March 2020

“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” Phil. 2:5

Dear Redeemer Family:

It is to the above text, for this Passion Sunday, a vision of disciples remade in the mind of Christ, that all of Lent builds. The season of baptismal preparation provides a rich palette of biblical texts in which the people of God both strive and fail to live faithfully into the mind of Christ. The grace of God provides a never-ending spring of encouragement. From the contrasting prayers of the hypocrites and those who pray in secret, through the amazing but flawed faithfulness of Abraham and Sarah, to the over-enthusiastic woman at the well and the reticent parents of the one given sight, we see Sunday by Sunday just how complicated and difficult it is to cultivate and live into the sacrificial, servant mind of Christ. Like a steady drumbeat, Romans provides a solid theological commentary on abundant human sin and abundant God given grace throughout the season.

At the same time, one need not scratch too deeply beneath the surface of these lessons of baptismal preparation to find the living waters. In these forty days of dry bones and lack of vision, God points us toward the paschal mystery on the horizon and the saving waters that await our renewal. Gracious encouragement abounds. Through the God who so loved that world that the self-emptying Son has given, our hope is encouraged in the living waters of a Samaritan well, in the water flowing from the rock, in the horn of oil and the mighty outpouring of the Spirit, in mud and washing.

Through a sublime and tightly woven symphony of stories across this season of Lent, we see God’s ancient people mirroring our own lives: the equivocation of Adam and Eve, laid against the faithfully following Abraham. Nicodemus comes with bold questions to Jesus but only under the cover and safety of darkness. The Bethany sisters both accuse and confess. In all their complexity, these characters despair and hope, work and wonder, live and die as we ourselves do. And our only real hope is every bit as complex and mysterious: the waters of baptism toward which the Church of the self-emptying Christ moves. They are waters of death, then life; of dying, then rising. Of sin swallowed up, then life given and renewed.

The Season of Lent is truly a season of textual complexity, mystery and beauty. Enjoy it this year.

In Christ,

Pastor Rose

March 2019

“Alleluia”

Dear Redeemer Family:
At a recent conference, a speaker said, “Christians proclaim the gospel…the good news… but what is that news? The news is that Jesus did not stay dead. The news is that Christ is risen.” She paused. The conference was silent. Finally, one lone voice from the crowd called out tentatively, ”He is risen indeed. Alleluia!” It was September, and the crowd was a bit rusty. The Easter proclamation felt odd at first, out of its usual context. The speaker repeated the call and response, and urged the assembly to repeat it, again and again, underscoring how we are called as Christians to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ not only on Easter Sunday but on every Sunday.

On Transfiguration Sunday, the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, we will be following the ancient Church tradition of “burying” the word alleluia to mark the beginning of Lent. As we do this, we know that Lent is not a time to bury Jesus. Jesus is not dead. The newsworthy event – Jesus died and did not stay dead – is the good news we are continually called to share. The world inverting miracle of the incarnation, “God with us” – which we might associate more with Advent or Christmas – also has deep resonance in these forty days.

Christ is risen. And the season of Lent also deserves to be its own thing. It’s the same good news with the emphasis on a different syllable. A grieving mom spoke once of how she tried to go to church at Christmas, but couldn’t bear the overwhelming imagery of baby related joy, backed up by cheerful music and tinsel everywhere. When she returned to church in Lent, “the church looked how I felt: bruised.” She decided she was ready to return to church. In Lent she could hear, see, and sing the incarnation and resurrection hope in a way that also acknowledged the reality of loss and death. Lent is a time when everything we do in worship – readings, music, colors, liturgical arts – can remind us simultaneously of the reality of death, the reality of resurrection life, and Jesus’ experience of life, death, and resurrection life with us. As Bishop Guy Erwin said at the same conference, mentioned above, “Our faith is death-defying: it take death seriously, and faces it unflinchingly.”

Life has its ups and downs. Although we always look forward to the celebrations of Christmas and Easter, the themes of Lent are just as real to us. And they are all too real for our faith development, and faith journeys. Alleluia.

In Christ,
Pastor Rose