In a world filled with poverty, division, war, hatred, and cruelty, it is difficult to credibly hold onto the promise of Jesus that the meek will inherit the earth. When human history seems only to demonstrate our unerring drive for power, when the enlightenment promise of inevitable human progress towards utopia has turned to ashes in our hearts, it feels almost absurd to cling to the promise of Jesus to be not afraid or to believe that God is love. What evidence can we point to for this mythology of grace? It is irrational to hold on to the Faith built upon the promise that all who call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.
Yet here I am, choosing to trust in the promises of Jesus, the one who was always merciful, compassionate, and gave himself sacrificially in love to all who came to him for help. If it is madness to believe it, then I will gladly be called a madman, because I have this one hope in my life….
That love wins.
After all is said and done, after the worst that we can do to each other, love will astonish us and redeem us. All of my hope is built on this one promise …
Love will win.
Today the Church celebrates the Festival Day of the Ascension of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
The central point of meaning of the bodily ascension of Jesus is his exaltation, or as is proclaimed in the Nicene Creed “He ascended into heaven, and is seated at the right hand of God the Father almighty.” It is interpreted more broadly as the culmination of the Mystery of the Incarnation, marking the completion of Jesus’ physical presence among his apostles and consummating the union of God and humankind.
With Jesus having ascended to the Father, who sent him to be incarnate by the Holy Spirit and born of the blessed virgin Mary, he who remains incarnate may now also be universally present through the Holy Spirit to all peoples, everywhere, without end.
We rejoice that the Savior of the world sits now in the heavenly places so that he may also live forever in the heart of each of us, and where he ever intercedes for us.
And so, today, we pray especially for the loving presence of Jesus to be with all of those throughout the world who live in nations beset by war, famine, poverty, slavery, and ethnic hatred, that his kingdom of peace will come among us today, to heal the human family and finally unite us together in him in endless joy, peace, and love.
Today the Church commemorates the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel announced to the Virgin Mary that she would bear a child, the Son of God, who would be the savior of the world.
So much depended on her saying “Yes”. May we all have such faith to say “Yes”, that Jesus will be born in us, as well.
The power of worshipping the Lord together in Choral Evensong
A lovely Lenten meditation:
Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the Christian season of Lent. Historically, Lent was the period of preparation for those new disciples of Jesus Christ who were seeking to become part of his Body in baptism. The season of Lent is set aside for self-examination for all of his disciples, certainly; but even more importantly Lent is a time set aside for us to re-open our hearts and lives to receiving the wondrous message of love, redemption, and renewal in Jesus Christ.
As we prayerfully and intentionally contemplate his great love for us as revealed in the Holy Scriptures and the the Holy Eucharist for the 40 days of Lent, we will discover those places in our lives where we have shut ourselves off from the source of our aliveness, hope, and faith. This is where we are invited to seek the help of the Holy Spirit to remove all those things in our lives that choke off the fullness of the life of Jesus in us, and to renew our first love with Jesus.
My prayer for all of us who are the Body of Christ gathered is that we will be renewed in our commitments as disciples of Jesus, filled anew with hope and joy, and discover just how much aliveness and grace he has to offer to us as we embrace his great love for us.
Our worship liturgies will begin with the Great Litany, a series of prayers and petitions sung back and forth between the congregation, choir, and the priest, prayers that come down to us from the early first centuries of the Church.
We all know that language changes over time, and that the meanings of words shift. I invite us all to bear in mind as we pray “Lord have mercy” that the word “mercy” also means “lovingkindness”. When we pray “Lord have mercy”, we are not just asking for God to turn aside his wrath; we are turning to the Lord, our loving Father, asking him to sweep us up into his arms as a mother gathers up her child who runs to her for comfort and assurance of love.
“Gather us up into the arms of your lovingkindness, O Lord”.