Monday, April 1, 2013

Monday in Easter Week

So, I didn't post on Holy Saturday or Easter...I was busy. "The girls" were here--our three most beautiful, cutest, Supreme Court Justice/Nobel Prize Winner/ Oscar winner granddaughters. Finding a spare moment, much less 20 minutes to write something on my blog is an impossibility!

Plus their parents and Mimi and Tim, and our friends John, Jack and Sherry, never mind Sumi, Josh and Cathy's 14 something pit bull (sweetest dog ever) who has trouble going down steps and needs to go out more than your average dog....Just no time to sit and type....

One way I differ from most Episcopal priests is that I am not exhausted after Holy Week and Easter. Almost all Episcopal priests take Easter Week off...just like they take the week after Christmas off...because the drama and liturgies and spectacle has worn them out. This goes to my theory that more Episcopal priests than you would have guessed are introverts. Introverts, since they feed off 'what's inside them' get drained by the Big Honkin' Holy Days. I'm always amazed at how many Episcopal priests are introverts and therefore folded and mutilated after Holy Week and Easter. I'm doubly amazed at how many introverts choose parish ministry as a career tract. What's up with that? An introvert needs a nap after the service and coffee hour on the 13th Sunday after Pentecost--never mind the Super Bowl of Easter....

Extroverts, like me, on the other hand, 'draw' energy from what's going on 'out there'--from what surrounds them. So Christmas and Easter 'energize' people like me. I could do a dozen Easter services and then drive to New York for dinner and a show. You'd be surprised at how few extroverts are Episcopal priests. Extroverts don't collapse after the Holy Days, they go to the gym or a party. Extroverts like me feed on High Holy Days and need to work off the emotional calories we consume.

My wife is an introvert. So when I come home on a normal Sunday ready to have a chat and dance the tango, she doesn't know what to do with me. But Christmas and Easter rev me up so much that it is a blessing that there will be lots of people around eating more food than they should and consuming inordinate amounts of wine so Bern doesn't have to talk me down from my Liturgy/Sugar 'high'.

Introvert priests should be sent to Sensory Deprivation Therapy after Easter. Extroverted priests should be sent to do a Triathlon. Problem solved.

My granddaughters and their parents were at the Easter Service at St. Andrew's, Northford, which was glorious. Emma, who is six, sat on the aisle and waved at me throughout the liturgy. And when I was preaching from the aisle, she laughed at the funny stories I told in the beginning. The thing was, when I got to serious stuff (I'll send my sermon at the end of this if I can remember how to copy and paste) she kept laughing. It would have distracted an introvert, but for someone like me, it just kept me going.

If you're not familiar with Carl Jung's psychology, here's a short course: INTROVERTS come from the inside out, using internal energy to be present to the external world. EXTROVERTS  come from the outside in, using the energy in the external world to fuel what is internal.

I preached at the funeral of a lovely man who sat behind my family for years at St. John's. Andrew looked like Cab Calloway and was a dear and always talked to my children as they grew. I was retired when he died and his family (all of whom were Baptists) had his funeral at Grace Baptist Church (an African American Congregation). When I started talking I thought I had five minutes worth of things to say, but I kept getting "Amen's" and "Speak it, Preacher's" and I went on for I don't know how long. Afterwards, Larry Green, the Pastor of Grace Baptist, told me I not only sounded Baptist, I sounded Black!

If Emma came to all my sermons I'd preach until she stopped laughing. (Another Jungian insight, Extroverts know when they've 'lost the audience', introverts don't have a clue because what they're saying comes from their heart, not from the reaction of the listeners....Neither is good or bad--thank God for Jung--they are just what they are.

My Easter sermon, I hope...

Easter 2013

People sometimes assume that preachers enjoy preaching on Easter. Like the Super Bowl or the World Series.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
Preaching on Easter is a nightmare.
First of all, anything that could be said about Easter has already been said hundreds of times, thousands of times, tens of thousands of times.
Secondly, what has to be proclaimed on Easter is something so foreign to our human experience that it defies expression. We human beings know that 'dead things stay dead.' Dead is dead. It is an absolute, something we all agree on. Dead as a doornail. Dead and gone. Dead things stay dead....
So, over the years of being expected to say something on Easter, I have resorted, more often than not, to tricks and jokes and slight of hand.
One Easter, long ago, before I began my sermon, I broke off one of the lillies and ate it. My point was that when people told their neighbor that their priest ate an Easter Lily, their neighbor would say, “I don't believe it!” Which is exactly what the disciples said when Mary Magdelean ran to tell them Jesus had risen from the dead.
When I ate the lily, there were a few audible gasps from the congregation. “Great,” I told myself, “I've got them now!” The truth was they knew (as I obviously didn't) that a lily could be a little toxic so they weren't hanging on my every word...they were waiting to see if I keeled over....
I never ate another Lily, but I did, on Easter, get phone calls from God, Jesus, even the Easter Bunny.
One Easter I'll never forget, I had our verger dress as the Easter Bunny, a full body suit and bring in a basket full of the symbols of Easter. Then I had the children join me on the altar steps—50 or more children—and began to ask them questions about the symbols the 6 foot 4 inch Bunny had brought.
When I got to an Easter Egg, I held it up and said, “can anyone tell me something about this?”
Courtney White, who is now a Medical student at George Washington University, piped up and said, “after a while, they smell like poop.”
Which was true, as days old, boiled eggs go, but hardly the “stuff” of a Resurrection sermon.
But maybe not. Maybe Courtney had some insight into the whole thing about the Body and the Soul, the Physical and the Spiritual.
Who knows? Really, Who knows?
So I have fudged and cheated and used smoke and mirrors for Easter sermons for most of my Easter sermon life.
And when all else failed, there were always bunny ears....

But just this week—this Holy Week—my best friend John, who is psychotherpist in New Haven, called me and told me what he's started telling some of his patients.

Here's what John tells them: “You can either 'be happy' or have all the Reasons you can't be happy.”
I found that remarkable and helpful and, most likely, True.

You can either 'be happy' or HAVE all the Reasons you can't 'be happy'.

I'd prefer the word “joyful” in place of “happy”. Happiness is fleeting, Joyful is down to the bone.


Now we're getting close to what Easter is really about.
Jesus died. Died on the cross. Died a horrible death you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy.
And he was dead. Dead as a doornail. Dead dead. Dead and gone.
And God simply loved Jesus back to life. Loved him that much, that powerfully, that profuoundly. God simply went into that tomb and loved Jesus back to life.
And, I believe, God is willing to do that for us—for you and me—as well.

God wants to love us—you and me—back to life.
That's God's intention on this Easter day.
The rest is up to us.

You can either 'be alive', truly alive, having abundant life, right now, and always, OR, you can have all the reasons you can't be truly and abundantly alive.

God loves you 'best of all'. No kidding, honestly, believe me, God loves you more than you imagine, more that you can imagine. God loves you enough to bring you 'back to life', back to something truly alive and abudant, now and always.

That's what the empty tomb means. That is what Mary Magdelene's message is about.

Choose Life.

Because of Easter, it truly is your choice.
You can either “have life” or have all the reasons you can't 'have life'.

The tomb is empty. God loves you 'best of all'.

It's your choice.

Choose LIFE.
Alleulia, he is risen. He is risen indeed, Alleluia.
And so are we....

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some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.