Sunday, March 29, 2020

5 Lent

March 29, 2020

Ezekiel 37.1-14; John 11.1-45

+ Sometimes the lectionary—those assigned Bible readings we have each Sunday—are weirdly prophetic. They sometimes speak exactly to the situation at hand. They sometimes perfectly mirror a situation in which we are all living.

Well, today is one of those days.

Today, our reading from Hebrew Scriptures and our Gospel reading reflect our own strange time perfectly.

The first reading, of course, is Ezekiel’s vision of the dry bones.  It’s a great story in and of itself.  Ezekiel is brought by God to a valley full of dry bones and told to prophesy to them. As he does, they take on flesh and come alive.

It’s a great story for any Lenten season. But man! Does it speak loudly to us in this Lenten season!

And our reading from the Gospel today is the raising of Lazarus.  This story of Lazarus takes on much deeper meaning when we examine it closely and place it within the context of its time. And it’s a story I LOVE to examine and wrestle with.

One of our first clues that the something is different in this story is that, when Jesus arrives at the tomb of his friend Lazarus, he is told that Lazarus has been dead four days. This clue of “four days” is important.

First of all, from simply a practical point, we can all imagine what condition Lazarus’s body would be in after four days.  This body would not have been embalmed like we understand embalming today in the United States.  There was no refrigeration, no sealed metal caskets, no reconstructive cosmetics for the body of Lazarus.  In the heat of that country, his body would, by the fourth day, be well into the beginning stages of decomposition.  There would be some major physical destruction occurring.

Second, according to Jewish understanding, when the spirit left the body, a connection would still be maintained with that body for a period of three days by a kind of thread.  According to Jewish thinking of this time, the belief was the spirit might be reunited with the body up to three days, but after that, because the body would not be recognizable to the departed spirit because of decomposition, any reuniting would be impossible.  After those three days, the final separation from the body by the spirit—a kind of breaking of the thread—would have been complete.  The spirit then would truly be gone.  The body would truly be dead.

So, when Jesus came upon the tomb of Lazarus and tells them to roll the stone away, Martha says to him that there will be stench.  That’s an important part of the story as well.  He was truly dead—dead physically and dead from the perspective of his soul being truly separated from his body.

So, when the tomb was opened for Jesus, he would be encountering what most of us would think was impossible.  Not only was Lazarus’ spirit reunited with his body, but he also healed the physical destruction done to his body by decomposition.  It would have been truly amazing.

 And Jesus would truly have been proven to be more than just some magician, playing tricks on the people.  He wasn’t simply awakening someone who appeared to be dead, someone who might have actually been in a deep coma.   There was no doubt that Lazarus was truly dead and now, he was, once again alive.

Now, at first glance, both our reading from the Hebrew scriptures and our Gospel readings seem a bit morbid.

These are things we don’t want to think about.  Certainly not right now. Not now when we are surrounded by a deadly pandemic. Not now when people are dying in droves of this terrible illness.

But, let’s face it. They do speak loudly to us. We are living in a valley dry bones right now. Or it does feel like it right now.

We are sequestered.

We are isolated physically from each other.

We are in quarantine.

And it feels as though there is nothing but bones and uncertainly around us.

It feels like a very desolate time.

And to top off that desolation, we are rapidly heading toward Holy Week.  Next week at this time, we will be celebrating the triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem.  We will be hearing the joyful cries of the crowd as he rides forth.  Within 11 days from now, we will hear those cries of joy turn into cries of jeering and accusation.

For us, Holy Week this year will feel doubly desolate. We will not being gathering here in this building to commemorate these events. There will be no washing of the feet on Maundy Thursday. We will be sharing the Eucharist spiritually, yes, but not physically.

To just add even more to it all, we will be hearing about betrayal, torture, murder and death as Jesus journeys away from us into the cold dark shadow of death.  These images of death we encounter in today’s readings—as unpleasant as they are—simply nudge us in the direction of the events toward which we are racing, liturgically.

During Holy Week, we too will be faced with images we might find disturbing.  Jesus will be betrayed and abandoned by his friends and loved ones.  He will be tortured, mocked and whipped.  He will be forced to carry the very instrument of his death to the place of his execution.  And there he will be murdered in a very gruesome way.  Following that death, he will be buried in a tomb, much the same way his friend Lazarus was.  But unlike Lazarus, what happens to Jesus will take place within the three days at that time required for a soul to make a final break from his body.

And this brings us back to the story of Lazarus.  We often make the mistake, when think about the story of Lazarus, that Lazarus was resurrected.

The fact is, he was not resurrected.

It was not resurrection because Lazarus would eventually die again. He was simply brought back to life. He was resuscitated, shall we say.

So, Lazarus truly did rise from the tomb in Bethany, but he was not resurrected
Lazarus' purported tomb on Cyprus
there.  He went on to live a life somewhat similar to the life he lived before.  And eventually, he died again. There’s actually a tomb purported to be Lazarus’ on Cyprus (though his actual bones, it is believed, have been lost).

But Resurrection is, as we no doubt know, different.  

Resurrection is rising from death into a life that does not end.  

Resurrection is rising from all the things we encountering right now in our lives—Covid, pandemics, sickness, death, anxiety and fear. 

Resurrection is rising from our own broken selves into a wholeness that will never be taken away from us.

Resurrection is new bodies, a new understanding of everything, a new and unending life.

Resurrection, when it happens, cannot be undone.

It cannot be taken away.

Resurrection destroys the hold of death.

Resurrection destroys death.

And the first person to be resurrected was not Lazarus.  The first person to be resurrected was, of course, Jesus. His resurrection is important not simply because he was the first.  His resurrection is important because it, in a real sense, destroys death once and for all.

The resurrection of Jesus casts new light not just on our deaths at the end of our lives.

The resurrection of Jesus casts light on where we are now.

God’s raising Jesus from the death shows us that we will rise from this dark time, this time of pandemic, this time of coronavirus, this valley of dry bones in which we now live.

All of this fear and uncertainty and sickness and foreboding is only temporary.  But the resurrection of Jesus and the life he promises-that unending life—is eternal.

The end is not a cross or a tomb.

The end is not a valley of dry bones.

The end is not pandemics or anxiety or fear.

The end is that Easter light.

The end is that life in which we will be raised like Jesus into a new and unending life.

We will be raised into a life that never ends, a life in which “sorrow and pain are no more, neither sighing, but life eternal,” as we celebrate in the Burial Office of the Book of Common Prayer. Because Jesus died and then trampled death, he took away eternal death.

So, as we continue our journey through this valley of dry bones, as we journey through this time of uncertainty and anxiety, as we move through these last days of Lent toward that long, painful week of Holy Week, we go forward knowing full well what await us on the other side of the Cross of Good Friday.  We go forward knowing that the glorious dawn of Easter awaits us.  And with it, the glory of resurrection and life everlasting awaits us as well. We go forward knowing all of this in only temporary. But what awaits is eternal.

So, let go forward.  Let us move toward Holy Week, rejoicing with the crowd.  And as the days may seem dark and we may feel weary, let us keep focused on the Easter light that is just about to dawn on all of us.




Monday, March 23, 2020

From the Rector, March 23, 2020



As we enter into another week of quarantine, worship from a distance, and an uncertain future, we do so as a community. We do so with the knowledge that God is with us, and that all will be well.

I ask your prayers for our St. Stephen’s community. The effects of this crisis are already hitting very close to home. Although, thankfully, none of our community had been diagnosed with the virus, we are starting to see members affected by reduced work hours, financial shortfall due to the looming recession and, of course, our regular day-to-day pastoral issues.

As you know, one of our own continues to near the end of his earthly journey. I ask that you continue to keep Larry Kindseth in your prayers, as well as his wife, Anna and his daughters, including our own Janie Breth, and her family.

Another parishioner is with her ailing father in California and is thus further separated from our community. Please pray for Amy Phillips, her  father, Sam, as well as Dan and their family during this time.  

          We still gather to worship. Our live streaming Mass is a huge success, with almost 200 people viewing each liturgy and participating from home. We also have people  joining us from around the country and the world. The feedback to our live streaming has been phenomenal! Please keep posting those comments! (I will publish a few of them in our newsletter next week)

I am also aware that some of us are not members of Facebook for various reasons. With that in mind, and with the goal of widest outreach to our members, as well as non-members, we have now formed our very St. Stephen’s Channel on YouTube and have been uploading the videos of our Sunday and Wednesday masses there. Our St. Stephen’s YouTube channel can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCcdWKCnCHmviajkFX5p-xGg

The link can also be found on our website and blog. Or simply go to YouTube.com and search for “St. Stephen’s Fargo.” Please be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel.  

We are all brand new to this unique way of communicating and new ways of worship. There are, of course, going to mistakes as we proceed. Please be patient with us as navigate this strange new world together.

Both John Anderson and I have been slowly but surely making phone calls, emailing and texting parishioners to check on their well-being. Communication though is a two-way street of course, so please do check in on a regular basis with me so that we can be in regular communication during this time.

The work of the Church continues. We celebrated Laetare Sunday this past Sunday, though our rejoicing on this Rose Sunday was a bit subdued. We also blessed John Anderson’s new Deacon’s stole (made by Jean Sando) and his brand-new Dalmatic.

In addition to our weekly Masses, our Vestry also met on Sunday by Zoom. It was a productive meeting but one in which we all realized how difficult it is to meet everyone’s needs at this time.

Our wardens, Jean and Jessica, communicate on a daily basis (oftentimes many times a day). Please keep your wardens and Vestry in your prayers as well.

The big questions for the near future, of course, concern John Anderson’s ordination and Holy Week.

John Anderson’s ordination: I have been in contact with Bishop Keith Whitmore about whether the April 4th date for ordination is still feasible. As we all know, this situation changes day by day.  Earlier last week, we were weighing the option of a small ordination service on April 4th, which could then be live streamed. Since then, the situation has become more dire and it has become abundantly clear that the quarantine will continue into at least the first week of April. The concern on our part and for Bishop Keith is the matter of travel. Bishop Keith is 74 and squarely within the range of vulnerability for this virus. With that in mind, we must simply prepare ourselves for a postponement the ordination. John is fully aware of this and is willing to do what needs to be done. Please do keep John, Jessica and their family in your prayers at this time. This is just one more unavoidable disappointment for him in an already frustrating process.

Holy Week: it is becoming more obvious that the quarantine will remain in effect past the originally planned deadline of April 1. That means that it is becoming starkly clear that our Holy Week liturgies will be closed to public worship. However, we will continue to do those liturgies, though we will reduce them greatly, and will pare down the liturgies themselves.

The revised schedule for Holy Week is as follows:

Maundy Thursday Mass will be on April 9 at 7:00 p.m. as planned. There will be no foot washing.

There will only be one Good Friday liturgy on April 10 (no Stations of the Cross). The liturgy will be at 12:00 p.m.

I debated about whether we will do the Holy Saturday liturgy, but it is one of the most meaningful liturgies of Holy Week, and one that speaks loudly to us at this time. The Holy Saturday liturgy will be at 10:00 a.m. on April 11.

There will be NO Easter Vigil Mass on April 11.

We will celebrate Easter on April 12 at our regular time of 11:00 a.m. The baptism planned for Easter Day is rescheduled for another time.

All the Masses will be live streamed, as well posted to the YouTube Channel.

This is where are as we enter another week of this strange, new reality. I reiterate the message that I have continued to preach throughout this time: do not fear. Do not let anxiety and despair win out in this situation. Our God of love is close to us through all of this.

In my sermon last Sunday, I shared this:

We will get through this.

We will gather again in our church building.

We will again shake hands and hug at the Peace.

We will again share the Body and the Blood of Jesus at Holy Communion at the altar again.

We will all sit down at our post-Mass luncheon and eat our fill again.

We will all go out and do the ministries we have all been called to do again.

And this time we are going through right now will seem like a strange and truly bizarre dream.

Please hold this truth close to you as we make our way through this desert-time.

Continue to stay put, wash your hands, be safe, and pray. Pray for St. Stephen’s, for the Church, for our Nation and for the world. Please pray for me too. Know that all you continue to be included in my daily prayers. I miss those of you whom I cannot see in person. But we will see each other soon.

-peace,
Fr. Jamie+ 









Sunday, March 22, 2020

4 Lent


Lataere Sunday
March 22, 2020

1 Samuel 16.1-13; Ephesians 5.8-14; John 9.1-14

+ Well, today is Laetare Sunday. This is usually a joyful Sunday in the midst of Lent.  After all “Laetare” means “rejoice” in Latin.  And normally that is what we do on this Sunday.

In normal times, we find ourselves rejoicing because we are now at the midpoint of Lent.  We usually, at this point,  get a little break from Lent on this Sunday.  It’s not all purple and switches and ashes around us.

But today, our rejoicing on this Laetare Sunday is muted.

Usually, this Sunday is a Sunday in which our church building is usually full.

We also usually have our traditional simnel cake at coffee hour after Mass.

But not today.

Most of our Church is dispersed today.

They are quarantined in their homes. They are safe. They are sound. And we are thankful for that.

And around us, there is a sense of unease. We are uncertain of what is about to happen.

We are living in a time of anxiety and uncertainty as most of us have never known before. We’ve never done this before. Few of us have ever lived through anything like this.

It’s hard this morning to rejoice with any real feeling.  But it is good for us just to pause for a moment.  It’s good to take this time and just…breathe. It’s good to reorient ourselves.

When we look back at where we’ve been, it seems like a long journey so far this season of Lent.  Way back on Ash Wednesday, on February 26 (doesn’t that feel like a long time ago), we began this season. And Easter on April 12th seems to be a very distant future.

There is talk now of limited liturgies during Holy Week. The journey so-far seems so long and so exhausting. And the journey ahead seems, at moments, daunting.

This is where we are—right smack dab in the middle of this Lenten season.

But, on this dark and gloomy Laetare Sunday, we get this Gospel reading.  I’m happy we have the Gospel reading we have for today. We definitely need it! It’s a long one. But it’s a good one.  

This story of Jesus healing the blind man speaks very loud and very clear to us at this time in our collective history.  In a sense today—Lataere Sunday, the half-way mark of Lent—is a time for us to examine this whole sense of blindness.  Not just physical blindness, but spiritual blindness, as well. The blindness we are all experiencing not being able to “see” each other right now.

Right now, we feel like blind people—or, at least, like nearsighted people.  We grope about. We find ourselves dependent upon those things that we think give us some comfort, some sense of clarity.

The internet helps. Social media helps. We are able to keep tabs on each other. We are able to worship together—kind of—through livestreamed liturgies. We are able to keep in touch through phone calls and regular emails and texts.

But ultimately, nothing really seems to heal this particular nearsightedness.  In fact our sight seems to get worse and worse as we go on through this crisis.

In our Gospel reading for today, we find a man blind from birth.  The miracle Jesus performs for him is truly a BIG miracle.

Can you imagine what it must’ve been like for this man?  Here he is, born without sight, suddenly seeing.  It must have been quite a shock.  It would, no doubt, involve a complete reeducation of one’s whole self.

By the time he reached the age he was—he was maybe in his twenties or thirties—he no doubt had an idea in his mind of what things may have looked like.  And, with the return of his vision, he was, I’m certain, amazed at what things actually looked like.  Even things we might take for granted, such as the faces of our mother and father or spouse, would have been new for this man. So, the miracle Jesus performs is truly a far-ranging miracle.  

There’s also an interesting analytical post-script to our Gospel reading.  (And I’ve shared this story with you, but I always found it interesting)

St Basil the Great and other early Church Fathers believe that this blind man was not only born blind, he was actually born without eyes due to some kind of birth defect This, they say, is why Jesus takes clay and places them upon the empty eye sockets, essentially forming eyes for this man.  When he washes them in the waters of Siloam, the eyes of clay became real eyes with perfect sight.

It’s a great story, but the real gist of this story is about us. Yes, this crisis, this quarantine we’re under may feel like a kind of blindness. Yes, we are not really able to “see” each other as we once did. We took for granted that we could see each other before this event.

I know that many of us are feeling despair and fear. But as I have preached again and again, as I will continue to preach again and again:

We, as Christians, cannot despair. And we, as beloved children of a loving God, cannot fear.

We cannot fear.

We cannot live in the darkness of despair and fear.

This is not the place for the loved children of God.

Our reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians shows us that we are not children of darkness.  We are not meant to walk around, groping about in our lives. We are meant to walk in light. We are meant to embody light in our lives. And, by that, we are not just meant to hold the light close to us, as though it’s some special gift we are given.

We are not meant to hoard the light.  As children of light, we are meant to share it. We are meant to be conduits of that light. To everyone. Even when we might not feel like it.

Even now, when are so separated from others. And yet, with social media, we really aren’t. Kind of.  

We are anointed in much the same way David was anointed by the prophet Samuel in our reading from the Hebrew Scriptures today. We, who were anointed at our baptism, are now called to be what David was—a person on whom the Spirit of God comes in great power.

That Spirit brings light.

That Spirit brings spiritual clarity.

That Spirit brings vision.

That Spirit brings us hope and healing and health.

That Spirit sustains us, even in this strange and bizarre time.

You know what the Spirit doesn’t do? That Spirit does not allow us to fear or despair.

That is what we are doing on this day.  Lataere Sunday is a time to refocus, to readjust ourselves again, to remind ourselves of our anointing, of the light that dwells within each of us, of the Spirit who lives inside each of us.

Today, even in Lent, even in this midst of this pandemic, you know what? we can be joyful.  It is a time for us to realize that this dark time in not eternal.  

Darkness is never eternal. But light—light, is eternal.

We will get through this.

We will gather again, here in this building.

We will shake hands and hug at the Peace.

We will share the Body and the Blood of Jesus at Holy Communion at this altar again.

We will all sit down at our post-Mass luncheon and eat our fill again.

We will all go out and do the ministries we have all been called to do again.

And this time we are going through right now will seem like a strange and truly bizarre dream.

No matter how blind or nearsighted it might seem right now, our sight will be returned to us once again.

We, in a sense, find ourselves on this Lataere Sunday—this joyful Sunday in Lent—looking forward.

Lataere Sunday is a great time to remind ourselves that, even in our darkness, it will not be dark forever.  All will be made right again.   And we will see each other again with clarity and vision—with new eyes.   And we will see the darkness lifted from our lives and the dazzling light of Christ breaking through.

So, today, on this Lataere Sunday—on this joyful Sunday in Lent—let us be joyful,  even if we don’t really feel like it.

Let’s be joyful, even in this strange exile in which we find ourselves.

Let us be joyful even as we grope about, spiritually half-blind as we may seem right now.  

Let us be joyful, because darkness and pandemics are only temporary.

Let us be joyful, and let us not fear.

God loves us.

God loves you.

And all will be well.

Knowing that, how can we not rejoice?  



Sunday, March 15, 2020

3 Lent


March 15, 2020

John 4.5-42 

+ Well, there is no escaping the fact that we are now living in a very unique time. Few of us who are alive today have ever had to endure living though a pandemic.

I remember my grandmother talking about living through the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic, as well as few other smaller outbreaks of disease earlier in 1914 and later in the 1920s.

The fact that we are here, the fact that we are bracing for this strange common experience, is difficult for all of us.

We are all living with anxiety.

We are living with a certain amount of fear.

We are concerned not only for ourselves, but for our loved ones, for our friends.

I have been concerned for each of you. I have listened to your fears, your concerns, and your anxieties.  And I have struggled to figure out what we do and how we deal with this crisis, while at the same time not giving in fear and defeat.

I posted this note on Facebook this week, which garnered a bit of interest:




What I have been doing is keep up on the latest, most valid information, while trying to ignore the more sensationalist information.

I have been listening to doctors and scientists.

I have tried to make the best decisions regarding St. Stephen’s, trying to keep everyone safe physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And I will continue to take precautions that protect us, even if those decisions are unpopular.  And if you have issues with any decisions I make during this time, I hope you will forgive me and understand that I, along with the Wardens and Vestry, are trying to make the best decisions we can while navigating uncharted waters.

And I have been praying hard. Because, I do believe in the power of prayer.  And I have seen, many times in my own life, the positive effects of prayer.  I have been praying for a quick resolve to this pandemic. I have been praying for each of you and for protection for you. I have been praying for wisdom in how to proceed. And I have been praying that we can still meet, still worship together, still celebrate the life-living sacrament of Holy Communion, because I think these are important in times like this.

How long we will able to do this, I do not know.  Churches are temporarily closing for the safety of its members.  And we may have to as well.

And I have been trying hard to calm myself, to rest in the calm, cool Presence of God, to trust in God.

Again and again, as I study scripture and move deeper and deeper into my relationship with God, I realize that God still does speak to us. And one of those most commons things God says to us, over and over again, throughout Scripture and throughout our own lives is,

“Do not fear.”

“Do not be afraid.”

Do not be afraid.

We are loved by our God.

God is close.

God is near.

Even in our reading from Romans this morning, we hear this:

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand

It’s amazing how such a simple Scripture such as that sustains.

“We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

This peace is a peace that is stronger than pandemics and the fear and chaos that surrounds pandemics. It is this peace we find ourselves clinging to in times like this. It is this peace in which we dwell while storms rage around us.

And in our Gospel reading for today, we find this encounter with Jesus and the woman at the well.  In this encounter we hear Jesus talk about water and thirst, and the thirst for a water that is more than just physical water.

We understand this.  We too find ourselves thirsting.  We do thirst for knowledge, we thirst for health, we thirst for peace and calmness of mind in the midst of chaos. And we definitely thirst for spiritual truth.  And I think that’s very close to what Jesus is talking about in today’s Gospel.

When Jesus sits with the woman at the well, he offers not only her that water of life—he offers it to us as well.  And we, in turn, like her, must “with open hand” give it “to those who thirst.”

To truly understand the meaning of water here, though we have to gently remind ourselves of the land in which this story is taking place.  Palestine was and is a dry and arid land. And in Jesus’ day, water was not as accessible as we take for granted these days.  It came from wells that sometimes weren’t in close proximity to one’s home.  There was certainly no in-door plumbing.  The water that came from those wells was not the clean and filtered water we enjoy now, that we drink from fancy bottles.  They didn’t have refrigeration, they wouldn’t have understood what an ice cube was—so often the water they drank was lukewarm at best.

And sometimes it was polluted.  People got sick and died from drinking it.  Jesus understood and lived in a society that really feared illness. They too experienced epidemics and pandemics.

But despite all of that, water was essential.  One died without water in that arid land. Water meant life.  In that world, people truly understood thirst.  They thirsted truly for water.

And so we have this issue of water in a story in which Jesus confronts this woman—who is obviously and truly thirsty.  Thirsty for water, yes, but—as we learn—she is obviously thirsty also for more.  She is thirsty as well for love, for security, for stability, all of which she does not have.

She is a woman who is dealing with some real anxiety in her life.  

Now, we have to be fair to her.  For a woman to be without a man in her day would have meant that she would be without security, without a home, without anything.  A woman at that time was defined by the men in her life—her husband or father or son.  And so, widowed as many times as she was, she was desperate to find some reason and purpose in her life through the men in her life.

She is thirsty.  Thirsty for the water she is drawing from the well and thirsty for more than life has given her.

In a sense, we can find much to relate to in this woman. We too are thirsty people. We too are living in fear, especially right now. Or we are living in denial of what is happening around us. We are living with this sense of unknown about what is going to happen.  We too really are thirsty.

In this strange, surreal collective moment in which we live, we are longing for peace and health and calmness.  We find that we will never be quenched until we drink of that cool, clean water which will fill us where we need to be filled.

That cool, clean Water is of course our knowledge that we are truly loved by our God.  That knowledge of God’s love is the Water of which we drink to be truly filled.  It is the Water that will become in us “a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”

What better image to take with us in this strange, uncertain time?

As we journey through the weird, collective desert in which people are reacting with fear and panic,  what better image can we cling to?  We, collectively, are that woman at the well—we are parched and we feel alone, uncertain of our future.

In many ways, this experience is very much like a big, collective Lent. We are finding ourselves—our fractured, shattered, uncertain, frightened, insecure selves—struggling, coming to this well, expecting something…some quenching to this anxiety.  

Last week, I talked about Passive Diminishments. Well, we are right in one, big huge, passive Diminishment. We are in a situation, we cannot avoid, we cannot escape, but that we must simply endure as best we can, while doing everything we can to avoid illness.

In Jesus, we find that calmness we are longing for.  At this life-giving Eucharist we celebrate together, we find consolation.  Here too our thirst is quenched in the God we find here at this altar.   Like the Samaritan woman, we approach the well of this altar, weighed down heavily by our fear.  

But, like her, we are able to leave the well of this altar different people.  We walk away from this altar transformed people—a person made whole.  We walk away no longer thirsty people.  We walk away remade into saints.

So, as we journey together through this very bizarre and strange time, through this uncharted territory none of us has walked before, and as we approach Easter and the Living Water that pours forth from the tomb of Easter, let us do so without fear, without anxiety.

Before I close today, I want to make mention of Bishop Barbara Harris, who died yesterday morning.

Bishop Harris was described by my friend Fr. Tim Schenck as a “fierce, prophetic,
Bishop Barbara Harris
1930-2020
chain-smoking, foul-mouthed witness for social justice.”

(I LOVE that description!)

She was also the first woman ordained a Bishop in the Anglican Communion.

I, for one, am deeply grateful for all Bishop Harris did and was. This world is just a bit darker than it was, since her presence left it.

But, Fr. Tim shared a quote from her that speaks loudly to all of today in our particular situation.  Bishop Harris once said,

“We are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world.”

Yes, it may seem right now like a prolonged, seemingly unending Good Friday. But we are Easter people. We carry Easter within us, even in these dark times.  That bright shining light of Easter is alive within each of us.

So, no matter how dark it may seem, no matter how frightening it feels at times, we have to remind ourselves that that eternal, life-affirming Easter is alive in each of us.  And as Easter people, we need to remember again and again what our God tells us:

do not fear.”

Do not fear.

Our God loves us.

DO NOT FEAR.

God loves you.

Each of  you.

Fully and completely and uniquely.

Cling to that love.

Hold that love close to you in this time.

Let that love be your shield against fear and anxiety.

God loves you.

That is our living water right now.

All we have to do is say, “Give me some of that water.”

And it will be given to us.

And those of us who drink of that water will never again be thirsty.