Sunday, May 25, 2014

War and the Christian Faith - Some reflections for Memorial Day (J. Barry Vaughn, May 25, 2014)

The origins of Memorial Day are obscure, but it is likely that it began in the American South after the Civil War and was then adopted by people in the North.


That makes sense to me.  As we all know from high school history, the Civil War took the lives of more Americans than any other conflict because Americans were fighting Americans. It was a war that set brother against brother. Both sides suffered terribly, but the South suffered a disproportionately greater loss.


The total number of deaths in the Civil War was about 750,000 or 4 out of 10 young men. Imagine a war in our time that took the lives of 4 out of ten young men. Would the U.S. public today support a war so costly in terms of human life?


But even though Memorial Day is an American tradition, the meaning of the day really came alive for me when I lived in Great Britain.


It is impossible to live in Britain for long and not be aware of the enormous impact that World Wars 1 and 2 had on that country. Every town, no matter how small, has a war memorial on which the names of the fallen are engraved.


The British people endured far more than the American people in those two conflicts. Great Britain lost almost one million men in World War I, the Great War, the “war to end all wars.” The U.S. lost just over 100,000.


The U.S. lost just over 400,000 soldiers in the 2nd world war; Britain lost only slightly fewer troops.  But Britain lost almost 70,000 civilians in the second world war, because that war touched the British isles more directly than it did the United States. Night after night German bombers rained bombs down upon London in the Blitz.


In the U.S. we celebrate and remember those who have DIED in our countries’ wars on Memorial Day in May, and we honor those who have SERVED – that is, our veterans – on Veterans’ Day in November. In Britain, there is one holiday – Remembrance Day. It is in November, and its origins are the same as our Veterans’ Day: the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. The hour, day, and month that the armistice ending World War 1 was signed. The Queen lays a wreath at the memorial in the middle of the street in front of the Houses of Parliament and the entire country pauses in silence for 60 seconds. It is a remarkably solemn experience.


A few years ago I was in Israel on the day that they remember their war dead – Yom HaZikkaron, that is Memorial Day or Remembrance Day. Like the British, the entire country pauses for one full minute of silence. I was in Tel Aviv walking down a street. An air raid siren sounded. Fortunately, I was expecting it, so I didn’t dive for the nearest shelter! And not only did every single person on the street pause for 60 seconds, even the cars stopped. It was both eerie and moving.


The British read this poem on Remembrance Day:


They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.


We do well to remember those who have died in our wars. It is a noble thing to serve one’s country as a member of the armed services..


But war of any kind should give us pause. In today’s second reading, the author of First Peter says, “It is better to suffer for doing good… than to suffer for doing evil.”


Christianity holds us to a high standard. At the heart of the Christian story is the image of Jesus who died an unjust death, who prayed for and forgave his enemies, who endured suffering without retaliating and who calls us to follow his example and do as he did.


In the gospel reading today, Jesus says, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” And there’s the rub, there’s the thing that must give us pause this Memorial Day.


One of the things that Jesus said with perfect clarity was this: “You have heard that it was said, "An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also… You have heard that it was said, "You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”


Could anything be clearer?  Some call this the “counsel of perfection.” Others simply regard it as an impossible standard.


At the time of the Reformation, some of the Reformed Christians went even farther than Luther and Calvin in rejecting medieval Christendom. They took the Reformed principle of sola Scriptura or scripture alone to the extreme and said that Jesus’ counsel of perfection in the Sermon on the Mount should be taken quite literally. So they rejected all cooperation with civil government, reasoning that civil government requires the support of armies and militias and that inevitably involves the use of the sword and the taking of human life. Among the groups who followed this route were the Mennonites and the Quakers.


I find their principles admirable. Indeed, I sometimes think that if I were a better Christian, I would be a pacifist. Perhaps I am not a good Christian, because I do not believe that Jesus’ commandment to turn the other cheek applies in every situation.


One of the great Christians of the 20th centuries was German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Born in 1906, Bonhoeffer grew up in the shadow of World War 1. That conflict cost about 2 million German lives or nearly 4 percent of the German population. Like many German and British Christians in that era, Bonhoeffer was a deeply convinced pacifist. And then Hitler came to power. Bonhoeffer eventually came to realize that there are limits to Jesus’ summons to non-violence. He participated in a plot to assassinate Hitler, was arrested, and executed.


Another great 20th century figure regarded as a saint by many, even though he was not a Christian, was Mohandas Gandhi, who was deeply influenced by the Sermon on the Mount.


Gandhi took Jesus’ summons to non-violence and developed his own philosophy that he called satyagraha, a word that means “soul force” or “truth force.” But at the heart of Gandhi’s philosophy of satyagraha is not nonviolence, but nonviolent RESISTANCE.. Gandhi’s principle of active but nonviolent resistance eventually wore down the British empire and won independence for India. Following Gandhi’s example, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr….


When Churchill met Stalin during World War II, he complained about the problems that Gandhi was causing him in India. Stalin’s advice to Churchill was that he should just shoot Gandhi. I suspect that if the Soviets or Nazis had ruled India, Gandhi’s principles would not have worked.


Jesus was right:  We should always love our enemies and pray for them. Always. No exception. Turning the other cheek or non-resistance to evil should be our default position. But I believe there comes a time when we must resist evil in order to save the innocent.


Our servicemen and women deserve our honor and respect, not only because of their willingness to put their lives between our country and its enemies. In my experience it is those who lead our armed forced who are usually the first to recognize that the use of military force should always be the last option and never the first. A sure way to trivialize the sacrifice of those who have died in military service is to be too ready to go to war, too ready to implement the military option.


I conclude with a short quiz, just to see if you’ve been paying attention! Which president said this?


“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.


The source of the quotation was our 34th president – Dwight D. Eisenhower, who also served as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during World War II.


So this Memorial Day, let us give thanks for those who gave (as Lincoln called it) the “last full measure of devotion.” But let us also remember to love and pray for our enemies.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Religious violence and Christian exclusivism (J. Barry Vaughn, May 18, 2014)

Today's first reading, the account of the stoning of the deacon Stephen in the Acts of the Apostles, is the story of the first Christian martyr. Stephen was the first but by no means the last Christian martyr. In just the 20th c. the number of Christian martyrs easily numbers 50 million, if not more.
The thing that makes this story problematic is that Stephen is put to death by Jews. Really, I should say that Stephen is put to death by his FELLOW Jews, because in Stephen's time, there was not a clear and distinct difference between Jews and Christians. In Acts 11.26 we read that "in Antioch the disciples were for the first time called Christians." In other words, the followers of Jesus only began to be called "Christians" in the period covered by the book of Acts.
We also know that Paul went first to the synagogues scattered around the eastern end of the Mediterranean because he understood the Christian message to be good news for Jews. For most of the first c. the difference was not between Jews and Christians but between one group of Jews and another group of Jews. But toward the end of the 1rst c, when non Jews began to outnumber Jews in the Christian communities, then Christianity was understood to be a new and different religion, rather than a sect of Judaism.
I'm sorry to say this, but within 300 years, Christians started to persecute Jews and continued to do so for most of the next 2000 years. That is a history with which we have only begun to reckon and we have a long, long way to go.
Regardless, my point is that the stoning of Stephen was motivated by religious differences.
The so-called "cultured despisers of religion" are likely to snort and mutter "how typical!" under their breath. There are many who blame most of the world's ills on religion. They point to conflicts between Jews and Muslims in the Middle East; between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland; and between Hindus and Muslims in India; and between Christians and Muslims in many parts of the world.
There is something to be said for the idea that religious differences can foster hostility and even violence.
Following the Protestant Reformation Europe was rocked by a series of wars - the so-called "Wars of Religion" - that lasted a century and killed hundreds of thousands and caused untold misery and suffering.
However, it seems likely that religion is less a cause of violence and more of an excuse. The Islamic extremists who killed Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Perl were not nice people who would have been his best friends had it not been for their religious convictions. They were killers. Period. Full stop. Killers don't need a reason to kill; they just kill.
But I think there is far more to be said for the explicitly anti-religious states of the 20th c as agents of death. By conservative estimates the Soviets, Nazis, communist Chinese, Pol Pot's regime in Cambodia, and others killed between 50 and 100 million.
Nevertheless, we are Christians, and we must take responsibility for those who kill others under the sign of the cross.
What is the answer? What can we do to end religiously motivated war and murder?
Before I answer that question, I want you to consider Jesus' answer to Thomas's question in today's gospel reading. Thomas asks Jesus, "How can we know the way [to the Father]?" And Jesus answers, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
That presents us with a real problem. Even if religion is not primarily a force for violence and unrest, there is no doubt that sometimes religious differences cause or at least are used to motivate terrible conflicts and even terrible crimes.
Just this week the people of India elected a new prime minister, Narendra Modi, who some hold responsible for the deaths of 2000 Muslims in religiously motivated violence.
What do we do with Jesus' statement, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." It appears that Jesus is saying that there is a non-negotiable difference between Christianity and all other faiths, that Christianity is the one true faith, that without adhering to the Christian faith there is no hope of finding God, no hope of finding the eternal life that God promises.
Furthermore, here at Christ Church we have committed ourselves to evangelism, to making every effort to reach out to and bring in people in this community who are without faith, who are looking for hope, for answers to life's problems. We say that we have good news for the despairing and joyless. And I want you to know that I believe that and believe that we are right to do that. I believe that we do have good news to offer the world.
At the priests' conference this weekend Bishop Edwards had a team of consultants lead the priests of the diocese in a workshop on evangelism, including how to use social media to promote the Christian message. I believe this is something that the Episcopal Church has desperately needed to do for a long time.
But how can we promote the idea that Christianity is unique and special, that we have a message of eternal significance, and at the same time reject the kind of violence that resulted in the deaths of Stephen and the millions and millions of other throughout history who have been killed in the name of religion?
This is no simple question.
One solution to this is the solution of Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson rejected all the supernatural elements of Christianity. Indeed, I would say that he rejected everything that makes Christianity unique. Jefferson took the New Testament in one hand and a pair of scissors in the other and cut out all the miracles, including the resurrection of Jesus, and all references to the Trinity. Jefferson gave us an emasculated gospel, a gospel of "gentle Jesus, meek and mild," a religion without all the hard bits.
But I don't believe we can have a religion without the hard bits.
As most of you know one of my dearest friends in the world is Rabbi Jonathan Miller, the spiritual leader of Alabama's largest synagogue. Jonathan is not just a friend; he has been a spiritual advisor for me. Sometimes we even read and offer comments on each other's sermons. But, needless to say, Jonathan and I disagree about many things, not the least of which is "who is Jesus Christ?"
For me, Jesus is the messiah and the Son of God. For Jonathan, Jesus is a wise teacher, a wonderful representative of 1rst c. Palestinian Judaism, but in no sense is he the messiah, much less the Son of God. I believe that Jesus rose again on the third day after his crucifixion; Jonathan believes that Jesus died and sleeps the sleep of the just with his fathers and mothers before him.
But Jonathan and I agree on many more things. Jonathan and I believe that God created the world. We believe that God directs us to live good, ethical lives, and inspired Israel's prophets to give us directions about the best way to live our lives. We believe that we have an obligation to care for the poor, the hungry, and the oppressed.
You and I live in an age when the "nones" are on the rise, and by "none" I don't mean women vowing to live a life of prayer and service. The Pew Foundation recently issued a study showing that one third of people under the age of 30 have no religious affiliation. A representative of the Pew Foundation said, "Young people today are not only more religiously unaffiliated than their elders; they are also more religiously unaffiliated than previous generations of young people ever have been as far back as we can tell."
In the age of the "nones" I am happy to make common cause with Rabbi Miller. I am happy to make common cause with Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, with anyone who believes that life has meaning, has an eternal and transcendent significance, that there are eternal values embedded in the very nature of the universe. 
But I still believe that Christianity has a unique significance. I can believe that God is fully and uniquely revealed in Jesus of Nazareth, and at the same time believe that there is wisdom in the other great religious and spiritual systems of the world.
I do not believe that only Christians have a purchase on eternal life. I believe that God has sons and daughters in all of the world's faith. How can I look at the life of Gandhi or the Dalai Lama and believe otherwise?
But I still believe in evangelism. I believe that we have a powerful and life-changing message to share with the world, and I believe that there is an urgency about sharing that message.
Listen again to Jesus' statement from John's gospel: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me."
Jesus did NOT say, "Christianity is the way, the truth and the life." He did NOT say, "No one comes to the Father apart from baptism or without the Christian church."
I am sorry to say this but the Christian church is often an obstacle. Too often we emphasize ritual, custom, and tradition over the substance of the gospel.
I believe that Jesus and his way, his message, are the essence of the gospel. That is what we must share with the world.
We may feel that telling the Christian story implies a negative attitude toward other religions.  On the contrary, I think we show our respect for persons of other faiths by engaging in serious dialogue with them.  We want to share our story with them, and we also want to hear their stories.  We do not become less Christian by listening respectfully to our Jewish, Muslim, and Hindu neighbors, and they do not lose their religious identities by listening respectfully to us
Religion, even the Christian religion, can be used as an excuse for violence. We must never condone, much less perpetrate, that kind of violence. On the contrary, I want us to be people of the good news, people of the gospel, and at the same time, cherish, respect, and love people of other faiths and make common cause with them whenever possible.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Psalm 23 (May 11, 2014)

The 23rd Psalm is perhaps the most beloved of all the psalms and perhaps the best known of all the chapters of the Bible. Indeed, the 53 words of this Psalm (in the King James’ Version) may be the most memorable words in any language.


The LORD is my shepherd ; I shall not want . 

2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. 

3 He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 

4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me

 5 Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies : thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over. 

6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever .


The Psalmist makes two points: First, life is both delightful and difficult and second,  though our circumstances change, God does not change. God is with us, his people, throughout life and beyond.


The most profound poetry - describing our joy and our suffering in all their dimensions and giving us a vocabulary in which to give voice to the cries of our heart - is the poetry of the Bible.


Close to one third of the Old Testament is poetry. That includes not only the Psalms but also the Prophets. Much of the prophetic literature is also written in the idiom of poetry.


John Calvin said that the book of Psalms is "an anatomy of all the parts of the souls, for there is not an emotion of which any one can be conscious that is not represented in the psalms as in a mirror. The HOly Spirit has here drawn to life all the griefs, sorrows, fears, doubts, hopes, cares, perplexities... with which the human mind is agitated."


The Psalms provide us with thoughts to think and words to speak when we don't know how to think and what to say.


Psalm 23 is a "psalm of David" which could mean "to David" as a dedication or "of David" ie, belonging to David, or "for David" - to be used by David in worship.


But we do not have to know the historical context of Psalm 23 nor do we have to understand sheep and their ways to appreciate its significance.


The opening statement of Psalm 23 - "The Lord is my shepherd" -  tell me who God is and who I am. We are not "the ultimate measure of things, the controller of our world, or the determiner of our destiny." God is in control; I am not.


Then the shepherd leads his sheep into pleasant and refreshing places: "...he maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters."


From beginning to end, the Bible empties creation of divinity. In other words, the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is a polemic against the pagan religions of the ancient world. The Bible tells us that nature is the creation, not the creator.


But creation is also a symbol of the divine. And nature has been an inspiration for poets from the time of Psalm 23 to the present.


Poet/farmer/theologian Wendell Berry wrote:


When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be,

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

      of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting for their light. For a time

      I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.


The first three verses of Psalm 23 describe the delightful experiences of life: green pastures, still waters, paths of righteousness. But in v. 4 the picture suddenly changes and we find ourselves in the shadow of death.


John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress follows the Christian pilgrim through a varied landscape. There are "Delectable mountains" but there is also the Slough of Despond. There is House Beautiful but also the Hill Difficulty. There is the Country of Beulah - where birds always sing, flowers always bloom, and the sun shines night and day - but there is also the valley of the shadow of death.


The valley of the SHADOW of death is not death itself but a place of darkness, sadness, affliction, and trial. 


The poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, a Jesuit priest, went through a terrible time of suffering during which he wrote:


I wake and feel the fell of dark, not day.

What hours, O what black hours we have spent

this night! what sights, you, heart, saw; ways you went!

and more must, in yet longer light's delay.


I understand the words, "valley of the shadow of death" to mean that death can cast a shadow over life. To the best of our knowledge, we are the only beings who can anticipate our own death and this knowledge can take the joy out of life.


Death itself is less a problem than the fear of death.


But what comforts us when this shadow falls over life is that there is someone who walks with us through this valley of the shadow, someone who has been there before us and knows what we are experiencing.


There are many ways of saying, "I will fear no evil, for you are with me." In one of her books Dorothy Sayers speaks through Balthazar, a wise man who has experienced famine, plague, wars, and "the burden of fear." But Balthazar does not fear because he is convinced that God is with him.


If He is beside me, bearing the weight of his own creation;

If I may hear His voice among the voices of the vanquished,

If I may feel His hand touch mine in the darkness,

If I may look upon the hidden face of God

Adn read in the eyes of God

That he is acquainted with grief.


The 23rd psalm assures us that we are pilgrims, not wanderers. We are not lost; we are led. The shepherd knows the best path for us to take.


Sometimes life seems disconnected and erratic. We may find it difficult or even impossible to see any pattern. But there is a plan, a pattern. But the day will come when we will look back and be amazed. Time spent in the valley is not wasted. It is a part of the plan.


We are blessed with God's presence, comforted by his rod and staff, and will learn what it means to be "his people and the sheep of his pasture."


Psalm 23 assures us that death is not the end. There is something more and something better.


Following the words "surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life" there is not a period but a comma followed by the word "and".


My last day on earth is not my last day. The road will end but it ends as the runway does when the plane takes off.  We will die but we will dwell "in the house of the Lord forever."


For Christians death is the dawn of an eternal day, the gate to life, a home coming or as C.S. Lewis says, the beginning of Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.


John Donne wrote:


Since I am coming to that holy room

Where, with Thy choir of saints for evermore I shall be made Thy music, as I come

I tune the instrument here at the door,

And what I must do then, think here before. 


By God's grace, we shall see a greater light, a light that shall never face, a light of which all our glimpses of glory are faint reflections, the light of the New Jerusalem, a city that has "no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light, and its lamp is the Lamb." (Rev. 21.23).


In that light the problem of pain will disappear and sickness and suffering will be no more "for the former things have passed away" (Rev. 21.4).



Sunday, May 04, 2014

The Kitchen Maid of Emmaus (J. Barry Vaughn, Christ Church, Las Vegas. May 4, 2014)

The story of the encounter between Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus has been the subject of several works by great artists. The 16th c. Italian painter Caravaggio depicts Christ seated at the center of the table. Cleopas, on the right, throws his arms out wide in surprise when he suddenly realizes with whom he is dining. The nameless disciple has his back to the viewer and is about to stand up so abruptly that his chair is likely to tip over.


Rembrandt was fascinated by the story and explored it in several works. I especially like his etching of the Emmaus story. It is on the cover of my first collection of sermons - As One Unknown.


But I recently saw a painting by the Spanish painter Velasquez. It was actually Velasquez's first painting.  Velazquez has imagined the story in a very unusual way. He painted not Cleopas and his nameless companion and Jesus at table together. Rather, Velazquez imagines that the kitchen maid was listening in from another room. In the painting, the maid is front and center, and we can only see Jesus, Cleopas, and the other man through a window in the upper left hand corner of the painting. But you can see that she recognizes Jesus from the startled expression on her face.


The most interesting thing to me about Velazquez's painting is that he imagines the maid as a mulatto. In his time, mulatto meant something very specific. It meant the child of a Spanish Christian and an African Muslim. The maid is mixed race and even mixed religion. The mulattos were looked down upon and regarded as inferior.


Poet Denise Levertov saw the painting and wrote this poem about it:


She listens, listens, holding
her breath. Surely that voice
is his - the one who had looked at her, once, across the crowd,
as no one ever had looked?
Had seen her? Had spoken as if to her?

Surely those hands were his,
taking the platter of bread from hers just now?
Hands he'd laid on the dying and made them well?

Surely that face — ?

The man they'd crucified for sedition and blasphemy.
The man whose body disappeared from its tomb.
The man it was rumored now some women had seen this morning, alive?

Those who had brought this stranger home to their table
don't recognize yet with whom they sit.
But she in the kitchen, absently touching the wine jug she's to take in,
a young Black servant intently listening,

swings round and sees
the light around him
and is sure.


I think that Velazquez the painter and Levertov the poet are on to something. They are on to something that the gospel writers realized 2000 years ago. According to the gospels, the first witness of the resurrection was either Mary Magdalene or Mary Magdalene and one or two other women. In the ancient world, women had little status. They were vulnerable. Their well-being depended entirely on their association either with their fathers and brothers (if any) or their husband and sons (if any). The woman in the painting is also black, a person of another race and perhaps even a different religion.


The point that I'm making is that the painting, the poem, and even the gospel texts themselves tell us that the resurrection is best glimpsed by outsiders -- the vulnerable, the marginalized, the persecuted, the poor and hungry.


A little over one hundred years ago the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche said that Christianity is the religion of slaves. He meant it as a criticism, but I take it as a compliment.


Nietzsche was absolutely correct. The New Testament is written in Koine Greek, the common Greek of the first century. Koine Greek was the religion of slaves or servants (which meant pretty much the same thing in the first c.). Latin was the language of Rome, the imperial power. It was the language of government, the powerful, the military.


Nietzsche and other European intellectuals of the late 19th c. believed that religious belief would gradually wither away, dispelled by science and reason. But he was wrong. Religion flourished in the New World, in America, a country that, as G.K. Chesterton said, has the "soul of a church."


However, there are signs all around us that America is beginning to catch up with Europe. Church attendance is dwindling. Churches and denominations are struggling.


I believe we live at one of the great turning points in the history of Christianity. The center of gravity of the Christian church has shifted decisively to the developing world. In 1900 the great majority of Christians lived in the northern hemisphere, but in the year 2000, the great majority of Christians lived in the southern hemisphere.


Christianity is growing at a staggering rate in Africa, Asia, and Latin America. But the Christianity of the developing world is very different from our Christianity. It is evangelical and Pentecostal.


Not only is Christianity growing in the developing world, it is also starting to re-evangelize the developed world.


A couple of years ago my friend Rabbi Jonathan Miller invited me to lunch at his synagogue to meet his friend Israel who is a Pentecostal minister in Uganda.


You can imagine my surprise: A rabbi was inviting me to his synagogue to have lunch with an African Pentecostal minister.


Jonathan's friend, Israel, was in his 20s. He told the group assembled at lunch that he loved America, that America had brought Christianity to Africa. But, he said, today America needs Africa to bring Christianity back to this country.


Over the next century the Episcopal Church will be powerfully transformed by Christians coming here from the developing world. Many of those Christians are Anglicans. But their Anglicanism is very different from our Anglicanism. It is passionate and colorful.


A few years ago I had the opportunity to meet with Yann Redalie, the dean of the Waldensian seminary in Rome. The Waldensians are a small Protestant group centered primarily in northern Italy and Switzerland. Several years ago they combined with the Methodists in Italy. Dr. Redalie told us of a great problem and great opportunity that they are facing. Every year thousands of Africans immigrate to Italy. A great number of them are Protestants, many from churches founded by Methodist missionaries in the 19th c. So they often find their ways to the joint Waldensian/Methodist churches in Italy. Dr. Redalie said that they are thrilled to find their churches growing, but the culture of their churches is also being changed profoundly by the influx of the African Christians.


Precisely the same thing is going to happen to churches in this country.


You must be wondering what all this has to do with the story of Emmaus.


The connection is this: The story of Christianity in the developing world is exactly the story that Velazquez told in his painting.


It is more and more difficult to tell the story of the Risen Christ in the developed world, even in the United States. But people from the developing world are ready. They are hearing and responding to the good news of Easter. They are able to recognize the Risen Christ while he remains hidden to so many in our country.


I think one of the reasons that it is more difficult for us to hear the good news is precisely because of our wealth and power. We have so much and our riches tend to insulate us from the message of the gospel. Christianity is good news precisely for the poor and vulnerable, just as it was for those who spoke Koine Greek in the first c.


Make no mistake: We need the Christian message just as much as the people of Africa, Asia, and Latin America. But it may be more difficult for us to hear and respond to it. The Risen Christ may be walking beside us and yet our eyes do not see him for who he really is.


When Mohandas Gandhi studied law in London, he also began to study the New Testament. He was enchanted by the gospels, by Jesus. The Sermon on the Mount convinced him that Christianity was the most perfect of all religions. Then later Gandhi lived for a time with a Christian family and he became disillusioned. He rarely saw the Sermon on the Mount lived out in their lives.


In the Emmaus story the disciples say, "Were not our hearts burning within us when he was opening the scriptures to us?" Do our hearts burn with passion when we read the scriptures? Are we passionate about the gospel?


I assure you that our sisters and brothers in the developing world are passionate. They read the scriptures with burning hearts. And they are coming here to share that passion with us.



Saturday, May 03, 2014

Sermons from Good Friday - The Seven Last Words (Christ Church Episcopal, Las Vegas. Apr. 18, 2014)

On Good Friday my associates and I preached on the Seven Last Words from noon to 3 pm. I thought everyone did a wonderful job. Here are all the sermons, except the one by Pamm McGill. I will include Pamm's sermon as soon as I have it.

1. "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing"

The Rev. Bob Spencer, transitional deacon

            Last night we witnessed the betrayal and arrest of Jesus along with a mock trial.  This morning we have witnessed Jesus being tortured – brutally and unmercifully – then condemned to death by crucifixion.  Our Stations of the Cross take us to station 11 and Jesus being nailed to the cross.  The movies about this crucifixion show Jesus crawling onto the cross, even kissing it.  I shed tears at this moment knowing that He did it for me.  Yes, and for you too but I know He suffered this terrible ordeal for me.

            Death by crucifixion is basically death by asphyxiation.  Many articles have been published about what Jesus had to endure, what pain He had to suffer to even utter a few words.  Today we are assembled to hear those last seven words. 

            Jesus had to fight through searing horrific pain to say anything.  Picture this in your mind’s eye: it is the 6th hour (noon by our modern standards) and the cross with Jesus nailed on it has been raised to its upright position.  Jesus pushes on His feet – nailed to the cross – I can’t imagine the pain – He pulls with his arms – nailed to the cross – again scorching burning pain – just to get enough air to say something.  What He says under these circumstances defies description, He prays, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”  I’ll try phonetic Aramaic ABBA, pachop eli havaianoi viaton.

            This first word (saying) has so many elements in just 11 actual words. 

            He calls God Father, using the same familiarity He gave us in the Lord’s Prayer, and that He used in the Garden of Gethsemane just last night

            This prayer is totally and completely unselfish. Jesus does not ask for forgiveness for himself (how  many of us would sacrifice even that request?).    He is concerned for the people who are responsible for crucifying him and is asking God to forgive them. Who are these people who are responsible?

            He could be praying for the Roman soldiers who routinely put men to death; just obeying orders.

            Pilate might be a better candidate. He was a crass, two-faced, self-serving politician; desperate to hold onto power.  To avoid a riot he gave the order to execute Jesus.  He routinely ordered executions and it was in his authority.

            The Chief priests and scribes were the prime force behind the crucifixion; they were determined to kill him. Behind the scenes they had paid off Judas for his betrayal.  They felt Jesus was a threat to their power and authority --- the ability to remove  such threats was condoned.

            The Pharisees and Sadducees sought to discredit him. The Pharisees were the first to actively plot Jesus' death (Matthew 12:14). Sadly, we have the equivalent of them in todays’ Church.  The real Jesus is just too threatening to established religious powers that resist change. 

            The disciples who abandoned Him.  Although He told the guards to let them go, they  were pretty much running away.

            There is Peter who swore he would never abandon Him.  Peter must have had horrible shame after bragging and then denying Jesus – three times.

            Finally there’s you and me.  Think about it.  I don’t know about you, but I have done things I need forgiveness for. When my daughter died in 1971, just 21 days old, I thought Jesus had turned his back on me.  It wasn’t until 1981 when I realized that it was me that had turned my back on Jesus and He had been with me the entire journey.  

            Jesus gave the caveat, “for they do not know what they are doing”.  We have 2,000 Years of hindsight.  We look at what happened and think, yea, sure --- they did know what they were doing, but did they really?  Jesus’ entire ministry was full of love and forgiveness.  His own apostles walked with Him and witnessed this love.  Right about  now, at this time of day they are hiding out, afraid for their lives.  Until Easter morning they really don’t know, they just don’t get it.

            Paul, who isn’t really too much  on the scene yet describes it so well:

            "None of the rulers of this age understood it, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." (1 Corinthians 2:8; see Acts 3:17)

            Paul himself, who persecuted Christians to their death, did it because he just didn't understand.

            "Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief." (1 Timothy 1:13)

            We have a lot of company in deserving forgiveness because we didn’t know what we were doing.  In my own journey when I had turned my back on Him I really and truly did not know what I was doing.  I prayed for my daughter to live, against some pretty tough odds, and felt that because my prayer wasn’t answered the way I wanted, God must have turned His back on me.  Now when I read the Passion or see the movies, I know in my innermost being that Jesus died for me and these first words are directed at me some 2,000 years later.

2. "This day you will be with me in paradise"

The Rev. Bonnie Polley, Deacon

Chaplain to the Las Vegas Police Dept


As we come to the second “words of the cross”, we find ourselves listening to a conversation between Jesus and two others who were crucified with him.

One of the criminals was mocking Jesus, deriding him saying, “Are you not the Messiah?  Save yourself and us!” But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? And we indeed have been condemned justly, for we for getting what we deserve for our deeds, but this man has done nothing wrong. “Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.” It concludes with Jesus pardoning the repentant man and giving him eternal life. “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in Paradise.”

The jail is full of those who rail against God in their self-righteousness and presume that God is obliged to make their life smooth.  There is no spirit of brokenness, or guilt, or penitence, or humility.  They only see Jesus as a way out, an escape.  It never enters their minds to repent and change direction.  

Rick was one of these.  Rick, a body builder who won national recognition, was charged with the murder of a woman who was his Administrative Assistant. He slit her throat, stuffed her in the truck of his car and set the car on fire.  From the minute Rick was booked and charged, he justified his actions one way or another.  He worked the system from the get go, doing everything possible to make himself look like he had gotten a raw deal and was also a victim.  At his trial he testified against his wife who was his co-defendant, making it look like she killed the woman in a jealous rage and that he was only was only there for the ride. He had no need to repent.

But there are only a few who own up to the fact that God owes us nothing, and that any good to come our way will be due to his mercy, not out merit.

Kelly was one of the latter.  Kelly was one of my inmates charged with a hideous crime. Kelly, Rick’s co-defendant, like the penitent thief admitted that she was guilty and wrong. She surrendered; laid herself open before the God she feared and accepted her punishment as deserved and without complaint.  Kelly will be in prison for the rest of her life.  She is serving God, acknowledging the goodness and power of Jesus. As part of Kelly’s testimony, she shapes three crosses.  She holds up the first cross. “Jesus is on this one, she says.  The second cross also had a clay figure on it.  The thief is on this one.  Then she holds up the third cross and explains why it is bare.  I am the murderer that should he on this cross, but instead it is empty.  Because Jesus died, I am here today—alive and free on Life Row. 

Kelly asked Jesus “remember me when you come into your kingdom. Jesus replied, “today you will be with me in paradise”.  

The Greek word for paradise, the word we often mistake for Heaven, is paradisio.  It refers to the Garden of Eden-a state of delight-a place where all things are just, and fair, and whole. 

I don’t know about y’all, but I have certainly wondered what heaven is like?  I wonder where it is, I wonder what we will do there.  I wonder if it will be fun and I worry that it might be boring.  I wonder if we will wear clothes and what will they be like.  I wonder what our new bodies will look like, what will we eat, where will we live.  Will we be recognized by our loved ones and our friends?  Will we see our pets whom we loved?  Will Rufus remember me?  Will he run around in circles with excitement when he sees me? Will he still want to be taken for his walk?  Will we see God face to face and what will God look like?  Will all of our questions finally be answered?

No-one has captured what heaven will be like as well as C.S. Lewis.  Taking his cue from Jesus’ reference to Paradise and Isaiah 11’s depiction of predators and prey living together in perfect harmony, Lewis imagined a magical place he called Narnia.  Heaven, Lewis suggested, is a gloriously beautiful and exciting place of unlimited adventure and unlimited security where you can swim up waterfalls and play with wild animals without ever being afraid. Heaven is a place of reunion with the people you love to see and get to know, a place where good things never end and each adventure is better than the one before.  Heaven is a place where every creature is in the prime of life, in the best possible physical shape, and free from the constraints of time and the bondage of sin.

A place called paradise is what Jesus promised the thief on the cross.  It was his promise to Kelly.  It is his promise to you and to me.  Thanks be to God.


3. "Woman, behold your son; son, behold your mother"

The Rev. Gaye Lagana, Deacon

Director of pastoral care

We are gathered here today offering our presence to our dear Jesus as he is making his transition in the most brutal way.  As we are immersed in our own grief and loss and feeling abandoned by the one who we thought would save us from our own misery of suffering, we hear his words,  "Woman behold your son, and to his disciple, Behold your mother!"  And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.  


"Woman behold your son, and to the disciple he said, behold your mother."   And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home.  These words, this message reverberates within my body.  As my grief subsides, I am coming to know how they are directing me to live.  This is a most generous final act of Jesus.  Out of his compassion for his Mother's welfare, Jesus gives her to the one who he knows will care for her as well as his knowledge of the compassion and tenderness that Mary can offer his disciple.  Joined as family to each other they can fortify each other in this time of grief.  Jesus knew their vulnerabilities  that needed attention first. Then they could continue with the ministries that were set before them. 


And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home. There was no waiting, no forms to sign, no institutions to sanction this adoption, no questions of the legitimacy of this family creation, just a pure intention of the heart to offer solace and comfort to each other.


Now I said these words live in me and are directing me in how to live.  What exactly does that mean?  For me the gospel is personal and it is relational.  It is my story.  I live in it, and it lives in me.  Time is collapsed.  The past becomes my present and my  present becomes my future.  From the cross to now.  A leap in time. 


This gift of relationship gives me pause to reflect on "who are we to each other."  Who is my mother?  Who is my father?  Who are my Brothers?  Who are my sisters?  Who are my children?  How do I create a family?  Is my family one or two people, or is it a whole community? 


We have all been given a family from which we originate and if we were lucky we were nurtured and cared for until we could offer the same love and nurturance in return.  But what about those folks who have been abandoned in one form or another from birth?  Who is their family?  Have they lost status because they have been disenfranchised from birth?  That was the norm when I was growing up in the 40' and fifties.  Is it still applicable today?  Should it be?


As a daughter of the Christ, I witness the disintegration and recreation of the fabric of our society.  There are deaths as well as new life dissolving and coming into being on a daily basis.  While our last two major wars are ended, we are still impacted as a society by the return of our broken soldiers.  Many are returning to families who can not behold them in  the old way, mentally, spiritually, emotionally and physically.  While they may want to return to the comfort of what was, a wide chasm has been created and their new job is to create a bridge to their futures.  Their lives have been rearranged and they need to begin a new.  The life of Jesus offers them hope.


As I write this homily, I hear a very sad story on the news which took place in a community close to where I grew up.  In Murrysville, PA, a young man took two sharp ten inch knives to school and started to stab his classmates.  Luckily, none of his classmates died, but several remain critical.  It was learned that this young man wanted to die.  How sad that he found no recourse to his pain.  He was not able to ask for help.  He felt he had to resort to inflicting pain on others to resolve his own pain.  This story is tragic and very sad.


What I also learned in this story, is that many of the students acted in  a heroic way saving the lives of fellow students. One young man stepped in front of his best friend to save her  from a stab wound.  Instinctively, his friend applied a level of caring intervention which saved his life.  These levels of conflict run deeply within us and now more than ever we need to hear the words of the gospel and live them to protect the life we have been given. 


Even though we have tragedy all around us, we also have hope.  With a clear and loving intention in our hearts we can be agents of positive and powerful change.  I find the words of a Beatles’ song which I have slightly changed reflect the hope that Jesus offers us.


"When I find myself in times of trouble

Mother Mary comes to me,

Speaking words of wisdom, let me see.

And in my hour of darkness

She is standing right in front of me

Speaking words of wisdom, let me see.

Whisper words of wisdom, let me see."


To fulfill the promise of the Christ, the song affirms-

"And when the broken hearted people

Living in the world agree

There will be an answer, let it be

For though they may be parted

There is still a chance that they will see

There will be an answer, let it be."    Amen.


4. "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

The Rev. Richard O'Brien,

Senior associate priest

            My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  Of all the utterings of Jesus on this bleak day, that is the one that resonates with me the most.  It is so out of character with the idea we have in our heads of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the good shepherd; the finder of lost souls.  Jesus taught us to turn the other cheek, to love our neighbor as ourselves, to champion the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalized.  And this gentle teacher, this man who loves all without regard to status or position, breaks down at the end.    

            The same Jesus who prays that God forgive them for they know not what they are doing, the same Jesus who takes pity on the thief, utters the all too human lament, “my God my God, why have you forsaken me?”  Who of us has not had that thought in moments of deep sorrow, pain or despair?  When life seems more than we can bear, when the world has closed in around us, when the pain seems too much for us, we find ourselves uttering this same sentiment.  And that is exactly the point.

            When he chose to become one of us, Jesus fully became one of us.  He accepted human form and was incarnated as fully and completely human.  Jesus was both fully divine and fully human, and we see glimpses of both of these throughout the seven last words.  But it is in these rare moments where Jesus’ pure humanity shines through, like when he drove the money changers out of the temple, or when he wept at the tomb of Lazarus.  These images remind us that Jesus’ incarnation was not merely for show.  He didn’t merely pretend to be human, he truly was human.  And being human, he had to remain human through the good and the bad times.  When he was driven into the desert and tempted by the devil, Jesus the Lord could easily have used his power to feed himself or to prove that he was in fact the messiah.  But that would have meant he was not really human, that he was only playing a part as a human like an actor in a play.  To use his power for his own benefit would have been to do something that the rest of us cannot.  Jesus used his divinity many times in the service of others, but he never once used his power for his own gain.  So Jesus, in his great love for us, fully embraced his humanity.  And that meant accepting the humiliation and pain of death upon the cross.

            But knowing that he had to do it was not the same as experiencing the brutality of it.  It is one thing to intellectualize a concept; it is another thing entirely to experience the reality of it.  The human Jesus lived as we do, loved as we do, and suffered as we do.  And it is this agonizing suffering that manifested itself in the all-too-human wail “my God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” 

            We would think nothing of this if any one of us had said it.  No one would expect to go through such agony and not utter something like it.  It is remarkable to us because it was said by Jesus the Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords.  But remember that it was really said by Jesus of Nazareth, a humble man who was persecuted for crimes he didn’t commit, was tortured and executed as a sacrificial lamb.  This amazing demonstration of his humanity is a tangible reminder of how much our Lord gave up for us with the incarnation, and how awesome a sacrifice he made at the crucifixion.


5. "I thirst"

Ms. Pamm McGill

Postulant for the vocational diaconate

6. “It is finished”

Ms. Terri Porter,

Director of Sunday School

            All the time, I say that for big projects.  Working, laboring on a new yard project recently, exhausted, sore to the bone, completely filthy, satisfied…..  “Whew!  Time for a beer.  That’s finished!”  And I dusted off my hands, rested up, and got involved in another project – one that needed to be finished.

            Sometimes we use those words at the close of a chapter in our lives.  Selling a home.  Relocating.  Ending a painful relationship, even a marriage.  Retirement.  “That’s finished.”

            And we use those words at the end of long struggles.  Not too long ago, my favorite aunt fought her way through a terminal illness.  For almost a year, she patiently endured hospitalizations, numerous surgeries, painful procedure after painful procedure – all because her husband and son could not accept the inevitable conclusion of her life.  When they finally yielded to the offer of hospice care and brought her home for her last days, there was relief.  As she gasped for her final breaths, there was even a whisper of joy through the sorrow.  “It’s over!  It’s finished.”

            When Jesus said “It is finished,” I believe there were layers of meanings.  Close of another chapter.  Finished with the chapter of constant tramping up and down the roads and towns of Galilee and Judea.  Finished with the constant baiting by his critics.  Finished with the fickle adulation of the throngs that gathered wherever he went.   

            On to the new project of living at the right hand of God, living to be our great High Priest, and, as the writer to the Hebrews said, “ever living to make intercession for us.”

            Finished with the great struggle – the exhausting, excruciating week of the Passion.  Finished with the horrible ordeal of the trials, beatings, and crucifixion.

            But most of all, it was the GREAT FINISH of his ultimate work of redemption.  Our modern minds somehow struggle with this idea of a God who would ask for sacrifice of blood in exchange for redemption.  When I lived in Jerusalem, I was  blessed with the opportunity to go twice to the summit of Mt. Gerazim and observe the Samaritan Passover sacrifice.  Late in the afternoon, the children ran among the lambs in the large enclosure, playing, laughing.  Then close to sundown, the priests entered the enclosure and began chanting ancient prayers.  Just as the sun dipped to the horizon, each family took its lamb, slit the throat, and tipped the lamb upward to catch the blood in a basin.  The priests dipped greens in the blood and sprinkled the family.  Then one family member carried the blood quickly to their home to mark the doors.  One swab and the top, swab on either side, the drops inevitably falling to the ground, making a perfect sign of the cross.

            Not long after, I was invited to accompany a group of scholars into the Old City of Jerusalem to meet with a controversial group of ultra-Orthodox Jewish enthusiasts who are busily preparing garments, vestments, and equipment for use when the Temple is rebuilt on the Temple Mount.  One of the scholars asked, “Are you really planning to return to the practice of animal sacrifice?  Why?”  The spokesperson answered, “It is commanded.  How do we know?  Maybe God is a social Being who likes good barbecue.  We simply obey.”

            Jesus obeyed.  Christ’s great work of redemption.  FINISH to the hold of sin and failure as the defining characteristics of our earthly lives.  FINISH to the fear and despair that attack each one of us at one time or another.  And FINISH to death as the ultimate end to our existence. 

            Whether we understand it or not, His sacrifice is accepted.  It is FINISHED.


7. "Father, into your hands I commit my spirit"

The Rev. J. Barry Vaughn,

Rector of Christ Church

            There are many stories about last words. Sometimes they are funny. When Oscar Wilde lay dying, he said, "Either this wallpaper goes, or I do." When Queen Victoria's favorite prime minister, Benjamin Disraeli was dying, the queen wished to visit him, and Disraeli said, "Why should I see her? She will only want me to give a message to her late husband Prince Albert." I think the last words of the composer Beethoven are especially poignant. Beethoven more or less completely lost his hearing about twelve years before he died. On his death bed, the composer said, "In heaven I shall hear." And sometimes, last words are inspiring. When Charles Gore, the bishop of Birmingham, England, was at the point of death, he whispered, "Transcendent glory."

            According to Luke's gospel, the last words of Christ on the cross were, "Father, into your hands, I commit my spirit."

            Think carefully about those words. Jesus did not LOSE his life on the cross; he GAVE UP his life. Death was not something that happened to Jesus; it was something that he chose, something that he embraced. He was not a passive victim; he was an active participant. But exactly what was Jesus doing on the cross?

            Perhaps you, like I, were raised in a Baptist church or some other evangelical church, and received a big dose of the blood of Jesus just about every Sunday. Frankly, it became tiresome. I thought there must be more to Christianity than Jesus' death, so when I found the Episcopal Church with its emphasis on the LIFE of Jesus and not just on his death, I was delighted. I think that for many years I de-emphasized the cross and the death of Jesus. But now, perhaps because I am getting close to sixty years of age or perhaps because I have done more reading and research, the cross is becoming increasingly important to me.

            From the very beginning, the Christian faith has taught that Jesus' death on the cross was redemptive. In Colossians, Paul says, "For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross." (Col. 1.19-20)

            There are many ways to understand the death of Jesus.

            One way to think of his death on the cross is to see it as God's way of releasing a powerful, redemptive energy into the world. Have you ever used a glow stick? I'm sure you have seen them. They contain two chemicals that are inert until they are mixed. When you break the glow stick, the two chemicals combine and begin to glow. The death of Christ on the cross is a little like that. Christ's broken body releases some kind of light, some kind of energy into the universe. We see that energy in the lives of men and women such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta giving their lives to care for the poor dying on the streets of Calcutta; Dietrich Bonhoeffer resisting tyranny to the point of giving his own life in a Christ-like way; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., witnessing for non-violent resistance to oppression even to the point of death; and as Bonnie Polley reminded us last night, Albert Schweitzer, the theologian/musician/physician who cared for Africa's children in Lambarene. We see Christ's redemptive energy in all kinds of ways in our own lives: Whenever reconciliation overcomes estrangement; forgiveness overcomes guilt; and healing overcomes brokenness.

            Above all, however, I believe that we must understand that we live in a cross-shaped world. Anglicans, in general, and Episcopalians, in particular, are too quick to turn from the cross to the incarnation. We are too quick to emphasize the goodness of the world, the "original blessing", if you will, and too reluctant to take a hard look at the world's fundamental brokenness because I believe that that is what is meant by the phrase "original sin". Make no mistake: the world IS good; God declared it to be good and never changed his mind. But the world is also terribly broken, alienated, and estranged, and that is what the cross shows us.

            We live in a world full of people who live daily with the reality of the cross. People who live with the reality of oppression and persecution. Think of the people of North Korea and Ukraine. We live in a world full of people who know what it is like to thirst and hunger. Think of all the people we serve through Epicenter. We live in a world full of people who know what it is like to suffer and die far, far too young. Presently, the United States, one of the richest countries in the world, is ranked 30th in infant mortality behind Finland, Sweden, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands, and other countries. Mary's experience of watching her Son die on the cross is an experience that mothers all over the world have every day, including far too many mothers in this country.

            But ultimately, the death of Christ on the cross is a mystery to be pondered and celebrated, not a problem to be solved. It is best approached in song and prayer, not systematic theology. Theologian Richard Holloway writes, "... the death of Christ was a decisive encounter with the powers of evil on a cosmic scale... Somewhere a mighty victory has been won, though it has plunged a spear into the very heart of God... We do not yet see it fully disclosed, though we are visited by hints of it, sudden little rushes of certainty; but one day we shall see it, and seeing it weep that it cost God in Christ so much, and yet rejoice that all sorrow has been turned into joy and that all, at last, has been made well." (Holloway, The Way of the Cross, pp. 100-101)