Inscribed on a column of the Temple of Apollo in the ancient Greek city of Delphi was the philosophical axiom: know thyself. These words are attributed to Socrates when asked about the totality of ALL philosophical axioms.  He supposedly replied, “The unexamined life is not worth living. Know thyself.”  I am reminded of Our Lord’s response to the scribe who asked about the “greatest commandment.” Jesus replied with the Shema, Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is One.[a]  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’[ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’[c] There is no commandment greater than these.”

Even though we know that Christianity was formed in the crucible of Greek philosophy, what could the words of an Aramaic-speaking Jewish man of the first century CE and a Greek-speaking man of the fourth century BCE have in common?

A hint lies in the second chapter of the Gospel of John, where we read how the people who encountered Jesus in Jerusalem during Passover were enamored of him and the signs he showed. Yet, the Scripture says that Jesus was not moved by their admiration and pleasure because he understood human beings’ fickle nature. (cf. vv24-25) In other words, they “believed” in him, but he did not “believe” in them.  The same Greek word, pisteuo, is used for “entrust” and “believe” in this verse:  Jesus knew that the likes and dislikes of unenlightened human nature shift like the sands of time.

It is important to know who we are at our core because that is all that remains of us.  We are each “one heartbeat away from physical death,” as one spiritual teacher puts it.  To know ourselves is to recognize our multi-dimensional nature, usually accessed only in dreams and visions, meditation, or deep prayer, and to identify with that nature instead of the one we usually attach ourselves to (roles in life, material possessions, people, places, or other things).

If G-D, the Creator of all things, is ONE, then all that is created is a manifestation of that creator’s Oneness in a variety of forms—animal, vegetable, or mineral. We humans are also of oneness—a spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical whole. Studying and learning to understand who we are enables us to understand why we are here, ordaining purpose for living in this place and at this time.

Do not be fooled; we are each as much a part of all (the good, the bad, and the ugly) that occurs on this planet as any person we could choose to point a finger at. We, members of the human collective, are ONE and manifestations of the Unity, the very fabric of all that IS.  Likewise, being expressions of the DIVINE ONE makes us, at our core, lovers, just like G-D.  It is the imago dei within us.  In this dual reality, we live betwixt and between love and hate, war and peace, joy and sorrow, life and death.  Our earthly learning is about balance and harmony of all we think, do, or say.

To know ourselves is to hold our loving, generous, kind, peaceful, patient, and whole (holy) natures as well as our anger, fears, insecurities, manipulations, avoidances, and feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness, and doubts simultaneously—with compassion.  No small work, but Jesus did it, and we can do it too.  The Spirit of G-D lives in that inner-dimensional space to help us when (if) we ask. We have our whole lives to become as Jesus was (is) because there is always more.

It is this possibility of more that can be our catalyst into the unknown and to seek to shift and change from what is to what can be.  In the book, Prayers of the Cosmos, we understood the ONE Jesus called “Father” as total all-encompassing POSSIBILITY.  This dynamism is so out of alignment with our feared need for stability and unchangeability that it shuts out the Mystery of what can be.  But, this may be the only place left to stand in at the end of this present darkness.

The season of Eastertide in the Christian church is a wide-open door to celebrate LIFE in its fullness, even after so-called “death.”  Like Christ Jesus, the stories we listen to during our current adult forums talk of rebirth and new, true life, where the old life is surrendered for something new and amazingly GOOD!  We can honor the feelings of fear, loss, and darkness with compassion for ourselves while expecting and looking forward to the Light of the new life to erupt within us and in the world around us, just like winter inevitably cycles into spring.  Know yourself.  You are SO LOVED!

Freda Marie+

When I was a little girl, my family hosted two women from the Philippines who were touring the U.S. as part of a choir. They stayed for only a few days, but I grew fond of them very quickly. When it was time to say goodbye, I was heartbroken. I still remember how sad I felt when I walked into the room where they’d stayed in our home, after they had gone. On the dresser sat a tiny, brown kitten figurine left behind for me as a gift, which I kept for many years.

Goodbyes are hard, even and especially when they are indeed good. Good, because what has been shared and experienced together has been good. Good, because the reasons for leaving are good. Good, because we have been changed for the better, having been in each other’s lives traveling side-by-side for a season. Good, because we know about the transition ahead of time, and have enough time to say goodbye, properly. Goodbyes are hard, even and especially when they are indeed good.

By now, most of you have read the message sent out this past Monday about our coming staff transitions (click HERE) and are now “digesting” and processing. I imagine you, like me, may find yourself navigating a sea of thoughts and emotions. Sadness for us, mixed with joy and anticipation for the new experiences that lie ahead for Freda Marie, Rebecca, Barb and Chuan (Retirement! England! Elliott learning to speak with a British accent!). Some of you may be feeling anxious and concerned about so many goodbyes happening, one right after the other. Others, who have been a part of churches and institutions for a long time, may feel less so, having lived through and experienced many iterations and seasons of change before. “The only constant in life is change” was one of the favorite sayings of a mentor of mine, the head of a school in Colorado where we worked together in my twenties; I understand and accept the truth of this saying much more now than I did back then!

During seasons of transition, change and goodbyes, like the one in which we find ourselves — in addition to honoring and tending to feelings of grief, loss and sadness — I also find strength and solace in practicing 3 “habits”:

  • Gratitude — Naming and acknowledging all the gifts that have been given and shared …
  • Curiosity — Wondering with a genuinely open mind-heart about who and what new people and experiences lie ahead, just around the bend …
  • Presence — Being fully present in the Now, getting “out of my head” and fully experiencing each Present Moment as each moment unfolds, breath after breath after breath …

I will be practicing all of the above, in the coming weeks and months, and I invite you to practice them with me!

Even though Easter Sunday was 11 days ago, we are still in Eastertide and the early days of springtime, when all around us we are reminded that Resurrection and new life begin in the dark. And our modern English word “goodbye” originates from the phrase God be with you:

God is with you and with me
in the dark and in the light
in our comings and goings
our endings and beginnings
in our sorrow and joy
in our inbreath and outbreath
in the threshold and on the cliff
in the heartache and heartglow
in the absence and in the presence
in the past, present, future
God be with you and with me

Love,
Cristina

Dear all,

On Saturday evening, some members of the congregation gathered in the church as the day’s light fell. It wasn’t fully dark yet at 7 pm – more of a thick, expectant gloom. There were young children and older people; members of youth group, Confirmation class, and the Connections Choir. Everyone received a candle when they entered. In the quiet, we waited.

Then, fire.

David lit the Paschal flame, the new fire of Easter, resting in a bowl on the floor in front of the altar. From that flame he lit the Paschal Candle, the light that shines throughout the Easter season and during baptisms and funerals, reminding us of the resurrection that shines light and new life even through death. From the Paschal Candle we lit our own small candles, and shared the light with the congregation until the church was glowing with the light of Christ that shines in each of us.

Photo by Jim Stipe. Though the fire looks like it’s coming out of the baptismal font, it’s not!

In the glow, we listened to stories from scripture and the words of prayers that told our own story – of our salvation, our redemption, our new life in Christ. We renewed our vows to that life, committing again to all that God’s love calls forth from us, and vowed to support all those being baptized do the same. And then we welcomed five members of our parish youth, from second grade to twelfth grade, into that new life in Christ by water and the Spirit in Holy Baptism.

The Easter Vigil was and is a powerful illustration of Cristina’s sermon from Sunday morning. Resurrection starts in the dark – new life starts in the dark. There in the dim and glowing sanctuary, there in the darkening gloom, we sought that new life. We looked for the resurrection. Only after the time in the dark did we find it, first with the lighting of the Paschal flame, then with the lighting of the Paschal Candle, and the passing of light from person to person. And only after all our own lights were shining did light fully break in the church when we threw on lights with our cries of “Alleluia, Christ is risen!” “The Lord is risen indeed, Alleluia!” after the baptisms were concluded.

When I find myself in the gloom, down deep, where resurrection or redemption feel too far to hope for, it is the little lights I try to look for. There are times when the pain of this world – the human suffering we cause, the intentional and unintentional damage to one another and the planet, the systems of sin with which we are entangled, the personal griefs that weigh us down – feel so large and overwhelming that they appear insurmountable. The joyful noise and bright lights of the Easter proclamation seem far away. In those moments, I try to look for the little lights, the ones held by the people around me, warm and glowing. We each have one, whether we are at the Vigil or not. A kindness, a gesture, a friendship, a smile. They are reminders of the indwelling of the Spirit and God’s eternal love, here among us and within us, even in the gloom, even deep down. This Eastertide, may we carry with us those little lights, for ourselves and for the world.

Love,
Rebecca+

 

Dear Folks,

When you need space and time to talk with a spouse or a child or a friend, have you ever resorted to a long drive to give you a captive audience, buckled up together and travelling 60 miles an hour? Perhaps you were the one who had been strapped in? My wife had an aunt who planned a two-week trip through the Bavarian countryside with her husband of 37 years. Admiring their photos when they returned home, I asked how they had chosen Austria and Germany to visit, and my aunt didn’t miss a beat. “Honey, I just needed a country with highways and rental cars! We could have been anywhere. After four decades of marriage, I had a few things to say, and I needed my husband to just sit there and listen.” After a pause she continued, “Really it was this: Neither one of us had said often enough, ‘I care about you’ and ‘Thank you’ or ‘I’m sorry.’ We’d stopped asking ‘Where does it hurt?’ or sharing ‘I hurt sometimes, too.’ Before it was too late, I wanted to see what shape we were in.” Then smiling, she told me, “So I snapped myself into the driver’s seat, and didn’t let him out for 700 miles!”

A friend told me about a similar experience with his five-year-old son. The boy had misbehaved, so as he sat in his car seat in the back, the father delivered a speech on the way home from school. After the dad had finished, there was a period of silence, and then the boy said, “I hear you daddy, and I’m sorry.” And then he asked, “Daddy, how come you tell me all the things I don’t want to hear, but you never say the words I want you to say?” Amen. I think the kindergartener is telling the story of our lives: so often we get the news we don’t want, but seldom hear the words we long for: “I love you. Where does it hurt? I hurt sometimes, too.”

The news this week has been devastating: a ship losing control, an essential bridge collapsing in seconds, six men filling potholes on the graveyard shift falling to their death… battle lines drawn and redrawn in Israel and Haiti… elected officials fiddling while Kharkiv burns. How many of us put our fingers in our ears, just to keep moving in the morning? Are we forgetting what we need to say about justice and compassion? Do we practice hearing God’s still, small voice, which offers peace as a better, more lasting alternative to war? Do we remember how to do the hard work of listening to each other and ourselves? What do you need to hear?

Sometimes breaking our accustomed patterns helps, and that is what the trio of days from Maundy Thursday through Good Friday and Holy Saturday offer. If you are willing, jump in the car with parishioners and staff this evening, Friday, and Saturday, moving through each liturgy and experience planned for us, to see what Spirit is saying to you and doing for all of us. The trip won’t be the same without you.

Love,
David

Maundy Thursday, March 28 @ 6:30 p.m. Parish Hall – The Last Supper
Join us around a big table in the parish hall with your own brown bag supper, recreating the first Eucharist with bread and wine, sharing experiences of hope and healing from our Lenten journey. Then we’ll walk in silence to the church to strip the altar, an ancient preparation for Good Friday.

Good Friday, March 29
11:00 a.m.
Walk Through Holy Week Designed for children ages 5-11, but appealing to anyone who learns best through stories. Participants will gather in the chapel (entering through the choir room); follow the person with the water jug; sit in on the Last Supper; and walk along with the cross, learning the stories of Holy Week as they go. Children younger than 5 are welcome if attended by an adult.

12:00 – 1:00 p.m. Good Friday Liturgy, a poignant service of prayers and silence.

1:15 – 2:30 p.m. History Committee Walk: Join members of our history committee as they lead a walking tour of our church and campus as a way to highlight some of their findings about Redeemer’s relationship with the institution of slavery and the era of Jim Crow. We will gather outside of the chapel to begin our walk. Please wear comfortable shoes!

2:30 – 3:15 p.m. Embodied Prayer & Stations of the Cross: Vivian Campagna & Cristina Paglinauan will lead us through a series of guided meditations, prayer postures and simple, gentle yoga — intertwined with the poetry of Pádraig Ó’Tuama — offering an intuitive and integrative experience of the stations of the cross. No prior yoga experience necessary. You can bring a yoga mat or blanket, or sit in the pews or in a chair.

**Our labyrinth will be set up in the Parish Hall, along with the traditional stations of the cross, for anyone to walk on Friday afternoon between 12-4 p.m.**

Easter Vigil, March 30 @ 7:00 p.m.
We will gather in the church to kindle the Paschal flame and move from darkness to light while telling the story of our salvation history. If you have any bells, tambourines, or noisemakers, please bring them.

Easter, March 31
7:30 a.m.
Chapel – Holy Eucharist, Rite 1

9:00 a.m. Church – Holy Eucharist, Rite 2 with music by the Redeemer Choir, Choir School of Baltimore, brass, and timpani

Easter Egg Hunt follows the 9:00 a.m. service on the day school playground

11:00 a.m. Church – Holy Eucharist, Rite 2 with music by the Redeemer Choir, brass and timpani