For Easter 2020

I’m posting here some resources I created for Easter 2020. The first is a video sermon (a narrated PowerPoint slideshow) I shared today with my congregation via our Facebook group.


The images below are sized appropriately for a Facebook cover photo. There’s a version in English, in French, and in Spanish. The image of Jesus is taken from this painting by Henrik Olrik, touched up so that Jesus looks a bit more like someone from the Mediterranean rather than the Baltic.

church-community-eng

church-community-fr

church-community-sp

Prayer for a pet’s burial

My dog died yesterday. We’d been together for 15 years. I composed the following prayer for her burial. I’m posting it here in case others would like to adapt it for their own pets.

The prayer is inspired by Genesis 1:31 and Joseph Smith Jr.’s teaching that animals have immortal souls.


Creator God—

You saw everything you had created,
and you saw that it was good.

Patches was good.

We thank you for the blessing and the joy
of having Patches in our lives.

We loved running in the forest with her, chasing deer.
We loved watching her on spycam as she ran to the door to greet us when she heard us coming home.
We loved watching her try to bury treats under pillows.
We loved watching her bark at cows and horses through the car windows.
We loved seeing her sigh contentedly under warm blankets.

We hope that we were faithful stewards of this creature of yours.
We hope that the fifteen years she lived with us were happy years for her.

Now we commend her body to the earth
and her spirit to your hands,
trusting that a time will come
when she will once again come running to greet us
and we will once again join her in a joyful race through sunlit forests.

Easter Sunday

Theme: A people of the Temple bear witness of resurrection

Luke 24
(excerpted; fresh translation)

On the first day of the week,
the apostles and some others were gathered together.
As they were talking, suddenly Jesus was standing among them.

“Peace be with you,” he said.*
But they were terrified; they thought they were seeing a ghost.

He said to them, “What’s wrong? It’s me!
Look—touch me. I’m flesh and bones, not a ghost.”
And he showed them his hands and feet.
They gave him some broiled fish,
and as they watched, he ate it.

Then he said to them:
“It was written that the Messiah** would suffer
and would rise from the dead on the third day,
and that in his name
repentance and forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed to all peoples,
starting at Jerusalem.

Of all this, you are witnesses.
But wait here in Jerusalem
until I send you what my Father promised
and you are clothed with power from heaven.”

Then he led them out to Bethany
and was taken away from them, up into heaven.

With great joy, the disciples returned to Jerusalem.
There they all spent their time in the temple, praising God.


* Peace be with you: in Hebrew, Shalom aleichem

** the Messiah: or the Christ, the Anointed One


Reflection:

Lent is over; Easter has come. But here’s a final reflection to cap off the Lenten series.

Luke’s version of the Easter story ends with the disciples in Jerusalem, waiting to be clothed with power from heaven so they can go out in the name of the Christ to proclaim repentance and forgiveness of sins to all peoples. Their wait will end on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit falls on them.

And what do the disciples do while they’re waiting? They spend their time in the Temple, praising God.

Today, I will gather with my congregation to celebrate resurrection. We will sing hymns of praise, as I imagine the disciples doing in the Temple at Jerusalem in the days following that first Easter.

As I sing Easter hymns with my congregation, I’m going to imagine that we’re standing inside the sanctuary of the Temple at Independence. I’m going to imagine the sanctuary filled with members of Community of Christ from all over the world. When our Easter service is over, we will pour out of the Temple onto the World Plaza, with its world map made of bricks. We will go forth to bear witness of the risen Christ and to proclaim, in his name, repentance and forgiveness of sins in every nation where Community of Christ members live.

cimg5453

Photo by Emma Gray

We proclaim that people need to change the way they live.
We proclaim that people can change the way they live.
We support and participate in ministries that help people change the way they live.
We change the way we ourselves live.

We forgive people who have wronged us or hurt us.
We ask forgiveness of people whom we have wronged or hurt.
We work for reconciliation.
We work for healing.
We work to make peace.

Echoing the risen Jesus, we wish for everyone who crosses our path:
Shalom aleichem. Peace be with you.

That’s the vision, at least.

Holy Saturday

Theme: A people of the Temple follow Christ in the way of suffering love

Mark 8:34
(excerpted; fresh translation)

Jesus said:
“If any of you want to come with me—
disown yourself,
pick up your cross,
and follow me.”

Doctrine and Covenants 164:6b-c
(excerpted; fresh rendering)

As Christ’s body,
lovingly and patiently bear the weight of criticism
from those who hesitate to respond
to God’s vision of human worth and equality in Christ.
This is your burden.

At the same time, always remember:
The way of suffering love that leads to the cross
leads also to resurrection.
Trust in this promise.

Reflection:

“Pick up your cross,” says Jesus. In Doctrine and Covenants 164, the Spirit tells us that our cross—our burden—is to “lovingly and patiently bear the weight of criticism from those who hesitate to respond to God’s vision of human worth and equality in Christ.”

What does that mean?

What does God’s vision of human worth
call me to do
that would lead to me being criticized?

What does God’s vision of equality in Christ—
equality in the church—
call me to do
that would lead to me being criticized?

I am supposed to lovingly bear the weight of that criticism.
What does that look like?
It sounds like it may involve suffering:
“the way of suffering love that leads to the cross.”

gty-chicago-gun-violence-march-1-jt-161231_16x9_992

Scott Olson/Getty Images. A memorial march for victims of gun violence in Chicago, 2016.

About this Lenten reflection

Good Friday

Theme: A people of the Temple follow Christ in the way of suffering love

Mark 15
(excerpts; fresh translation)

Early in the morning,
the religious authorities turned Jesus over to Pilate,
charging him with many crimes.
Pilate sentenced Jesus to be scourged and crucified.

The soldiers dressed him in purple
and crowned him with thorns they had woven together.
For a scepter, they had a staff, which they also used to beat him on the head.
They knelt down in front of him and spit on him.
Then they led him away to be crucified.

They took him to the place called Golgotha (which means “skull”).
It was about the third hour of the morning* when they crucified him.
They crucified two bandits with him.

Passersby shouted,
“Hey you! The one who was going to destroy the temple
and build it again in three days!
Save yourself! Come down off the cross!”

At about the ninth hour,**
Jesus shouted, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?
(“My God, my God, why have you deserted me?”)

He gave one more loud cry and died.
And the veil in the temple was ripped in two, from top to bottom.


* third hour of the morning: around 9:00 a.m.

** ninth hour: around 3:00 p.m.


Reflection:

Why the ripping of the veil in the Temple? Here’s my thought:

320px-mishkan5_big

Photo by Daniel Ventura

In the Temple at Jerusalem, the veil covered the Holy of Holies, the innermost sanctuary. That was the room where the Ark of the Covenant was kept before it was lost. In that room, behind the veil, God’s presence was understood to reside. Only the high priest would pass through the veil, into the Holy of Holies, to stand in God’s presence, and that only once a year, on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.

The ripping of the veil would leave the Holy of Holies exposed to view. There would no longer be a barrier concealing God’s presence from human eyes. God would be exposed to display.

Does the ripping of the veil at the moment of Jesus’s death mean that, in Jesus’s death, God is fully exposed to our view? Jesus’s death removes any mystery about who God is; Jesus’s death shows us who God is. God is a person who loves us so much that he (she, if you prefer) became human alongside us. God lived with us. God became one of us. God became vulnerable, as we are. God suffered, as people do. God suffered horribly. And God died, as we do.

If someone asked me to picture God in my head, there are lots of images from scripture I might choose from: God as a king seated on a throne. God as the creator who opens his/her hand to feed his/her creatures. God as a rock lifting me high out of reach of danger. God as a forgiving lover who is willing to have me back when I have been unfaithful. God as a loving mother. God as a defender of the poor and victims of injustice. God as a generous, impartial benefactor, showering rain and sunshine on the just and the unjust alike.

Or: God as a battered, bleeding human body—a corpse—nailed to a cross. That too is a true picture of God, perhaps the most mysterious.

Jesus was God, living and suffering and dying in solidarity with human beings. Following Jesus means living and suffering and, possibly, dying in solidarity with my fellow human beings. My solidarity is supposed to extend, like Jesus’s did, to all human beings. How far does it extend right now?

About this Lenten reflection