31 March 2024


And wow seems entirely inadequate to describe the Triduum at St. Paul’s this year. Choir sang at the Maundy Thursday evening liturgy, including Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus and Stainer’s “God So Loved the World.” Good Friday’s Chief Service was up in attendance at noon. It wasn’t too quiet because of the joyous noise of little children. At Tenebrae Vespers that day Megan Pellock gave us an outstanding setting of Handel’s “But he was wounded” and the choir sang the entirety of Schalk’s St. John Passion. Saturday the vigil was probably our best attended ever. We gathered in the courtyard of the school, processed to the Church (with a relatively light wind, so most candles stayed lit), and then had the joy of that long liturgy. It took over two hours. We rejoiced in Momo’s baptism, in Andrew’s confirmation, and in the reception of new members. Then we celebrated the Holy Eucharist, and went home with hearts full of joy and peace. This morning early I preached at Matins (sermon below) where the choir sang Schalk’s Psalm 16, then Easter breakfast, and finally the Feast of Feasts: the Divine Service for the Resurrection of our Lord. My son said he didn’t remember the Church being that packed in many a year. Folding chairs across the pack and partway down the aisle. The choir sang “Alleluia! Christ is Arisen!”, “Alleluia! Alleluia! Gelobet sei Gott!” and a repeat on the Schalk. The liturgy took nearly an hour and a half, with distribution of the Sacrament consuming lots of time (five distribution hymns, one choir anthem, and lots of organ volunatry). Such overflowing joy! A few pics and then the homily from early:

Homily for Easter Sunrise 2024

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen. He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

In our first reading, the Lord through the prophet Isaiah had promised His people a feast, and what a feast it was to be! Rich food, well-aged wine, rich food full of marrow (and I never knew how tasty that stuff was until Cindi and I began to feast on bone marrow - snarf!), and back to the wine again: aged and well refined. In other words, this was one choice feast, folks. But tasty and wonderful as all that sounds, it is the OCCASION of the feast that astounds. For this feast will be thrown in honor of Yahweh’s mighty act: he will “swallow up” - eat - on this mountain the covering and veil spread over all peoples and nations: that is, He will eat up death forever. He will take into Himself and the result will be a relief that humanity has ached for since the days of the garden. The Lord God will wipe away the tears from all faces, and the reproach, the shame of His people, the stuff in their lives that makes them hang their heads in shame, it will vanish and be gone. So feast in honor of no more death and in honor of no more shame in our lives. How sweet that sounds! No wonder on that day, the day of the feast, the people cry out in joy: “Behold, this is our God! We have waited for Him that He might save us! This is Yahweh, we have waited for Him and now let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation.” 

When Mary Magdalene heads off to the tomb before daybreak that first Easter, she thought the opposite of the feast had happened. She thought that death itself had just done its usual job and swallowed down one more tasty morsel, but the heart-break for her and for all the followers of Jesus was doubled and tripled because they had THOUGHT that Jesus was the one who would bring in that great and promised feast. Apparently they were wrong. He too had been gobbled up by the great gobbler of all. But the first hint that it might not be so was the stone being moved, and the gaping darkness, devoid of the body of her beloved Master. Apparently at this point, she separates from the other women and high tails it back to the city to find Peter and John and tell them all about it. They go check it out. And in typical fashion, John, by tradition the youngest of the disciples, outruns old Peter, but is a bit timid about entering. Peter, huffing and puffing along as an older gent, boldly enters in, and John follows. How odd. Mary was right: the body was gone, but if this was a grave robbery, it was exceedingly odd. The wrappings and the face cloth, neatly folded and in separate places. The great Catechism question arises: “What does this mean?” They weren’t sure and they leave the scene.

But not Mary. Mary stands outside the tomb and her tears flow. Her heart is so broken, that when she stoops to look into the tomb, and even sees two angels in white, sitting exactly where Jesus body had been, one at the foot, the other at the head, she doesn’t register what she’s looking at. But you certainly should. It should remind exactly of the two cherubim on either side of the mercy seat, where the blood of atonement had been sprinkled. They ask why the tears. She tells them: “They (some unknown they) have taken away my Lord, and I do not know where they have laid him.” 

She turns away and there’s a man there. Standing by her. He repeats the question of the angels: “Woman, why are you weeping? Whom are you seeking?” She thought he must be the gardener and so tells him: “Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have laid him, and I will take him away.” She, a lone woman, lugging a corpse of a grown man. Not likely, I’m thinking. But of course, there is no corpse. The One she was seeking simply said her name: “Mary.”

Earlier Jesus had said: “He calls His own sheep by name” (Jn 10:3). As He says her name, she, as one of His sheep heard His voice and knew him in an instant. In a moment, her grief vanished and astonishment seized her. “Rabboni!” She cried out, “My teacher!” And she lunged for him, probably falling at His feet and holding Him tightly, like now that she has found Him she would never let Him go ago (though, of course, it was He who had in fact found her). What filled her heart in that moment? Weeping still, I imagine, she was thinking “O thank God! He IS alive! I’m never letting Him get away from me ever again. It will be like before.”

But of course, it was not to be like before. She Jesus tells her: “Don’t cling to me, don’t try to hold me back. I’ve got more to do and so do you. I have yet to ascend to the Father, but this is what I have for you to do: Go to my brothers and say to them, “I am ascending to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God.” For this is what our Jesus has accomplished by His death and sealed by His resurrection: that He who came forth from the Father alone could lead home in triumph many sisters and brothers and present with joy to His Father. “Lo I, and the children thou hast given me.” 

Mary obeyed. Probably more than a bit reluctantly and with many a glance back, she got up and left Him and ran to find the disciples gathered and announced that she had indeed seen the Lord and that He had said all these things to her. 

Which swings you, with them, right back into Isaiah 25. On Good Friday it had looked as though death had swallowed down Jesus, but on Easter morning it became apparent to Mary, Peter, James and John and all the disciples that it was God in the flesh who had done the swallowing. Death had met its match. As Pastor preached last night in the words of St. John Chrysostom: “Let no one weep for his iniquities, for pardon has shone forth from the grave. Let no on fear death, for the Savior’s death has set us free. He who was held prisoner of it, has annihilated it…. It took earth and encountered heaven. It took what was seen, and fell upon the unseen. O Death, where is your sting? O Hell, where is your victory?” (Paschal Homily, Treasury, p. 185) 

The confusing events of that long ago Easter morning took more than a little bit of time for the disciples to sort out. But eventually by the Holy Spirit’s help they saw it. They saw in what Mary experienced at the tomb and in her encounter with Jesus the fulfillment of everything God had promised through Isaiah in chapter 25. The resurrection of Jesus in the flesh was the first act in the inauguration of the great Feast and it guarantees all that is to come. Later today when we come to the Table, we will again get to taste the joy of sins full forgiveness and death’s utter defeat with the promise that that holds for us, and that we with all believers will be there on the last day when the great feast begins that never ends: joy everlasting, life eternal, peace forever, and together with our Lord as His brothers and sisters. 

Alleluia! Alleluia! Christ is risen! He is risen indeed. Alleluia!

The peace of God which passeth all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

30 March 2024

The Easter Feast

….not THAT one, the “after” feast. My friend Jamie wanted to know what the Weedons were serving, so here is this year’s menu: 

Appetizers of assorted cheeses, crackers or pork rinds, with sliced summer sausage.

Main course is roast lamb loin for those who care for that, and then lots of ground lamb-beef-feta balls for those who find the lamb by itself to be a little offputting (that would be me!). The lamb-beef-feta balls will be topped with either tzaziki or alfredo (I’m going with the alfredo myself).

Side dishes include Saganaki (cheese doused with brandy and set alight, though we’re trying a different of cheese for that this year), grapes, pitas, tortellini (again with Alfredo), and salad. 

Dessert for Cindi and I will be Oopsy-cakes (no carb, save for the lemon peel) and for everyone else Baklava. 

Cindi and I also plan on downing some of our Tres Generaciones tequila tomorrow with a splash of Topo Chico sparkling water and a lime. But there will also be Limoncello, some wines, and “the house wine of the South” (aka iced tea).

That’s about it!  

17 March 2024

The Great Passion: St. Matthew’s in English

Bach’s St. Matthew’s Passion was originally written to be performed in the Good Friday Vespers liturgy. I did not know that there was an English version of the Passion until today! It’s available in either Apple Music or Spotify (just search for St. Matthew’s Passion; Jeffrey Skidmore). And if you’d like to learn a bit more about the Passion, here’s a fine article.

15 March 2024

Thanks to Darlene and Philip Cawthon…

…for sharing this beautiful picture with me. It's looking from Dr. Lee Maxwell's grave back to the old St. John's Lutheran Church in Maryville. Lee served there as pastor for many years, and was preceded there more than a century before by none other than the great Friederich Lochner. It's also the mother parish of St. Paul's in Hamel. Sadly, the church was closed a few years after Lee's death.