From the Pastor, April

Dear Church,

Easter approaches, along with our church’s spiritual pilgrimage into the heart of the Christian mystery. We will mark this pilgrimage, as we always do, through worship, song, preaching, prayer, fellowship, and celebrating youth. Here are a snapshot of upcoming weeks, an invitation to allow the familiar story take you to unfamiliar places, and a personal update.

As we make our way through John’s gospel, April 2nd finds us facing head-on John’s passion narrative of Jesus’ crucifixion and showdown with Pilate. We will read nearly the entire story, with multiple voices aloud, as well as celebrate communion. Too often at Easter, the story of Jesus’ death and resurrection is told without reference to the actual subversive teachings that led to his death. To help us understand why Jesus died, on April 9th for our Palm Sunday Pageant Christian Education Director Beth Davis and the youth will guide us in an all-ages worship extravaganza. On Maundy Thursday’s Taizé worship service, April 13th at 7pm, we will make space for the areas of suffering and darkness in our lives and world. At 6am on Easter morning, April 16th, at Liz and Tom Costley’s house, we will greet the Risen Christ along with the rising sun. Finally, at 10am on Easter, not only will we proclaim the rising again of Jesus and life, but we will welcome new members into the congregation.

Easter (and its precursor, Lent) is important in the Christian journey for the inner invitation that it carries for us. Sure, during Lent the songs are introspective, the prayers and church services meaningful, but what really matters is whether or not we allow our lives to walk, archetypally, the same path of self-giving love, death and resurrection that Jesus walked.

To this end, here’s a tip for encountering God in these last days of Lent and the approaching Holy Week: consider all the characters of the familiar stories aspects of your own soul. We all have parts of ourselves that nearly give themselves over to the darkness, as Judas did. We all have parts of ourselves that swing back and forth from grandiose intentions and failure, as Peter did. We all have parts of ourselves that bask in the whole-hearted experience of loving and receiving love, as John’s “beloved disciple” did. We all have parts of ourselves that die, and we all have aspects of ourselves that rise again, as Jesus did. This exploration of the soul mirrors and participates with the exploration of God’s presence in our world. Once we learn to recognize God in the many different characters of our inner lives, we become adept at recognizing God’s movement everywhere, at all times.

Finally, I’ll be away for two weeks in April. Last year I became quite tired before summer hit, and so I’m switching up my professional development and vacation time slightly so I can keep a passionate pace through the summer, too. The first week off (I’ll miss Pageant Sunday April 9th) will be spent in Albuquerque at a conference on the Trinity put on by Richard Rohr’s organization the Center for Action and Contemplation. Many of you know that Rohr’s work, along with that of fellow presenter Cynthia Bourgeault, have profoundly shaped my life and spirituality. This will be a time for me to drink deeply from rich teaching and contemplative practice, as well as to connect with friends from across the country and world. Then, right after Easter, I’ll take a week off for vacation. On April 23rd, Williams’ Chaplain Rick Spalding and I have arranged for my beloved mentor and friend Kerry Maloney, chaplain of Harvard Divinity School, to be our guest preacher. You are in for a memorable treat, and I will likely pop in, because I can’t bear to miss her.

Here’s wishing you a soulful, transforming encounter with the subversive, crucified and risen Christ.

Rev. Mark