A Prayer for Easter Sunday 2019

On this Resurrection Sunday morning, we are going to use a responsive chant from the earliest years of the church. The longer prayer from which this short phrase is taken is called the “Exsultet,” and it was a call-and response prayer that was adapted from an even earlier synagogue prayer. Early Jesus-followers offered that adapted prayer every year as the re-lit Christ candle was carried back into the sanctuary in the early hours of Easter Sunday morning.

The small piece we will use together today consists of two short phrases:I will say the first one at several points as we pray together:“Christ our Light!And when I say that, you respond with the second half, which is: “Thanks be to God”

Let’s pray together:

Good and Holy Triune God, we come before you on this glorious morning to say thank you! Thank you, first of all, for Who You are — Creator, Redeemer, Comforter, Friend — the God who chooses us, the God who sees us, the God who absorbs our broken, sinful selves into the body of your Son, our Savior. Thank you for that dark afternoon and thank you, too, for the brightness of this Easter morning!

Christ our Light! Thanks be to God!

A special word of thanks this day for the women, the women, who followed after you, who tended that wounded body as it was laid in the grave. The women, who were the first to see our Risen Lord. The women, who carried the great good news of RESURRECTION to all your friends, your students, your followers. Thank you for their faithfulness, thank you for their obedience. Thank you for choosing them to be the very first evangelists.

Christ our Light! Thanks be to God!

And thank you for all the others in the early church, for disciples who stayed true, for their openness to the Spirit, and their willingness to give everything they had, including their own lives, to the work of the kingdom.

Christ our Light! Thanks be to God!

As we gather in this beautiful space today, we want to thank you, too, for the early disciples in this place. Those who gathered, and dreamed and prayed and planned. Those who gave and built and longed to be your hands and feet in the community of Montecito. We have a rich heritage, Lord — an ancient one and a much more recent one — and we thank you for both.

Christ our Light! Thanks be to God!

You know this, Lord — even better than we do ourselves — you know that your church finds itself at a kind of crossroad right now — your church around the world, and your church in Santa Barbara. The terrible news from Sri Lanka this weekend, the loss of an iconic sanctuary to fire during Holy Week, and our own time of upheaval right here.

It’s been a confusing time, filled with questions and misunderstandings. Forgive us, Lord, for the ways we have contributed to that confusion, to those misunderstandings. Guide us into true repentance, and guide us into a clearer understanding of who it is you are calling and forming us to be at this point in time. Give us, we humbly ask, extra measures of grace, forbearance, forgiveness and kindness as we pick up the pieces and follow after Jesus anew.

Christ our Light! Thanks be to God!

Thank you for our Council leadership and their willingness to work extra hours to help us find our way. Guide their search for a long-term Interim Pastor, and give us all grace to be encouragers as we travel together down a road we didn’t expect to have to walk right now.

Christ our Light! Thanks be to God!

Thank you most of all for the meaning of this day, for the richness, the surprise — even the scandalous shock of our story: we gather here today to worship and then to serve a risen Savior, one who was hung on a tree to die a humiliating and difficult death, yet who conquered the grave and sits now at your right hand, interceding for US. Amazing! Astounding! 

Christ our Light! Thanks be to God!

Thank you, thank you, thank you! In the name of Jesus, our Risen, Living Lord. Amen.

A Little More Epiphany, Please . . .

So . . .
Yesterday was Epiphany Sunday.
And on my calendar, we are now in the season of Epiphany.

Some call this Ordinary Time, this season-between-the-seasons.
Christmastide just past, Lent just ahead — yes, to call this time ordinary
seems right and good.

But I love the idea of epiphany spreading itself out into ordinary time.
Epiphany — revelation/insight/an experience of ‘sudden and striking realization.’
Yes, I could use a little of that just now.

The new year begins, and this one feels like an out-of-control freight train already.
Too many commitments made, too many unexpected developments in the midst of those commitments.
And very little time to be reflective, to be quiet, to be.

I was glad, then, to be in worship yesterday.
To be in worship twice. In the morning for communion,
in the evening for Taize.

The altar held reminders of the magi, those wise men who followed the star
like an arrow in the sky, bringing their gifts of worth and wealth and death.
They found what they were looking for,
who they were looking for,
and they were smart enough to ‘go home by another way,’
as Sweet Baby James used to sing.

Some days I feel like I need to go home by another way myself.
To change direction in the midst of too much activity, too many people,
and head for home quietly, so that neither suspicion nor attention is roused.

Morning worship was refreshing,
though I dearly missed the renewal of baptismal vows
I had hoped might become a tradition on this Sunday.

Ah, but Sunday evening was that different way home for me, thank God.
Fifty minutes of sung prayer, candlelight, the read word, and silence.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

The altarpiece from the morning remained, though shifted slightly, with candles added.

The sky was still light as we entered, but pitch black as we left,
and that, too, felt exactly right.
Sometimes it’s a good thing to go from light to dark,
to be a little unsure of your footing,
to let the darkness wrap itself around your skin like a velvet cloak.

 And sometimes it’s good to be reminded of our connections to others,
our connections to the saints who’ve gone before us,
those who have been the church in other times, other places.
The very structure of this small service reminding us of six decades of
a particular style of ecumenical worship,
originating in the Burgundian countryside of France.
And the embroidered IHS on the gold table drape, a christogram —
a monogram of sorts —
the first three letters of the name of Jesus in Greek,
an inscription that has been in use since the second century.

There is something about this quiet, musical worship that touches deep places in  me,
and in my husband, too.
It’s the closest I come to singing in a choir,
something I did for nearly fifty years of my life,
before I moved to Santa Barbara and joined a community without one.

And it’s also the closest I come to ‘singing in the Spirit,’
something I have so learned to love since my connection
with the Charismatic Catholics who trained me in the principles of spiritual direction
over the last few years.

 The choruses are simple, short, often in a minor key and very, very repetitive.
But this is a very different kind of repetition from the never-ending
rendition after rendition of many contemporary praise choruses.
It is soothing.
It is prayer.
That’s EXACTLY what it is — it is prayer.   

So I will put the words to the songs we sang last night here, one after another.
At your leisure, read them through.
Pause every once in a while, and read a line again.
And again.
See if maybe, just maybe, you might experience a small epiphany as you do.

Surely God is in this place, Holy ground. 

Jesus, remember me, when you come into your kingdom.  

O Lord, hear my prayer.
O Lord, hear my prayer:
when I call, answer me.
O Lord, hear  my prayer.
O Lord, hear my prayer:
come and listen to me. 

Our eyes are turned to Jesus Christ, our salvation.
Our eyes are turned to Jesus Christ, Lord of all creation.* 

Lord God, heal me, heal me, O my Lord,
that I might fulfull all your plans for me. 

Call: Christ the Lord, you became poor and you offer the kingdom of heaven
to the poor of the earth; you fill us with your riches.
Refrain: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Call: O Lord, gentle and humble of heart, you reveal a new world
to all who abandon themselves; 
we receive of your fullness.
Refrain: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Call: O Lord, you fell prostrate on the ground,
and you show us a path of consolation in our distress;
you are the joy no one can take from us.
Refrain: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Call: O Lord, you shed your blood, and you give the cup of life
to seekers after justice; 
you quench every thirst.
Refrain: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
Call: O Lord, you showed yourself to the disciples and you pluck from our flesh
our hearts of stone; 
we shall see you face to face.
Refrain: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
O Lord, you divest the powerful and cloth peacemakers in festal robes;
you transform us into your likeness.
Refrain: Come, Lord Jesus, come.
O Lord, first of the living, you welcome into the kingdom of heaven
all who die for you; we dwell in your love.
Refrain: Come, Lord Jesus, come. 

Darkness is never darkness in your sight.
The deepest night is clear as the daylight.*

The kingdom of God is justice and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.
Come, Lord, and open in us the gates of your kingdom.  

Let your servant now go in peace, O Lord,
now go in peace according to your word.

*These two lovely sung prayers were written for us by our
Worship Director, Robert Gross.
Accompanying him last evening were Jon Lemmond on piano
and Anne Anderson on oboe.
This service includes a triple reading of the morning sermon text for reflection,
a corporate confession of sin,
the Lord’s Prayer,
an opportunity to light a candle and set it into a dish of sand
alongside the candles of those worshipping with you,
and a concluding prayer, read in unison.

And that is all.
And it is exactly enough.

I am still learning the formatting ins and outs of WordPress, so this is a day late. But I am joining with Michelle, Ann, Jennifer and Laura for their Monday/Tuesday communities: