Saturday, April 18, 2020

From Mother Vicki

"But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came.  So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord.' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands,
and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.'

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them.  Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you.' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here and see my hands.  Reach out your hand and put it in my side.
Do not doubt but believe.'  Thomas answered, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, 'Have you believed because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.'"

John 20:24-29 NRSV

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
This Sunday is the Second Sunday after Easter, thanks be to God!  We have made it through Lent and Holy Week, through the final three days--the Triduum--and into this glorious season of Easter--fifty days of Easter before we celebrate Pentecost.
Like the disciples dealing with that first Easter, we also need time in order to absorb what the Resurrection means for us today in this particular April of 2020.  We talk about getting back to "normal."  What does that even mean now?  When will that happen, or is that just something that we are holding onto because we do not know what the future holds for us?

I am so grateful for this story of "doubting Thomas."  He is so very human.  He wants to see Jesus with his own eyes and touch the wounded the places with his own hands.  He doesn't want to be fooled into believing something that is not true.  And he wants to be sure that this is the same Jesus that he saw crucified on the cross, not some imposter. We are each like that in our own way.  We are cautious about getting our hopes up.  We don't want to be disappointed.

Jesus is kind to Thomas.  And although he does not respond immediately, when he appears to the disciples the next week, after saying, "Peace be with you," he immediately offers Thomas the chance to touch him and know for himself that this is the same Jesus who died on the cross.  In this scene, I always see Thomas falling to his knees as he says, "My Lord and my God!"  Thomas is overwhelmed with the now certain knowledge of Jesus Christ's Resurrection from the dead, and for Jesus's kindness in responding to Thomas's need to see for himself.

This is such a difficult time.  We are all struggling with our faith, just as Thomas did.  Why is God allowing this pandemic to happen?  Why doesn't a benevolent God just fix it?

There is no easy answer to this.  When we gather together it is easier to lean on each other's faith.  But being separated, we each must struggle with this question on our own, just as Thomas struggled.  We have free will.  We are not forced to believe in God.  So if we, too, are questioning God so deeply, now is the time to step up our prayer life, our direct connection with our Lord and our God.  Thomas had the courage to ask for what he needed.  We, too, will be answered in surprising ways if we have the courage to open up that great channel of prayer.  Remember the title of Anne Lamott's 2012 book, "Help, Thanks, Wow."  Our prayers do not have to complex.  They just have to be genuine.

Thank you to everyone who helped read the Passion from Saint Matthew so powerfully in our YouTube presentation on Palm Sunday (Bobby and Tina D'Amato, Chris Canty, Deborah DeBride, Anthony Johnson and Bob Sirota) and to Jan Valentine who added the wonderful art to the presentation (this is still available to be watched if you click the link below).

Thanks also to Deborah Holcombe who completed her powerful and stunning artistic renderings of the Fourteen Stations as part of our Way of the Cross Good Friday Service.  Our fourteen readers brought passion and reverence to our offering (in order: George Morrison, Carrie Parkey, Linda Brown, Shelly Henderson, Jen Longley, Deborah DeBride, Tara Seeley, Kelly Giannone, Elaine Williams, Anthony Johnson, Peter Walsh II, Naomi Henderson, Deborah Holcombe and Chris Canty).  And Jan Valentine deftly connected words and images in a beautiful presentation that you can still access on YouTube by clicking the link below.

Thanks to Jason Slayden, our wonderfully gifted organist and singer, who has been adding beautiful and heartfelt hymns to our offerings, and to Jason and his wife Abigail Fischer who sang our two Easter hymns with such joy and passion, and turned our Easter Anthem, "I know that my Redeemer Lives" by Austin Lovelace based on a 1859 Sacred Harp hymn, into what sounds like a huge choir!  You can still access those musical offerings below.

This Sunday, our e-blast will come out first thing and will include the first reading from The Acts of the Apostles 2:14a, 22-32 read by Deborah Holcombe followed by Psalm 16 (with help from her household!), and 1 Peter 1:3-9 read by Deborah DeBride.  Jason is providing two hymns, I will read the Gospel and give a homily, Bob Sirota and I will read the prayers, and I will give a blessing.  IN ADDITION, WE WILL BE HAVING A ZOOM COFFEE HOUR ON SUNDAY, APRIL 19 FROM 11:30 TO NOON.  Please join us with your cup of coffee (or whatever!) in hand for some on-line sharing and laughter! See below for instructions on how to join us (either by internet or phone!)

Please pray for Raul and Mercedes Chavez, who are both struggling to recover from COVID-19, pray for all who are patients and residents in hospitals, nursing homes and group homes, and for ALL those who are working there (especially Anthony Johnson and Elaine Williams).  We pray also for the DeBride-Henderson families who are grieving the death of Marielou DeBride, the oldest daughter of Ival, Shelly and Deborah's sister Mary in Belize.  Please continue to give us your prayer requests so that we as a congregation can support each other in our deepening relationship with Almighty God in this time of crisis and fear.

May Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord and Savior, give you the peace that is beyond all human understanding!

Easter blessings and joy,
The Rev. Canon Victoria Sirota
Saint John's Episcopal Church
Getty Square, Yonkers

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