where water is transformed into wine) to the call of those two sets of brothers by the Lake, and ultimately to the Mount of the Transfiguration, we are in the transformation  business. 

When we stand in front of our congregations to say “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” and everyone enthusiastically responds that  “The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia” we do well to remember that the Paschal Mystery is all about what it means to go down to the River and to organize our lives around the Baptismal Covenant as a counter-narrative to the dominant culture’s narrative which says that there is nothing new, that the rich get richer, that we are doomed to repeat the sins of the past over and over again, and that there is only fake news to report. We insist that God is doing a new thing and that the poor are blessed and that reconciliation is the work of Easter and that we are witnesses to the good news we are called to share with all the world. Even if we are a little bit afraid of change, we can remember that there are angels all through the Bible, those one-hit wonders who keep singing, “do not be afraid” again and again. Let’s go! Are you ready to be transformed? 

The Baptismal Covenant doesn’t give us the option to choose to share the good news or to do justice. It’s all of one piece. We promise both to proclaim by word and example the good news and to strive for justice and peace among all people. 

At the heart of our Eucharistic liturgy is an insistence that as bread and wine are transformed that we may become what we behold as we are re-membered and re-commissioned to be the living, resurrected Body of Christ. The work of anamnesis is transformational work. 

When Jemonde and I chatted last week, he mentioned a conversation he had with the Chief of Police in his community, who happens to be a black woman. (She also happens to be a member of St. Ambrose.) After one of the far too many shootings we’ve had in this country, she said to her mostly white male officers, “Well, I know what they’ll be preaching on at my church on Sunday.” Those white cops were surprised, as many in our congregations in Western Mass still are when our clergy speak up on Sunday morning. While some hear this as good news, there are others who will greet the preacher at the door and say, “you are getting too political.” A few of them may even call the Bishop’s Office to complain although fortunately I work for a Bishop who has the back of his clergy and is already out front and leading on these issues. 

But here is what I yearn for as a precursor to Sunday morning not being the most segregated hour of the week: predominantly white suburban congregations that will eagerly anticipate with the same clarity that the Chief of Police in Raleigh, North Carolina does about what will be preached and what must be preached on a Sunday after a national tragedy that is rooted in fear and racial animas and injustice. That they will know it’s never “too political” to speak truth to power. It’s just called euangelion: good news. It’s what it means to be part of one Body. 

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, you will recall that Dr. King began by challenging the notion that he was in Birmingham as an “outside agitator. He’s addressing liberal white pastors who say that they agree with the goals in theory, but in practice they want to take it slow and not rock any boats. King offers not just an explanation but a theological rationale for being in Birmingham:
So I, along with several members of my staff, am here because I was invited here. I am here because I have organizational ties here. But more basically, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Personally I find it helpful the way that Walter Brueggemann frames this challenge of keeping the prophetic voice alive in our Church.  Bruggemann says that we preachers are scribes. We stand with our congregations – with the baptized – when we say things like, “I don’t know about you, but old Amos sure has something to say to us today about what’s going on with wealth disparity in this nation!” 
Alas for those who lie on beds of ivory,    and lounge on their couches,and eat lambs from the flock, and calves from the stall;
That’s not class warfare! These aren’t Democratic talking points. That’s the Word of the Lord! That’s our story. So we scribes hold these texts up; we need to read them with our congregations and mark them and learn them and inwardly digest them because they are ripped from the headlines and because they tell our story. What on earth was Jesus up to if it wasn’t this, when he went into the synagogue that day preaching Isaiah or up on the mountain to say “blessed are the poor?”

I see it as part of my job in diocesan work to encourage and then protect the prophets in our congregations, both ordained and lay, by reminding us all that when we say “Jesus is Lord” we are always making not just a personal confession but a political statement. I’m not called to be a prophet most days. Part of my job is to help the trains run on time. And I’ll be honest – I don’t think the job of most rectors is to be prophets all the time either. But it is our job (and more than that, it is our calling) to preach the gospel and to devote ourselves to the study of Scripture. Not just to the gospel pericope of the day. To both testaments which contain all things necessary for our salvation. To be scribes for the kingdom who make the words of those eighth century BCE prophets, as well as John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth shed light on our own work. 

Bishop Rob Wright of Atlanta recently wrote these words on his blog: 
Dr. King argued “the great tragedy is that Christianity failed to see that it had the revolutionary edge.” That revolutionary edge means we bring our calls for “personal piety as the true measure of Christianity into balance with the Social Gospel that has a word to enliven the masses.” The revolutionary edge means less obsession with institutional maintenance. Less devotion to “order and more devotion to justice.” Edge means forsaking “pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities” that are long on “emotion and short on reason.” King’s faith was personal and public, deep and urgent, steadfast and informed. So must ours be.
Let me return to King, then, and I’ll wrap this up. I stopped short of the lines you may remember best in that letter, which go like this:
…I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. 
I see part of my job in diocesan work as helping to remind congregations that think they are independent franchises that the boundaries of our hometowns are not boundaries by which the living God can ever be limited and to help us all become more cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. The challenges that God’s people at St. Ambrose in Raleigh face under the leadership of their rector, Jemonde, matters to the people of Western Massachusetts and is a part of the sacred unfolding story that helps us all to remember who we are and what we are called to be about in the name of the living God, as part of the Jesus movement. 

We transform heart and minds as well as social structures because we are in the transformation business. 

Are you ready to be transformed? Let’s go! 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Trusting Thomas

On October 4 - the Feast of St. Francis - I was asked by Bishop Fisher to spend some time with the good people of All Saints Church in Worcester as they navigated their way through a challenging time that recently led to the resignation of their rector. Today, when the Church remembers Thomas on the Second Sunday of Easter, is my last week with them. They will remain close to my heart, however, and continue in my prayers. Today's gospel reading can be found here.

This morning’s familiar encounter between Thomas and Jesus becomes clearer when we learn just a little bit of Greek. Just one vocab word, I promise. So let’s begin there…

Pistis is not talking about the content of our faith. It’s not about what we think we know, which is always subject to change with new evidence. It’s not about our beliefs, which can and do change over time. Rather, pistis is about trust. So a better translation of the words we heard Jesus saying to Thomas in today’s Gospel reading would be: “do not lack trust; trust me.”

The opposite of faith is not doubt; it’s fear. And we begin to overcome fear when we put our trust in the right place. Let me not bury the lead today: in God we trust. We who gather here in the name of the risen Christ on the Second Sunday of Easter know that what the women who came to the tomb early in the morning finally told the disciples (when they overcame their fear) is true. Christ is alive!

So please don’t call Thomas a doubter. I want to call him a questioner. I want to call him a seeker. And I want to suggest to you this morning that his questions (and our questions) can lead us to a deeper faith and put us on the path to overcome fear. Because the issue today isn’t about whether or not Thomas believes in the resurrection; the issue is whether or not he still trusts Jesus.

Are you with me? Thomas is struggling with whether his trust in Jesus was a good decision, now that Jesus has been killed by the Roman authorities. He had chosen to stake his life on Jesus by taking up his own cross to follow Jesus, wherever that might lead. But it led to death on a cross. What he’s really saying is “what do I do now?”  How do I go on? Who can I trust? And Jesus says to him, in response: do not lack trust; trust me.

Who is Thomas, the twin? We’ve heard from him on two previous occasions in John’s Gospel. In the eleventh chapter, when Jesus goes back to Judea to raise Lazarus from the dead (even though it is clear at that point that the authorities are out to get Jesus) it is Thomas who says to the other disciples: “let us go with him that we may also die with him.” (John 11:16) He was willing then to follow Jesus to death; to stand in solidarity with him. The question before us today is a harder one: is he now willing to risk life in Christ? 

And then one of my favorite Thomas moments, when Jesus is waxing poetic about how the disciples should not let their hearts be troubled. I’m sure you’ve heard it read at funerals. Jesus says that he is going to prepare a place for them and that in God’s house there are many dwelling places. And then Jesus says: “you know the way where I am going.” It’s like men and directions: Jesus says “you know the way” and everyone is nodding, oh yeah, we know the way, we don’t need no stinking GPS! But it is good old Thomas in that moment who speaks up and asks the question that all the disciples are thinking but are too afraid to ask: “excuse me Lord, but we don’t have a clue where you are going so how can we know the way?” (John 14:5) It is in that specific context—to those disciples (and to us) and in direct response to Thomas’ question that Jesus says: trust me. I am the way, I am the truth, I am the life. Keep your eyes on me, stick with me and I’ll get you where you need to go.

All Saints, I haven’t forgotten that today’s reading takes place after these two earlier stories. But these earlier Thomas moments remind us what kind of a guy he is. And I think they also offer some good advice for you all as well as life continues to unfold here. All will be well, and you will find where you are going. A lot has happened over the past six months and maybe it’s shaken some of you a bit. How to move forward? Keep your eyes on Jesus. Stick with him and you’ll get where you need to go. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life.

Do not lack trust. Trust. Thomas the twin isn’t afraid to ask the hard questions. This seems clear. But please don’t call him a doubter. Every teacher needs at least one student like Thomas in his classroom, someone who is willing to raise her hand and say, “Maybe I’m the only one, but can we back up? I’m lost…” Thomas isn’t afraid to articulate where he is and what he needs to overcome his fear, in order to regain pistis. And in today’s gospel reading we see that Jesus doesn’t shame him for asking. Jesus gives Thomas just what he needs. Which leads Thomas to renewed trust and the courage to claim: “My Lord and My God.” That’s where faith leads: to the living God, the God we know intimately through this risen Christ.  

I’ve noticed that many of the people who have found their way into Episcopal congregations like this one have expressed gratitude that the Episcopal Church is a place where all are welcome and where it’s alright to be like Thomas. Maybe it’s even encouraged.  Maybe he’s the patron saint of Episcopalians. We live in an unsteady and confusing world, to be sure. In times like these, cookie-cutter spirituality and cheap grace abound. People sometimes want easy answers to settle them down. But we aspire for something more than that. Maybe our gift as a denomination is in refusing to provide ready-made answers to life’s big questions but instead to create a safe space where the questions can be articulated until we find our way to the One who truly is worthy of our trust. To create safe spaces that are big enough for our doubts and uncertainties, spaces where trust can be cultivated and nurtured like a tiny little mustard seed.

I am committed to ecumenical relationships and I don’t think we are “the best” at everything. Nor do I think we are the only denomination that values this approach to faith. But we’re pretty good at it. It may even be a charism of ours. We don’t define ourselves by doctrines, by what we believe. We define ourselves as people who make room for questions in ourselves and one another and where we can work on trust – and along the way where we, too, can encounter the risen Jesus again. Do not lack trust. Trust.

One of the unfortunate consequences of the Enlightenment is that culturally we are tempted to conclude that what we believe is the same thing as having faith. So we debate the Virgin Birth or the meaning of the Cross or how to interpret Scripture, and then we mistakenly insist that these beliefs are what make us Christians. We divide ourselves into insiders and outsiders, orthodox and heretics. With Emma Gonzales, I call BS.

When Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he didn’t say that the world would know us by our right beliefs. He gave us a new commandment. He told us to love one another. Do you remember? It’s not that long ago! He insisted that the world would know we are Christians by our willingness to be servants in a world bent on abusing power. That the world would know us by our love for one another. St. Paul told the Christians in Corinth that what makes us Christians is faith, hope, and love, but the greatest of these is love. He also told that same congregation that we can have all kinds of gifts or knowledge or orthodox theology and even ministries but if we don’t have love we are just clanging cymbals.

The goal isn’t right belief. It’s about good practices, rooted in love – which always begin with where we put our trust. So do not lack trust; trust.

That is the good news that we will share with the newly baptized today as they grow up in an unsteady and confusing world. Our promise to them as we raise them in the faith is not that we will always get it right. We won’t and their parents won’t and they won’t. Our promise to them is not that we’ll have all the answers but that we’re willing to sit with them in love and with hope, as faith seeks understanding. Our prayer for them today is that they will have “inquiring and discerning hearts.” For them to develop that kind of heart, however, we need to model that for them. Inquiring hearts are first trusting hearts.

That’s the end of my sermon today. But let me take my remaining time as a moment of personal privilege. Thank you, All Saints, from the bottom of my heart. You are a wonderful congregation. I loved being a parish priest, which I did for almost twenty years. And I now love being a Canon the Ordinary, which I’ve been doing for five years. But the latter is more broad and panoramic. Over the course of these next weeks I will be in Ashfield, Williamstown, Wilbraham, Southwick and places in between. You tend to fly in and fly out in diocesan work which means in some sense you are nowhere. Parish ministry can become parochial, and that’s a danger too. But it can also go deep. And you grow rather fond of the people among you serve.

You have given me the chance to have the best of both worlds over these past six months. When Bishop Fisher asked if I’d consider being here for a few months in October, I said yes almost immediately. Partly I couldn’t think of another option in the midst of the rector’s departure and Jose becoming a new daddy. But I also realized early on that there was something in this for me. And there has been…

But it is not sustainable in the long run. And more importantly, my work has been something like that of a first responder here. I’ve walked with you through a difficult time – one might even say a crisis. Of course there will be more challenges ahead, to be sure. But they will require someone who can be focused on you all, full time, now that there is a vacancy and we’ll be searching for a priest-in-charge. You need more than me “filling in the gaps” and I need to get back to my previously scheduled program.

So the time has come to say farewell. It’s bittersweet for me but I also know it’s the right time. I do hope that there will be ways to be connected here going forward, but it won’t be the same. I will miss you all. But let me conclude by putting on my canon hat and telling you what I tell congregations that are in the midst of clergy transitions across this diocese: the Church’s one foundation is Jesus Christ her Lord. The Church is not about the clergy. It’s bigger than that. The Church is about Jesus Christ – this same risen Christ who meets Thomas where he is and who meets us where we are and then says, keep on keeping on. Do not lack trust; trust, All Saints.

Love one another. Listen to one another and be challenged by one another. Argue with each other, but fight fair and be prepared to change your minds. Pray for each other – especially the members of the staff and your wardens and vestry. This parish has an opportunity to show the Church and this city what it means to have more than one story as your life together continues to unfold. Continue to make beautiful music here and reach out to the neighborhood in love. Those are not mutually exclusive goods. Do not let fear undo you. Put your trust in our Lord and our God, and may God bless you and keep you, all saints.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Alleluia! Christ is Risen!

The Gospel Reading for this day can be found here. (It's Mark for this sermon, not John!) Happy Easter! 

I love the writer, Anne Lamott. I love her impious truth-telling. I love the way that she begins her book Traveling Mercies, a humorous and honest account of one woman’s journey to faith. She writes:
"My coming to faith didn’t start with a leap but rather a series of staggers from what seemed like one safe place to another…I can see how flimsy and indirect a path they made. Yet each step brought me closer to the verdant pad of faith on which I somehow stay afloat today."

This is good news, at least to me. I pray that this day gives you something to go on as you seek those “verdant pads of faith” on which to stay afloat, always with God’s help, in these challenging times.

Whether we get there by leaps and bounds or a series of staggers, the Church’s faith is shaped by multiple sources, including Holy Scripture. It is written for our learning but never immediately accessible; it needs to be read and marked and learned and inwardly digested to become meaningful. So we get four gospels, not one, which means we get four, not one, accounts of this day. And they don’t say it the exactly the same way. They speak their truths more like a choir singing harmony than in unison.

This faith that we share is also shaped by two thousand years of tradition. We get layers of all this in in today’s liturgy, in the prayers we have been praying and the beautiful music the choir offers to the glory of God. Taken together this offers a rich texture of meaning to this day and in a real sense, as we bring our own experiences of the risen Christ with us to this place, the sermon is almost redundant. (It doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it a try, however!)

Even if you are new to the Christian faith you almost certainly know this story already, although we have learned it at a slant. Some of us from 1928 Prayerbook Episcopalians and others from warm-hearted Methodist preachers and still others from the nuns in a Roman Catholic grammar school. Yet even if you’ve been at this for decades, you still have questions and doubts. At least I hope you do, because those questions and doubts are a part of it all. More on that next week when we reflect on good old Thomas.

We are tempted to truncate “the tradition” into what we remember from the church of our youth, when we were kids and then limit our adult faith to that. It’s the very opposite about what Anne Lamott speaks of. I had a parishioner in Holden whose favorite Easter hymn was “The Strife is O’er.” I didn’t pick the hymns in Holden, the music director did, but I confess that is not one of my own favorites. While we’d sing it over the fifty days of Easter, in fifteen years it never made the cut for Easter morning. Every year she’d meet me at the door to tell me it wasn’t quite Easter for her.

The task for every generation of the faithful is to tell the old, old story of Jesus’ life and death and resurrection. But we have to do that from our own new perspective, from our own slant. Context matters. And so what I want to say is that our work right now, not just mine in these next fifteen minutes or so, but yours as hearers and hopefully then as doers of the Word is to recognize that it is Easter 2018 in Worcester and we are not the same as we were fifty years ago or even a decade ago or even a year ago. As people, as All Saints, as the United States of America, as a planet, we are here and it is now.

Whether you’ve been coming here on Easter morning for generations or this is your first time through these doors; whether you sing these hymns with full-throated faith or you come here wondering what on earth you’ve gotten into today, we are in this together and on this day it is not our work to try to explain it all. It’s our work to let faith seek a little better understanding. It’s to try to attend to the Word that has been given to us for this day and, with God’s help, to find some meaning in it. We can only be where we are, right now and then pray that in some way, small or large, the meaning of this day might take hold in our lives and bring us a sense of purpose and courage and hope to get us a little further down the road.

So…did you notice where today’s gospel reading stopped: with the word afraid. The women said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid. Allow that to sink in for just a moment. The very first witnesses to the resurrection, these women preachers, are told to go and tell. They are told that Jesus has gone ahead of them, back to Galilee. But their fear paralyzes them and they said nothing because they were afraid. On this first day in April 2018, this is what we get.  No foolin’.  

Mark’s Gospel is the oldest of the four, written roughly four decades after the events he reports to us. He does not claim to be an eyewitness; he’s a second-generation disciple. He and the community he’s a part of have had forty years to think about this. Mark’s is also the shortest of the four gospels and definitely the most urgent; he’s the guy that is always using the word “immediately.” It is most likely addressed to first-century Christians in Rome, which means that we are no longer on the fringes of imperial power but right in the midst of it.

Why would Mark end his gospel this way? Did the original ending somehow get clipped off accidentally? Did Mark drop dead suddenly of a heart attack before he was done?  Did the Roman authorities knock on the door in that moment and “disappear” him before he could finish? Who knows? On this Easter morning all we can say with any degree of certainty is that it did end here, without even a specific sighting of the resurrected Jesus. For today we just have an empty tomb and the testimony given to the women. In Greek the grammar stammers along, so that you could translate it something like this:

“And going out they fled from the tomb, for fear and trembling had seized them, and they said nothing to anyone. They were afraid, because…”

Now if this is how a film ended you could be sure that a sequel was already in the works. But unlike Luke, who does write a sequel that we know as the Acts of the Apostles, so far as we know, Mark did not. This is it. They said nothing. To no one. Because they were afraid…

Mark leaves us with questions and I think he does that on purpose. What happened next? When did they find their voices and speak? How exactly did they overcome their fears? Whom did they tell first when they finally overcame their fear? Because we most definitely know that they did find their voices. We know that they did speak, for the same reason that the first-century Church in Rome knew that they did. We know they finally spoke because someone told someone who told someone who told someone who told us. He isn’t there. He’s not dead! Christ is risen, and he has gone ahead of you. Keep on keeping on, and you will find him. In Galilee. In Worcester. In the midst of your life in places where you least expect to and perhaps in those very places where you are most afraid.

We know they spoke because the story doesn’t end today at the empty tomb; it begins there. Somebody told somebody who told Mark and then Matthew and Luke and John and Paul, none of whom claim to be eyewitnesses. Even so these words had to in some way resonate for them as true, had to hook them and take hold in their lives, to make sense of their lives. Fear doesn’t get the last word. We gather here today and throughout these next fifty days to bear witness to that reality. Being afraid is never the end of the story.

As some of you know I was in the Holy Land a couple of months ago. It was my fourth time there and each time I’ve spent some time wandering the streets of the old city of Jerusalem, including walking the Via Delarosa, praying the Stations of the Cross through those old streets winding streets. You end up at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the traditional site built over the place believed to have been the empty tomb. Two days ago I walked those same Stations of the Cross and prayed those same prayers not in the holy city of Jerusalem but through the streets of the holy city of Worcester, with our Bishop and with my friend, the Rev. Meredyth Ward and with about thirty others, including some of you. We stopped at various places along the way as we overlaid the story of Jesus final hours with stories from this city and particularly stories of some of our most vulnerable neighbors.

Jesus wasn’t in that tomb in Jerusalem anymore where the Church of the Holy Sepulcher now sits because he had gone ahead of them to Galilee – back to the Lake, back to the Mount of the Beatitudes, back to the familiar streets of those villages to the north. The women are told that they will find him in the midst of their lives and they were told to deliver that message to the disciples and while they were clearly afraid at first it’s also just as clear that they did find their voices.  They did go and tell because what other choice did they have? That’s the good news we gather to proclaim today: that Christ is alive and is no longer bound to distant years in Palestine; Christ comes to claim the here and now and conquer every place and time. Including this place and this time. Including this congregation, this city, this nation, and the world. Christ has gone ahead of us.

I think this is a brilliant way to end a gospel and maybe the most brilliant ending of the four because the burden of the narrative shifts in that moment from the women in the story to us as hearers of the story. What will we do with it? Will we flee or follow? Mark says, in effect, “you are the sequel” to this story. So how will you overcome your fears and then whom will you tell? What difference will it make in your one wild and precious life?

Fear is a part of our lives. And courage is definitely not the absence of fear. Ask a veteran or a firefighter or a cop. Ask a kid from the Margery Stoneham Douglas School in Parkland, Florida or a friend who is battling against cancer. Courage is the ability to face our fears and then somehow still keep on moving forward by putting one foot in front of the other. It’s about marching for our lives in the streets of Worcester and the streets of Boston and the streets of Washington. It’s about hoping for a better world but that’s never passive; after thoughts and prayers we are called to become the change we seek in this world. And to know that we don’t walk alone, because Jesus isn’t in the tomb. He’s among the living and he has already gone ahead of us, not just to Galilee but to the ends of the earth, including Worcester County Massachusetts in 2018.

Alleluia, Christ is risen. The Lord is risen indeed, alleluia. Pay attention to your lives, and keep your eyes on the prize, and keep on marching in the light of God.