Easter

Worship - Faith - Cross and Window

Second Sunday of Easter, Faith United Church of Christ, Muscatine, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 4/7/13.

Mark 16:1-8

When the Sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices so that they could go and anoint Jesus’ dead body. Very early on the first day of the week, just after sunrise, they came to the tomb. They were saying to each other, “Who’s going to roll the stone away from the entrance for us?”

When they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away. (And it was a very large stone!)  Going into the tomb, they saw a young man in a white robe seated on the right side; and they were startled.

But he said to them, “Don’t be alarmed! You are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified.[aHe has been raised. He isn’t here. Look, here’s the place where they laid him. Go, tell his disciples, especially Peter, that he is going ahead of you into Galilee. You will see him there, just as he told you.”

Overcome with terror and dread, they fled from the tomb. They said nothing to anyone, because they were afraid.[b]

[a] Or the Crucified One         [b] In most critical editions of the Gk New Testament, the Gospel of Mark ends at 16:8.

Mark 16:1-8, Common English Bible (C) 2011

That’s a wrap.

In the most ancient editions of the Gospel of Mark (which was the first gospel written), it all ends here:  an empty tomb, terror and dread.  No sighting of Jesus.  No sign of the rest of the disciples.  No more words.

To end on a note of fear is neither uplifting nor hope-filled.

And yet it’s my favorite ending.  It leaves so much to the imagination.  It recognizes that whatever happened and whatever comes next cannot be fully explained.  It is a matter of faith.

Clearly the woman talked about what they saw and heard at the tomb.  Jesus must have met them and the other disciples – including Peter – in Galilee.  Otherwise there’s no story.  Jesus would have been forgotten like the now unknown traveling preachers, teachers, healers, magicians, and story-tellers of his time.

The tomb is empty.

Jesus is risen!

Now what?

No matter where you are on life’s journey of faith or non-faith, from whatever religious or cultural tradition of your past or your present, may you have peace in your life this day and every day,  Teressa

Lent.40: Joseph of Arimathea

holy week

Mark 15:42-47

Since it was late in the afternoon on Preparation Day, just before the Sabbath, Joseph from Arimathea dared to approach Pilate and ask for Jesus’ body. (Joseph was a prominent council member who also eagerly anticipated the coming of God’s kingdom.) Pilate wondered if Jesus was already dead. He called the centurion and asked him whether Jesus had already died. When he learned from the centurion that Jesus was dead, Pilate gave the dead body to Joseph. He bought a linen cloth, took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the cloth, and laid him in a tomb that had been carved out of rock. He rolled a stone against the entrance to the tomb. Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses saw where he was buried.

Mark 15:42-47, Common English Bible (c) 2011

Isn’t the description of Joseph from Arimathea intriguing? A prominent council member.  Eagerly awaiting God’s kingdom.

Best of all: he was daring.  It is not that he was extraordinarily brave.  He dared.   Dared to screw up the courage needed to approach Pilate to ask for the body of Jesus.  Dared to willingly risk his reputation among his colleagues on the council.  Dared to live out his convictions and commitment to the ways of God.  Dared to act.

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 40

 

Lent.39: Jesus Dies

holy week

Mark 15:33-41

From noon until three in the afternoon the whole earth was dark. At three, Jesus cried out with a loud shout, “Eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani,” which means, “My God, my God, why have you left me?”

After hearing him, some standing there said, “Look! He’s calling Elijah!” Someone ran, filled a sponge with sour wine, and put it on a pole. He offered it to Jesus to drink, saying, “Let’s see if Elijah will come to take him down.” But Jesus let out a loud cry and died.

The curtain of the sanctuary was torn in two from top to bottom. When the centurion, who stood facing Jesus, saw how he died, he said, “This man was certainly God’s Son.”

Some women were watching from a distance, including Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James (the younger one) and Joses, and Salome. When Jesus was in Galilee, these women had followed and supported him, along with many other women who had come to Jerusalem with him.

Mark 15:33-41, Common English Bible (c) 2011

The women may have watched from a distance, but at least they were there.  They did one of the most important things we can do in the face of death: show up.  Be there to comfort the grieving, to support one another, to hold a hand or to offer a shoulder to cry on.  Being physically present for another is an act of grace, an act of love.

Many of the people who serve Jesus go unnamed and unrecognized.  The quote “do little things with great love” (St. Therese of Lisieux, a.k.a. “The Little Flower”) comes to mind.   Small deeds and random acts of kindness do make a difference – even when no one notices.

-Teressa Clark, 2012

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 39

 

Lent.38: Crucifixion

holy week

Mark 15:22-32

They brought Jesus to the place called Golgotha, which means Skull Place. They tried to give him wine mixed with myrrh, but he didn’t take it. They crucified him. They divided up his clothes, drawing lots for them to determine who would take what. It was nine in the morning when they crucified him. The notice of the formal charge against him was written, “The king of the Jews.” They crucified two outlaws with him, one on his right and one on his left.[c]

People walking by insulted him, shaking their heads and saying, “Ha! So you were going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, were you? Save yourself and come down from that cross!”

In the same way, the chief priests were making fun of him among themselves, together with the legal experts. “He saved others,” they said, “but he can’t save himself. Let the Christ, the king of Israel, come down from the cross. Then we’ll see and believe.” Even those who had been crucified with Jesus insulted him.

[c] Mark 15:28 is omitted in most critical editions of the Greek New Testament The scripture was fulfilled, which says, He was numbered among criminals.

Mark 15:22-32, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I would like to think that I would not have joined the crowd in mocking Jesus.  I cannot imagine intentionally yelling cruel and hateful things to one who is suffering – especially one who is so clearly unable to respond in any way.  But maybe that is what allows people to open their mouths.  When the ruling authority has declared someone guilty and that person is securely tied up with no chance of escape, it seems pretty safe to say terrible things.  With a few choice words, just one person can turn a crowd into a hateful mob.

What if I do not join in, but just walk away?  Is it enough to be silent?

Speaking up and working against injustice is often the more difficult and the more faithful response.

-Teressa Clark, 2012

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 38

 

Lent.37: Torture

holy week

Mark 15:16-21

The soldiers led Jesus away into the courtyard of the palace known as the governor’s headquarters,[aand they called together the whole company of soldiers.[b] They dressed him up in a purple robe and twisted together a crown of thorns and put it on him. They saluted him, “Hey! King of the Jews!” Again and again, they struck his head with a stick. They spit on him and knelt before him to honor him. When they finished mocking him, they stripped him of the purple robe and put his own clothes back on him. Then they led him out to crucify him.

Simon, a man from Cyrene, Alexander and Rufus’ father, was coming in from the countryside. They forced him to carry his cross.

[aOr praetorium    [b] Or cohort (approximately six hundred soldiers)

Mark 15:16-21, Common English Bible (c) 2011

I remember when Mel Gibson’s film “The Passion of the Christ” first came out.  One of the boys in our Confirmation class went to see it for his birthday.  I asked if he thought I should see it.  After a thoughtful silence he said, “No.  It’s pretty gory.”

More than one confirmation student has been surprised at the gruesome details of the crucifixion – especially if we watch a reenactment of some sort.  Do you remember first hearing the details?

On another note, who do you suppose Alexander and Rufus were – besides the sons of Simon from Cyrene?  Why are they mentioned?  My best guess is that they were part of Mark’s community whom people knew and respected.  If you need to check out the veracity of the story, they are the guys to contact.

-Teressa Clark, 2012, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 37

 

Photo Challenge: Worship

Where does one begin to capture an image of worship?  As an ordained pastor and teacher in the United Church of Christ, my mind went in dozens of directions – not all of them church related!  I settled on sharing photographs related to two Sacraments celebrated as a part of Christian worship.  The things pictured are just things until they are used by a gathered community to remember, to share stories, and to celebrate what God has done, is doing and will do.

EUCHARIST (‘thanksgiving’) – COMMUNION – THE LORD’S SUPPER

“O taste and see that the Lord is good.”  – Psalm 34:8a NRSV

Worship - Eucharist Table - 2

Communion Table, Psalms Retreat, Pilgrim Heights Camp & Retreat Center, Montour, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 9/11/14.

These first two pictures are from a one-day retreat I led based on the theme “Taste of God.”   We gathered for Morning Prayer, had a chance to work in the garden harvesting vegetables, and shared in a time of Worship with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.

Worship - Eucharistic Table - Psalms Retreat

After Sharing the Bread and Cup, Pilgrim Heights Camp & Retreat Center, Montour, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 9/11/14.

Did you notice the honey pot in the second picture?

“I would feed you with the finest of the wheat,
and with honey from the rock I would satisfy you.”
– Psalm 81:16 NRSV

My preference for Communion ware is definitely not the shiny plates and wine/juice trays for individual cups used in every church I’ve served.  Nevertheless I am always fascinated at the way the surfaces reflect candles and lights and windows!

Worship - Faith - Eucharist - Pastor View

Pastor’s View of Communion Table, Faith UCC, Muscatine, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 4/8/12.

My husband and I were in Seattle for a wedding last fall and dropped in for Sunday Worship at the UCC congregation nearest our hotel.  The chalice, paten (plate holding the bread) and cloth were beautiful.

DSC00422

Chalice, Broadview Community UCC, Seattle, Washington.  Photo:  TLClark, 10/7/18.

BAPTISM

More reflections on shiny church things!  The pictures were taken before Sunday morning worship in two different congregations.  Each had a silver pitcher from their early days that we used to pour water into the bowl for a baptism.

Worship - Bethany - Baptism set with reflection

Window Reflections in Baptismal Bowl, Bethany UCC, Baxter, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 5/29/16.

Worship - Faith - Baptism Pitcher Reflecting Rose Window

Rose Window Reflected on Pitcher, Faith UCC, Muscatine, Iowa.  Photo: TLClark, 4/17/13.

Just because I like it, here is a picture of me introducing Elle – a newly baptized “child of God, follower of Jesus, member of the church” – to the congregation.  

Worship - Bethany - Baptism (2)

* * *

Following the news of the devastating fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, Frank at Dutch goes the Photo! wrote, “it was immediately obvious to me that the theme for this week’s challenge is to be Worship. Regardless of religion, faith or belief system, we can all worship; whether it’s a universal being, nature or the love of our life… Please take this challenge into the direction of Worship that speaks most to you and share it creatively!”

Thank-you, Frank, for encouraging a broad definition of worship.

Lent.36: Mob Action

holy week

Mark 15:6-15

During the festival, Pilate released one prisoner to them, whomever they requested. A man named Barabbas was locked up with the rebels who had committed murder during an uprising. The crowd pushed forward and asked Pilate to release someone, as he regularly did. Pilate answered them, “Do you want me to release to you the king of the Jews?” He knew that the chief priests had handed him over because of jealousy. But the chief priests stirred up the crowd to have him release Barabbas to them instead. Pilate replied, “Then what do you want me to do with the one you call king of the Jews?”

They shouted back, “Crucify him!”

Pilate said to them, “Why? What wrong has he done?”

They shouted even louder, “Crucify him!”

Pilate wanted to satisfy the crowd, so he released Barabbas to them. He had Jesus whipped, then handed him over to be crucified.

Mark 15:6-15, Common English Bible (c) 2011

The crowd.  No estimate on size.  No description of individual participants.  No longer are there are individuals.  All have been sucked into something outside themselves, beyond their best judgment.

With a few choice words the crowd becomes a mob.  Thinking, caring, rational human beings lose their identities, say horrible things, and act in ways foreign to their ordinary daily lives.  No effort is made to consider the consequences.  Caught up in the moment, there is no time for second thoughts.

As Mark tells the story, Pilate knew better but bowed to the crowd.

This business of going along to get along still happens today – even when we know it is not in our best interest.  How do we resist?

-Teressa Clark, 2019

Lenten Reflections 2019:  Following Jesus from the Mount of Olives to the Tomb ~ Day 36