Easter, A.D. 2013
Beloved in the Lord,
The Psalmist declares:
The Lord is my strength and my song,
and he has become my salvation.
As I write this letter to you it is Wednesday in Holy Week. I am travelling to Juba in South Sudan to spend the Great Three Days (The Sacred Triduum) with Archbishop Daniel Deng Bul, his clergy and his people. I am to be away from all the things that are familiar, except that the Church is one throughout the world, and the old, old story does not change (yet changes everything).
Flying today I could see the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays (Kent Island, Cape Henelopen, Cape May), places associated with boyhood and early ministry. Hours later there were Cape Trafalgar and Gibraltar and the North Coast of Africa, places I had never been but about which my historical studies and interests caused me to reflect over lots of years and lots of learning.
Easters have been spent mostly with the Church communities I have known well and with those who are family (blood, marriage and church) whether in New Jersey or Connecticut or New York or North Carolina or Delaware or Western Pennsylvania. One Easter, Nara and I spent at Canterbury, which was to be surrounded by things we knew (the cloud of witnesses, the music, the architecture) and those we did not know (the worshippers we were present with.) I know that this Easter in South Sudan will be all at once different and the same.
The seventeenth century poet and pastor George Herbert left us with two poems he entitled "Easter." The second of the poems ends:
Can there be any day but this,
Though many suns to shine endeavor?
We count three hundred, but we miss:
There is but one, and the one ever.
This Easter I am looking back. Like Lady Julian of Norwich in the 14th century, I am asking, "What does it all mean?" Whether in Juba or in Pittsburgh - and wherever you find yourself - what I testify is that the Gospel is my strength and my song, and that Jesus has become my salvation. Easter is the day that lights and gives meaning to all the others, wherever I - we - spend it and with whomever I - we - spend it. The tomb is empty. The world, the flesh and the devil are defeated. Jesus is alive. In Him, the alien becomes familiar, loss becomes gain, sorrow becomes joy, and death becomes life. This Easter I am also looking around and looking ahead.
May the Father's love, the Son's victory and the Holy Sprit's power overwhelm you, penetrate you and those surrounding you, as they continue to do in me, with the Easter perspective that changes and transforms everything.