Easter 2017 Message from Presiding Bishop Michael Curry "Go forth to be people of the Resurrection. Follow in the way of Jesus. Don't be ashamed to love. Don't be ashamed to follow Jesus." It's taken me some years to realize it, but Jesus didn't just happen to be in Jerusalem on that first Palm Sunday. He wasn't on vacation. He wasn't just hanging out in town. Jesus was in Jerusalem on purpose. He arrived in Jerusalem about the time of the Passover when pilgrims were in the city. When people's hopes and expectations for the dawn of freedom that Moses had promised in the first Passover might suddenly be realized for them in their time. Jesus arranged his entrance into Jerusalem to send a message. He entered the city, having come in on one side of the city, the scholars tell us, at just about the same time that Pontius Pilate made his entrance on the exact opposite side of the city. Pilate, coming forth on a warhorse. Pilate, with soldiers around him. Pilate, with the insignias of Rome's Empire. Pilate, representing the Caesars who claimed to be son of god. Pilate, who had conquered through Rome the people of Jerusalem. Pilate, representing the Empire that had taken away their freedom. Pilate, who represented the Empire that would maintain the colonial status of the Jewish people by brute force and violence. Jesus entered the city on the other side, not on a warhorse, but on a donkey, recalling the words of Zechariah: Behold your King comes to you Triumphant and victorious is He Humble and riding on a donkey Jesus entered the city at the same time as Pilate to show them, and to show us, that God has another way. That violence is not the way. That hatred is not the way. That brute force and brutality are not the way. Jesus came to show us there is another way. The way of unselfish, sacrificial love. That's why he entered Jerusalem. That's why he went to the cross. It was the power of that love poured out from the throne of God, that even after the horror of the crucifixion would raise him from death to life. God came among us in the person of Jesus to start a movement. A movement to change the face of the earth. A movement to change us who dwell upon the earth. A movement to change the creation from the nightmare that is often made of it into the dream that God intends for it. He didn't just happen to be in Jerusalem on that Palm Sunday. He went to Jerusalem for a reason. To send a message. That not even the titanic powers of death can stop the love of God. On that Easter morning, he rose from the dead, and proclaimed love wins. So you have a blessed Easter. Go forth to be people of the Resurrection. Follow in the way of Jesus. Don't be ashamed to love. Don't be ashamed to follow Jesus. Have a blessed Easter. And bless the world. Amen. The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry Presiding Bishop and Primate The Episcopal Church
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- For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. -Romans 12:4-5 As president of Episcopal Relief & Development, I know the meaning of together. We are a diverse family that includes staff, board, donors, partners and those in need of a helping hand. We are one body, but each of us has unique gifts and roles to play in healing a hurting world. And yet, we can only do our work together in community. Moses does not go alone; he brings together a group of seventy elders to rule over Israel. Jesus doesn't either; he calls together the twelve and sends them out, two by two, to share the Good News in word and deed. Jesus rises from the dead to live among the whole human family. As a part of the Episcopal branch of the Jesus Movement, we are not alone in our work. We work with Anglican and Episcopal dioceses and provinces, along with other Christian and faith-based organizations and groups of our Jewish and Muslim brothers and sisters. Every day, I thank God and pray for members of our Episcopal Relief & Development team and extended family. I hope you will join me in prayer and thanksgiving for all who are a part of our family of faith as we begin this holy season of Easter. -Robert W. Radtke +Join us at St. Matthew's Church this morning for Easter worship at 8am, 9:15am or 11am.
- For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother. -Matthew 12:50 Jesus knows no other speed than full throttle, urgently proclaiming the Gospel of God's Kingdom at hand. So when Jesus' family attempts to take him home, he points to his disciples and says, "Here are my mother and my brothers. Whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." Jesus realizes that his proclamation of God's Kingdom can only be proclaimed effectively through a community. Jesus, the ultimate community organizer, knows that it will take a community to provide the multiplicity of voices and the different roles needed within a movement for change to take place. Paul also teaches us this, explaining that each of us contributes to the Body of Christ by providing our own gifts and talents to do the work. It takes people working together to create the collective synergy necessary to make manifest God's Kingdom. -Al Rodriguez +Join us at St. Matthew's Church tonight for the Great Easter Vigil, with a baptism, at 7:30pm.
- And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. -Hebrews 10:24-25 "Well, Jim, it's cancer." I already knew it. Funny...I wasn't at all freaked out or traumatized by it. Really. I had made peace with God and myself. I was ready for anything. Each day in the radiation lab, I saw the same patients over and over. I have never had such an experience - the warmth, pats on the back, words of support and encouragement to each other and our companions. "Hang in there, my friend; I'm keeping you in my thoughts and prayers," the all-knowing smiles. The healthcare professionals were equally supportive. We became family from all walks of life, together in a lifeboat. Each day, I saw God in the faces of my fellow patients. I felt a tangible sense of love pervading the atmosphere. I had a strong, strong sense of community, just knowing things would be well. They were. And they are.
- I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. -John 13:34 The Gospel of John uses two Greek verbs for love interchangeably: agape for self-giving love and philos for the love of a friend. It's as if the author of the Gospel of John can't tell the difference between a regular friend and the kind that you would die for. Upping the stakes, the gospel writer has Jesus commanding us to live in this relationship. "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you." If it weren't a commandment, I might shrink away from it. I can only take up this great task if some greater power requires it. Living in love is not just about the pleasure of another's company - it is also about the cracking open of my heart. It isn't just about the feeling of love - it's about the decision to love. Significantly, the Gospel of John never commands people to love God. The love that you might think is the first and greatest commandment isn't found in John's Gospel. Instead, we are commanded to love each other. It is in this love that we find God's love. Love binds God in the dance we call Trinity. Love is the power of God to hold all things together in singularity and to open our hearts so that there is more room for the Trinity to dwell and dance in our lives. When we dare to have our hearts opened, God is able to draw closer to us. When we risk losing our autonomy in relationship, God is right next to us, making us into love. -Paul D. Fromberg +Join us at St. Matthew's Church tonight for worship at 7pm.
- That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit in the communion of all your saints, entrusting one another and all our life to Christ, We entreat you, O Lord. -The Book of Common Prayer I woke early one morning months ago from a vivid dream in which my mother (who died four years ago) and I were assembling the baby bed that had been my daughter's. I learned two weeks later that my daughter was pregnant - but I already knew. I await the arrival of my first grandchild any day now. She will be named after her two great-great-grandmothers, strong women of deep faith. Who will she be? What kind of woman will she become? That is in God's hands. We can but cherish and love her - teach her to be kind and generous with all those she meets, to give of herself in humility. I see my mother and grandmothers each time I receive communion. At the altar rail, I meet them once again in that thin place, that sacred space where the communion of saints abides in holy convergence as I hold up my hands to receive the body of Christ. I remember their strength, their giftedness and their lessons, and I am connected through the generations. I entreat you, O Lord, that my new granddaughter will grow in the light of Christ and will someday remember me with love in that same thin place. -Carol E. Barnwell
- For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me. -Matthew 25:35-36 The great commission that we have received from Jesus Christ is to serve him by preaching the Gospel to others in our acts - by doing the work of feeding, clothing, comforting and encouraging our brothers and sisters. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), we partner with Episcopal Relief & Development to strengthen religious leaders and communities in their responses to and prevention of gender-based violence. In this partnership, we aim to physically and spiritually feed vulnerable people by teaching them new methods of livelihoods and telling them about God's love for them. Thanks to this important work, religious leaders in the Diocese of Aru in the DRC rejected the custom of forcing a girl to marry the man responsible for her pregnancy. Because they confronted this custom, our religious leaders have helped reduce early marriages and early pregnancies. They also help women access health care, education, information, income-generating activities and justice to achieve positions of responsibility for the development of their communities. Lent invites us to reflect on the love of God and neighbor and to assess what we have done for thousands of vulnerable women and girls in my country that is torn by hatred, injustice, murder and wars. -Louise Bashige
- Oh, how very good and pleasant it is, when brethren live together in unity! -Psalm 133:1 Recently, my wife and I were thrown a baby shower in honor of our son's birth. The host had everyone share why they thought we would be good parents. We are hopeful to live into their kind words. I was genuinely touched by the messages of each person, speaking about the interconnectedness of our lives and how we have blessed one another. It made me realize that while parenthood is terrifying, we are surrounded by a village. We do not have to traverse this path alone. Our community girds us, and we are strengthened by one another's love and compassion. I think about my friends around the world who have welcomed me into their homes and shared with me their tables. We are linked by the laughs we share and the tears we cry. These connections make the world very small to me. I think about what kind of Earth my child will inherit. He will be his own man, but I want to teach him what it means to be in community, to know that the wider we can throw open the doors of our hearts, the richer and stronger our community becomes. Today, I ask you to ponder this: How small is your world? How open are your doors? -Chad Brinkman
- Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. -The Book of Common Prayer +Join us at St. Matthew's Church this morning for Palm Sunday worship at 8 & 10am. If weather permits, we will gather in the garden for the blessing of the palms and then process into the church together.
- Is such the fast that I choose, a day to humble oneself?...Is not this the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? -Isaiah 58:5-6 I chose this passage from the prophet Isaiah because it is a core reading for Jews during Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Much of the structure of this day and the prayers focus on the individual's relationship with God. However, the litanies of sins all begin with the word "we," recognizing that the community is coming together to acknowledge its wrongdoings. In this reading, we hear a powerful reminder that repentance is not just about the individual: It is an exhortation to come together to make social change, to improve the world. As the text unfolds, we are instructed to feed and clothe those in need, to do work that can only be done in community and to act together with righteousness to create a more just world. At American Jewish World Service we do this work of repentance together with Episcopal Relief & Development and other partner organizations in places that are hurting around the world. We recognize that the people we serve have firsthand experiences of oppression and their own visions of justice. We believe that our responsibility is to bring our communities together to support these social change efforts around the world. This will, as the prophet goes on to say, let our light break forth like the dawn and the glory of the Almighty encompass us. -Ruth W. Messinger