The Rector's Blog
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April 1, 2015, 5:00 PM

What Happens in Holy Week?

Today begins our special observances for Holy Week.

Tonight we hold a service of prayers and readings called "Tenebrae," which is a Latin word meaning shadow.  The whole service should take about an hour, give or take.  The service contains readings, psalms, canticles (ancient hymns based on Biblical texts), and prayers.  I don't know if previous rectors offered this service but we have held it for the three years I've been here.

The mood of the service is sombre -- in its full form (we use an abbreviated version), it encapsulates all the events of Holy Week, bringing out themes of penitence and the hope for reconciliation between humanity and God.  During the course of the service, lights are slowly extinguished, heightening the shift from day into night.  The final tone is one of sorrow, but with a surprise ending.
Tomorrow we begin what is called the Triduum - the "three days" of Christ's passion, death, and resurrection.  This is the point where everything turns around for us as followers of Jesus -- the point at which our sorrow and penitence and pain are taken up by God's wide embrace and we are renewed by this sacrificial, sacramental self-giving by God's Son and our Lord.

On Thursday, we commemorate the Last Supper, and, modeling on the report of the Gospel of John, we recall as well Jesus' act of service in washing his disciples' feet.  At the conclusion of the service, the altar and all the colorful furnishings are removed or covered, including the large wooden cross that was brought into the church on Palm Sunday.  There is no final hymn or postlude; we exit in silence.  Thus our liturgy indicates that the events of each day are connected and continuous, not stand-alone and independent of each other.  There is no line between the death and the resurrection.  This is why we are taught that there is "no Easter without Good Friday" -- if Jesus had not died, Christ would not have arisen, we would not be saved, and the world would have no hope.
This year, we have been invited to join Trinity United Methodist Church (on Broadway) for a Seder at 5:30, so we can experience the kind of meal Jesus and his disciples would have eaten at the Passover.
Our Maundy Thursday service begins at 7:30 p.m., and will last a little over an hour.  I will offer to wash your feet.
Our Good Friday worship includes two elements:  The Good Friday service of readings, prayers, anthems, and the Veneration of the Cross is the first part.  This should last a little less than an hour, after which there will be a pause during which those who have to get back to work may leave. The second element is a Celtic-style Stations of the Cross, interspersed with hymns and musical offerings.  This should last about 40 minutes.  Again, the mood is sombre; again, we exit in silence.
On Saturday, there are two liturgies:  The Holy Saturday prayers (about 30 minutes' long) at noon, as we mark the long and fearful wait between death and new life.
The mood lifts considerably with the Great Vigil of Easter (10:00 PM), when we light the "new fire" to commemorate the resurrection of Christ Jesus, renew our baptismal vows, and celebrate the first joyful Eucharist of Easter.  There will be a brass quartet, flute, and choir to heighten our observance.
These three services -- Maundy Thursday, Good Friday, and the Great Vigil comprise the Triduum.

On Sunday, Easter Day, we will hold the 8:00 and 10:00 services.  There will be a flute to adorn our music at the later service.

April 1, 2015, 2:51 PM

A Pastoral Letter to the Parish

A Pastoral Letter to members and friends of Christ Episcopal Church:

The following is posted in response to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act recently passed by the legislature of Indiana and signed by the Governor.

>> Christ Episcopal Church in Madison welcomes all in line with the principles and directives of this Diocese and of the national Church. (The canons of the Episcopal Church and of the Diocese of Indianapolis state there is to be no discrimination on the basis "of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disabilities or age").

We decry this law because it may be (and apparently by some is being) interpreted to permit discrimination against GLBT or other persons because the exercise of someone's religion is "substantially burdened".  We do not agree with a Biblical interpretation that apparently leads some to conclude that GLBT persons, or any other group or person whose choices, identity, or faith are different from their own, may be refused the respect due them as human beings who are beloved of God.  We affirm that no one is outside the reach of God’s love and grace.

We believe St. Paul said it best in Romans 8: “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

As Christians, we are called to share that love with our neighbors.  We are bound by our baptismal vows to seek and serve Christ in all persons, and to respect the dignity of every human person. 

May God richly bless you!


The Rev. Evelyn Wheeler, Rector

March 27, 2015, 12:00 AM

Muddy Days

Some days thoughts pour out of my brain like salt from a broken salt shaker.  Other days, everything turns to mud.

Why is that?  I have no idea.  This is a “mud” day.

We’ve been working hard to get ready for Holy Week, lining up the people to help (if you can help, please call!) with readings, prayers, acolyting and chalicing, and lining up the music and musicians.

I really enjoy Holy Week once all the plans are in place; for my money, it’s one of the most meaningful expressions of Christian faith, even more than Christmas, and it just deepens my experience of Easter as well.

You might not think that focusing in on the saddest and most distressing parts of Jesus’ story would do that for you, but it does it for me.

It’s not just about the perceived contrast; I’m not talking about hitting my head against a wall because it feels so good when I stop, but about acknowledging the reality of the human experience, the sometime harshness of life, the losses and the pain of life.

It’s more about holding on, in the face of that reality, to the promise that this is not all there is to our lives.  There is beauty, there is delight, and there is rightness, too.

Holy Week and Easter show us both sides – the dreadful and the hopeful, the dark and the light, the ugly and the beautiful. 

Holy Week and Easter remind us that no matter how bad things may get, there are still forces for good.  We do not have to give up to evil; we can stand up to it.  We do not have to give in to despair; we can choose to hope.  We do not have to groan; we can sing. 

We can stand up and hope and sing because Jesus died on the cross and Christ rose from the dead: the good overcame the bad; life overcame death; restoration overcame suffering; hope overcame despair.

That’s the point, really, of the whole Christian gospel: there is a God who cares for us beyond all measure; there is a God who desires for us more than we can ask or imagine; there is a God who is ready to come to us and stand with us, even in the darkest night.

March 12, 2015, 3:19 PM

Things that Break

This entry is from the E-Pistle for March 12-25.

Things that break

Eggshells.  Dishes.  Engines.  Hearts.  Just a few days ago, a woman that I first met when we both joined the Foreign Service back in 1985, and went through training together, died from cancer.  She was younger than I am. 

If you were in church last Sunday, you know that another friend died last week – a frequent visitor to the office, usually in need of a small loan and always in need of a kind exchange.

Earlier this year, we laid one of our long-term parishioners to rest.

And in just another two weeks, it will have been ten years to the day since my dad – the first of my immediate family – breathed his last while picking up the mail from the box at the end of the driveway.

Death is always a shock.  Even when we know it is inevitable, it never seems like it’s going to happen to someone we know, and we won’t know what it feels like until it actually does.

And then, perhaps, we don’t know what we feel.  I experienced grief, the first time around, as being akin to a new spice that I was required to put into every dish I cooked, like some kind of bitter pepper.  It was sharp and it was distasteful and it soured everything with which it came in contact. 

Every death makes our world smaller, every death of someone we have known and cared about puts a hole in our world, and a crack in our heart.

But if we bleed, it means we have blood in our veins.  If we weep, it means we have pain in our hearts, and if we have pain in our hearts it is because we have had love in them.

And in fact, it means we still do have love in them.

The disciples and all who followed and loved Jesus must have felt this pain and wept these tears, but can you imagine if he had never arisen?  That hole in our world would have been too large for anyone but God to fill, and that is what God has done for us. 

In the end, it is God who fills all the holes in our hearts, our lives, and our very selves.  This is God’s grace and gift, that though we die, we shall yet live.


February 25, 2015, 12:00 AM

Where does the time go?

I am always struck by the swiftness with which each new season of the Church Year arrives.  Somehow, in the focus on seeing to it that this Sunday’s liturgy is set and the sermon is written, I lose the longer-term outlook that warns of things still over the horizon, like the rising sun, or the Risen Christ.

I had such hopes for Lent!

Nonetheless, there’s a lot going on:

With luck, you will be seeing some new opportunities for service: we are working on developing a “Lenten Tree” that spotlights needs expressed by the prison, the Salvation Army, and other community groups, for the people they each serve, and we will be asking you to select from a number of choices, should you feel able to do so, and return with the items during Holy Week, for distribution on Easter Monday.

We’ve started our Sunday study of The Screwtape Letters, and had a lively discussion of what it means for us to be what Screwtape termed, “amphibians” – half animal/half spirit.  I’ll be sending out the next selections via email; if you have the book already, please read Letter #10.

We’ve also had the first classes in our series, Essentials of the Bible.  If you were not able to come in week one, you are still welcome in week two! 

Those who were able to attend this week have shared some wonderful insights about what the Scriptures have added to their lives.

There are many, many choices of Lenten disciplines and meditations available on line, easily found with a websearch; I do encourage you to see what appeals to you along those lines.

Here are my favorites for this year:

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