Tuesday, May 30, 2023


Charlotte Collins Reed
Christ Church Episcopal
May 28, 2023


          As I read through today’s scripture readings, two images from the past week came to mind.  The first is last Sunday’s celebration.  We gathered in the Parish Hall for a great meal to celebrate how far we have come together in the past year.  So many people with such a variety of gifts have made this past year possible.  We have worked together as the Body of Christ to be the church, just as the reading from 1 Corinthians describes.  And as we sang, prayed, ate, and had great conversation that helped us get to know each other better, the Holy Spirit clearly moved among us, energizing us and calling us forward.  I will hold the memory of last Sunday in my heart for a long time.

          The other image is harder.  On Tuesday, there was a terrifying threat against the 6th graders at Hudson Middle School, serious enough to cancel their field trip and for many of their parents to want their 6th graders at home.  Many of our youth group are 6th graders and at Hudson Middle School.  I cannot imagine the terror the 6th grade parents felt, nor the relief when some answers were found and the situation was resolved.  I thought about the 6th graders when I read about the fear the disciples had as they hid behind locked doors on Easter afternoon.  The text tells us that they hid for fear of the Jews, which is a reflection of the deep tensions between late first century Christians and Jews.  These words should never be taken as a reflection on our Jewish brothers and sisters or cause any harm to come to them in any way.  The reading from Acts reminds us that the disciples were gathered in Jerusalem as faithful Jews for the Jewish feast of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon them, so John’s gospel does not have the final word on first century Judaism.  The point of the passage in John’s gospel is that, in the midst of their fear, Jesus appears to them and does not just offer them peace.  Jesus gives them peace and breathes the Holy Spirit, the very breath of God, into them.  Jesus does not ask them what they need, or condemn their fear, or make any suggestions about how they might move forward.  He gives them peace and breathes new life into them.

          How are we to live as Pentecost people in a world, a country, filled with gun violence, an ongoing pandemic, climate change, racial injustice, and economic uncertainty, where there is more than enough to fear?  How does Jesus speak peace into our deepest fears, whatever they may be? 

          First, Jesus puts us into community.  On the day of Pentecost, the disciples were all together in one place when the Holy Spirit descended upon them.  In 1 Corinthians, Paul reminds us that we are each part of the body of Christ.  With our various gifts and differences, we are knit together as one.  And in the reading from John’s gospel, the disciples, minus Thomas, were together when Jesus appears to them.  Jesus’ gift of peace and Jesus’ gift of the Holy Spirit was given to the disciples when they were together.  None of us has to find peace on our own.

          Secondly, Jesus gives us the promised gift Holy Spirit, the Advocate, to be with us and to guide us.  That gift gives us the courage to be bold and to speak out and work to make this world more closely resemble the kingdom of God just as the disciples did.  How do we do that in 21st century America?  In the Episcopal Church, the Baptismal Covenant guides us in that work.  In the Baptismal Covenant, which we renew at every single baptism, we promise, with God’s help, to be faithful in worship, to repent from evil, to seek and serve Christ in all people, to work for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being, and to proclaim the Good News of God in Christ with our words and with our lives.  That work takes courage and we cannot do that work without the gift of the Holy Spirit.  But imagine what a gospel difference we can make against the fearsome forces in this world, when, guided by the Holy Spirit, we truly live into those promises.    

          Lastly, in addition to placing us into community so that we face nothing alone, and giving us the Holy Spirit to guide us in making a gospel difference in the world, Jesus calls us to claim the gifts we have each been given by the Holy Spirit and to use them for the common good…not just the common good at Christ Church although that is certainly part of the call, but the common good of all of humanity.  Jesus will never call us as individuals or us as a parish to do anything for which we have not been given the gifts to accomplish.  Jesus sets us up to succeed at whatever Jesus calls us to do. 

          Jesus did not tell the disciples not to be afraid.  Jesus gave them the gift of peace and the gift of the Holy Spirit, then Jesus sent them out as God sent Jesus out.  Jesus does not tell us not to be afraid, either.  But Jesus does call us to believe that the Holy Spirit is present with us, to claim the many gifts we have been given as a congregation and as individuals, and then sends us out to make a gospel difference in the world.  The disciples did just that in Jerusalem in the reading from Acts this morning and Jesus expects no less of us now.


Monday, May 22, 2023

What are we waiting for???

Charlotte Collins Reed
Christ Church Episcopal
May 21, 2023

7 Easter A 

          One of my favorite stories about the ascension of Jesus, a story some of you have heard before, comes from my days as a newly minted priest when I was serving St. James Episcopal Church in Piqua, Ohio.  St. James was a small congregation with maybe 50 on an average Sunday.  But there were several families with children and while we had Sunday School before church, we had nothing for the children during church.  So each Sunday, the children were given paper and crayons and invited to draw a picture of the sermon.  This meant that the children had to listen to the sermon and I had to preach in such a way that I inspired creativity in the minds of 5 year olds.   Each Sunday after church we would chose one of the children’s pictures to be on the cover of the bulletin the next week.  The cover never matched the readings for the day, but no one cared in the least about that.

          I remember two of the bulletin covers quite clearly.  One I have framed in my office all these years later.  The picture was drawn by a little boy named Alex on my last Sunday at St. James.  It is a picture of our family-Don, Slocomb, Caldwell, and myself.  The other is a picture a child drew of the ascension of Jesus.  Jesus’ head is up in the clouds, so he has clearly left planet earth.  There are some sad looking stick figure disciples watching him leave.  The child had given serious thought to how Jesus managed to ascend as there were rocket boosters on the bottoms of Jesus’ feet.  Honestly, that’s as good an explanation of how Jesus’ ascended as any I have heard.

          We can easily become consumed with the “how” and “where” of Jesus’ ascension.  How did Jesus ascend and where did he go are natural questions.  But they are questions I will leave to your imagination this morning.  Today I am more curious about the two men in white robes who appear with the sad stick figure disciples and say “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking up to heaven?  This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”   The two men seem to be saying “Why are you just standing here? What are you waiting for?”  Jesus had told the disciples before he ascended that they would receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon them and that they will be his witnesses in Jerusalem, in Judea and all Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.  But there is no indication that the disciples had a clue what Jesus was talking about.

As we have emerged from the pandemic, a process that is ongoing, not complete, we have done a lot of waiting.  We have waited for things to get back to normal, whether the plexiglass shields to come down at the check out lanes at the grocery store, or to feel completely at ease in crowded spaces, or to no longer need masks at any time in any place.  We have waited for our life together to get back to normal, to do all the things we once did.  We have waited for postponed vacations, memorial services, family gatherings, and other events.  We have waited and I do not think I am the only one here who has little patience for waiting.

          Together, we have waited to become the church we once were, whatever your measuring stick for that might be, whether 2019, 2010, 2000, or the days of the legendary rummage sale.  But we are not sad little stick figures gazing up into heaven as Jesus departs with no clue what Jesus meant when he said “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.”  Next Sunday, we will celebrate Pentecost, that day when the Holy Spirit came as promised and landed on the disciples, turning them and us into a powerful witness to the Gospel. 

          So, here is the magic formula for becoming the church we are waiting to be.  I can tell you story after story about how this has worked at other churches and how this has worked over the decades at Christ Church.  Here is the formula in three simple words: Be that church.  Be the church we want to become.  Just trust the Holy Spirit and be that church. 

          Today is Celebration Sunday and we are celebrating our work together to be the church we want to become.  We are celebrating a church that wants our children and youth to be involved and in the past year we have seen our youth group flourish, added youth lectors to our Sunday worship, and brought back Lego Church in-person with dinner.  We want to be a church with a vibrant music program and through the generosity of several parishioners, we were able to make Mario full time and expand the music program.  We want to be a church that meets the needs of others and we revived the outreach ministry team, started a peanut butter and jelly ministry, made lunches for Open M, and had an outreach ministry fair.  We have added adult education offerings and many fellowship opportunities.  We have worked to become the church we want to be, full of life and joy, making a difference for those in need, and nourishing the faith of our children. 

          The two men in white robes say to each of us as individuals and to us as a congregation “What are you waiting for?”  All that we have done this year has been accomplished by people who have stopped waiting, stepped up, and made things happen.  To all of the people who stepped up, the vestry, staff, and I offer you our heartfelt thanks.  To those who, like the disciples, have been waiting to see what happens, please look around and see and feel the joy and the energy and stop waiting.  For all that we have accomplished this year, there is not one single ministry at Christ Church that does not need more people involved so that we can continue to do new things and lighten the load for those who do so much.  From Vacation Bible School to coffee hour, to Habitat for Humanity, to Sunday School, to peanut butter and jelly, to helping with the building, to simply praying, showing up, or writing a thank you note, there is no need to wait. 

          We are not sad stick figure disciples who wait for things to happen.  We are Pentecost people who make things happen.   Let us be the church we want to become.





Tuesday, May 9, 2023


Charlotte Collins Reed
Christ Church Episcopal
May 7, 2023

5 Easter A 

          On Wednesday, I found myself in a downtown Akron parking garage with very confusing directional signs.  The first sign said “Parking” with an arrow straight ahead.  But not fifty feet further, a sign said “Do not enter” with those bumps in the pavement that meant business.  So I turned around.  Then a sign said “No left turn.”  Fine, I won’t turn left.  But when I got to the turn not many feet later, left was the only option and the exit sign pointed left.  The garage was filled with contradictory signs and directions that I am sure made sense to someone, but not to me.  I felt like I had escaped a maze when I finally found the exit.

          The disciples are also experiencing some contradictory directional signs this morning.  In the previous chapter of John’s gospel, Jesus told the disciples that he is with them only a little longer, and that where he is going, they cannot come.  But now Jesus tells the disciples that there are many dwelling places in God’s house, that Jesus will come and take the disciples there, and that the disciples know the way to the place where Jesus is going.  But they don’t!  They don’t know where Jesus is going and they certainly do not know how to get there.  Any directions Jesus has given them up until this point are not directions to a dwelling place in God’s house.  What Jesus has said in the passage just before this one is this: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Jesus will repeat this commandment in the following chapter when he says “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” But that is not going to get them to the place where Jesus is going.

          Or is it?  When Thomas says “Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?” Jesus responds “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Does that mean turn left, turn right, or do not enter?  As is so often the case in John’s gospel, the disciples would like some clear direction and all they get are more questions. How is Jesus’ response going to get them anywhere?

          The next verse is problematic.  Jesus says “No one comes to the Father except through me” which sounds like exclusive privilege for those who follow Jesus.  However, Jesus has been clear since the beginning of the passage that there are many dwelling places in God’s house and he is going to prepare one of those dwelling places for his disciples.  Other people, people they don’t know and can’t imagine, will occupy the other rooms.  Also, back in chapter 10 of John’s gospel, Jesus said “I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”  And, of course, in John 3:16 Jesus said “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.”  God sent Jesus so that everyone might believe in God, and throughout John’s gospel, Jesus’ mission is to be a sign that points to God with Jesus’ very being.  So, I find it doubtful that this passage is about who is in and who is out of God’s house and even if it is, Jesus gets to decide and we don’t.  Jesus is actually talking about how we are to follow him, not about how to get a room upgrade in the divine dwelling place.

          At the very end of our gospel reading, Jesus says “Very truly, I tell you, the one who believes in me will also do the works that I do and, in fact, will do greater works than these, because I am going to the Father. I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If in my name you ask me for anything, I will do it.”  And once again, it looks like the disciples have exclusive privilege as Jesus will do whatever they ask in Jesus’ name.  But the works Jesus has done have not been about exclusivity.  The works Jesus has done have all been to show all people the glory of God and to serve others.  When Jesus promises the disciples that they will do even greater works that his, it is because they will have more time, the power of the resurrection, and the gift of the Holy Spirit to help them use their lives so that the whole world can know the love of God.   

“Lord, we do not know where you are going. How can we know the way?”  What the disciples have seen in Jesus’ ministry is the Way of love, the Truth of God’s love for humankind, and the Abundant Life that comes from abiding in God’s love.  The very clear directions for being where Jesus is are to walk in that way, proclaim that truth, and live that life. 

          In a world filled with gun violence, racial strife, and the inability to have civil conversation with those who differ from us, Jesus is challenging the disciples and us both as individuals and as a congregation to use our lives to show the world what Presiding Bishop Michael Curry continually describes as the Way of Love.  While we would all like more precise instructions, Jesus has been clear.  “Love one another as I have loved you.  But this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  The passage from 1 Peter tells us that we are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s own people, not for special privilege or power or place, but so that we can proclaim the mighty acts of him who called us out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Jesus calls his followers, not to follow a set of instructions, but to follow Jesus on the Way of Love.  That love will change the world.


Monday, May 1, 2023

Abundant Life

 Charlotte Collins Reed
Christ Church Episcopal
April 30, 2023

4 Easter C 

          When I was in college, I went to St. Michael’s Episcopal Church in Little Rock, a very small church of perhaps 25-30 people on a Sunday.  St. Michael’s was deeply committed to outreach and dedicated 50% of their budget to those ministries.  The church was active in the community and the diocese, never giving thought to their small size when taking on a project like hosting diocesan convention.  The members were close-knit and did pretty much everything together from worship to campouts to ministry in the inner city and on and on.  The Annual Meeting each year took a whole day, not kidding, as there was much ministry to discuss and each person got a chance to speak.  At length.  As much as the congregation was vibrant, generous, and loving, the building itself was perhaps the ugliest thing I have ever seen in church architecture.  Actually, I’m pretty sure that building did not qualify as church architecture.  It was an old pool hall that had been contorted into a church.  The congregation grew and flourished and they bought the laundromat across the street and converted that into a church.  Not only could they see opportunity for ministry everywhere they looked, they could see potential for a church in the oddest and ugliest of buildings.  I was deeply shaped by this small congregation in so many ways, from finding potential and opportunity in less than desirable circumstances, to generosity of time and spirit as well as money, to my conviction that 30 minutes is plenty of time for an annual meeting!

          St. Michael’s makes the description of the earliest church in our reading from Acts come alive for me.  The people in the earliest church were devoted to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread and the prayers.  Those words may sound familiar because they are the exact words of the first question in our baptismal covenant.  The earliest church had glad and generous hearts, holding all things in common and selling their goods and giving to the poor.  They spent much time together in homes and in the temple.  And the church grew in numbers.  This passage gives us a model of what the church is called to be, following Jesus with deep faithfulness in worship and study, glad and generous hearts, an outward focus that cares for those in need, and living in a way that invites others in. 

          Today is the 4th Sunday of Easter which is always Good Shepherd Sunday.  In addition to the description of the early church, we hear the comforting words of the 23rd Psalm which promise God’s presence with us to provide us with rest, guidance, courage, protection, and an eternal dwelling place.  We hear the words of John’s gospel in which Jesus tells us that he has come that his sheep may have life and have it abundantly.  There is also polemic language in this passage which compares those who came before Jesus to thieves and bandits, which reflects the tensions between first century Jews and Christians, but there is no need for that to be our language or our attitude to those who believe differently.  Our energy is better focused on what Jesus means by “abundant life.”

          Along with the thought-provoking and challenging description of the early church, the comforting words of the 23rd Psalm, and the promise of abundant life in John’s gospel, we hear a disturbing passage from 1 Peter.  The passage seems to condone unjust suffering by comparing that suffering to the suffering of Christ.  “If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that?  But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval.”  Passages such as this one have been used for centuries to justify the cruelty of slavery, to prevent perpetrators of domestic violence from accountability for their crimes, and to justify other forms of violence.  But some context tells a different story.  1 Peter was written to encourage faithful Christians who were suffering unjustly at the hands of their masters.  The unjust suffering was a fact, not a goal or desirable, or pleasing to God.  No one was setting a table for these Christians in the presence of their enemies.  No one was offering them abundant life.  I Peter was not written to glorify unjust suffering, much less condone it.  I Peter was written because unjust suffering was and is a fact.  The letter was written to encourage those who were suffering unjustly by reminding them of the unjust suffering Christ endured, and the teaching and witness of Jesus not to repay evil with evil.

         But why would we hear this difficult passage on Good Shepherd Sunday, in the context of the three other lovely, encouraging readings? 

There is much unjust suffering in the world.  There are families who are suffering the unjust loss of their children to gun violence.  There are victims of human trafficking, and people more likely than others to be incarcerated due to the color of their skin.  There are people who are suffering devastating illnesses or who fear for their lives because of their sexual orientation.  The list goes on and on.  On Good Shepherd Sunday, as we hear Jesus’ promise of abundant life, I Peter puts unjust suffering right smack in front of us.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, if all we hear is the part about verdant pastures and Jesus calling us by name and giving us abundant life, then we have missed the point.  Jesus calls us by name and leads us out of the cozy sheepfold into the world to follow his voice where he goes.  And where Jesus goes is to bring love and justice where there is suffering and cruelty in the world.  We follow Jesus by living with glad and generous hearts, shaped by faithful worship, that are moved to meet the needs around us.  When we do the work of the Good Shepherd and work for abundant life for everyone, sometimes that will involve standing up to evil.   Psalm 23 promises that in the midst of whatever we do and wherever we go, God will be with us.  Good Shepherd Sunday calls us to follow the Good Shepherd where he leads and make Jesus’ promise of abundant life a present reality for all people, now.    


Sunday, April 16, 2023

Resurrection Life


Charlotte Collins Reed
Christ Church Episcopal
April 16, 2023

2 Easter A 

          Donna Hart was my friend, my mentor, and my colleague.  She was born the same year as my mother-1932- and until her death in 2006, she was a fearless force to be reckoned with.  Donna had been betrayed by her husband while her three children were young.  She got a divorce and set out to rebuild her life.  She took on a fledgling and controversial domestic violence shelter in Springfield, Ohio and through sheer grit and determination she turned the shelter into a vibrant ministry that has helped countless women and their children rebuild their lives.  She knew what it was like to have to rebuild a life as a single mother and she worked hard to make that a better experience for others.  In the 1970’s, Donna had no problem showing up at the Statehouse in Columbus to speak the truth to power and advocate for laws that protected the victims of domestic violence rather than the perpetrators.  Donna also knew what it was like to be housing insecure and worked with the city through the Neighborhood Housing Partnership to provide quality affordable housing to those on low incomes.  As Donna aged, her health deteriorated to the point where we thought we would lose her.  But she fought her way back and lived several more years, during which time she became a deacon in the Episcopal Church.  Most Sundays, she could be found at the healing station in the church, much like ours, praying for those who knelt there.  Donna was able to take her own pain, her own wounds, and use them in productive and powerful ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

          I always think of Donna when I hear today’s gospel reading.  In fact, I chose this very passage for the gospel reading at her funeral.  On Easter evening, Jesus appears to the disciples who are behind closed doors, living in fear.  The problem here is not the Jews.  The problem is the disciples’ fear.  Having heard Mary’s witness that she has seen the risen Christ, the fearful disciples are hiding behind locked doors.  But neither a locked door nor fear stops the Risen Christ who appears to the disciples, breathes the Holy Spirit into them and sends them out into the world. 

          Thomas is not with the disciples, however.  Thomas is out moving on with his life.  While historically the disciple has been known as “Doubting Thomas,” I find that moniker to be highly unfair.  At least he is not in hiding!  And the story is not about Thomas.  The story is about Jesus.  But understandably, when the disciples tell Thomas that they have seen the Lord, he is skeptical.  Who wouldn’t be?  So he says “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.”  Thomas is really asking no more and no less than the other disciples had already experienced.  And Jesus complies.

          How do the disciples recognize the risen Christ in their midst?  By the wounds in his hands and his side.  The resurrection has not erased the wounds of the crucifixion.  Resurrection life is not about erasing the past or pretending like wounds never happened.  Resurrection life is about allowing God to transform those wounds and then using them to bear witness to the love of God.  The resurrected Jesus showed the disciples his wounds to bear witness to resurrection life.

          Peter’s message in the reading from Acts is similar.  Peter is speaking to the Israelites, his own people.  He is not an outsider criticizing the actions of others.  Peter is the one who denied Jesus three times in Jesus’ moment of need, so he does not have a lot of ground for criticizing others!  He is not casting blame for the death of Jesus but setting the crucifixion in the context of God’s plan of salvation.  According to Peter, God took the actions of those who killed Jesus and used those actions to bring about resurrection, freeing Jesus from death.  God took the horrible actions of human beings and created resurrection life.

          As followers of Jesus, of the Risen Christ, we are called to bear witness to resurrection with our lives.  As my friend Donna did, we are called to bear witness to our Easter faith that wounds and death do not own us.  Life and Love own us.   We may do that in a public way, as Donna did, or we may do that in a more private way.  Those who have known hunger may work at a food bank.  Those who have known housing insecurity may work with Family Promise or Habitat for Humanity.  Those who have known grief may walk alongside those who are grieving.  Those who have known addiction may walk with those who are struggling.  The opportunities to be resurrection people are endless.   The story of Thomas reminds us that the world needs to see what resurrection life looks like.  Resurrection life is not perfect and without scars.  Resurrection life is living, not like we belong to fear and death, but as people who belong to life and love.



Monday, April 10, 2023


Charlotte Collins Reed
Christ Church Episcopal
April 9, 2023

Easter Day 

          My grandparents died some 30 years ago, yet I can still hear the sound of their voices calling my name.  My mother’s mother had a distinctive southern accent specific to southeast Alabama.  I would recognize that accent anywhere and I embarrassed my children more than once going up to strangers in various parts of the country and asking them where in southeast Alabama they lived.  The southern accent of my paternal grandmother was the raspy southern accent of a well-heeled lifelong chain smoker.  My father’s stepmother was from South Carolina and never lost that South Carolina drawl.  And my grandfather had the deep voice of a Texan who had lost the twang but kept the accent.  While they were alive, I could hear the love in their voices when they spoke my name.  Now, to remember the sound of those beloved voices speaking my name is to know their love deep within my soul.

          This morning, Mary Magdalene is frantic.  She has gone to Jesus’ tomb in the week hours of the morning before daybreak and the tomb is empty.  Someone has stolen the body of Jesus and she does not know where to find him.  Peter and the other disciple are not frantic; they just seem a bit confused.  They look into the empty tomb and one believes but we are not told what he believes.  We are only told that the two did not yet understand the scripture that Jesus must rise from the dead.  So they just go home, which I find rather anti-climactic. 

          But Mary stays at the tomb, weeping.  She stays in that way that we linger at a grave, holding on to a moment, not quite ready to go home.  The tomb is peaceful, if empty, and home is full of grief, dashed hopes, and loneliness.  When she looks back in the tomb, two angels ask her why she is weeping, and again she says “They have taken away my Lord and I do not know where they have taken him.”  In her grief, she is not the least bit fazed by the presence of two angels speaking to her.  She is focused.  She is not going to abandon Jesus.  She is going to find his body.  Then, in one of my favorite lines in all of scripture, Mary turns from the tomb and sees Jesus but mistakes him for the gardener.  Not until Jesus calls Mary by her name does she recognize the risen Lord in her midst.  She must have embraced Jesus in her joy, because Jesus says “Do not hold onto me.”  Then he tells Mary to go to his brothers and tell them that he is ascending to his father.  Her witness to the disciples is “I have seen the Lord!” and she tells them all Jesus said to her.

          Three things strike me about the Easter story in John’s gospel.  First, Mary thinks her beloved Jesus who she knows so well is the gardener, because who else would be in the garden so early in the morning?  I wonder how many times we are focused on the work we need to do, trying hard to be faithful and do good, and we mistake the risen Christ for a helpful friend, or a grumpy neighbor, or a stranger doing a random act of kindness, an impossible toddler, a person in need, or just a caring voice calling our name?  Easter opens our eyes to the reality that the risen Christ is abundantly present in our midst, sometimes in the least likely places. 

Secondly, Mary recognized Jesus when he called her name.   There is a lovely passage in the book of Isaiah in which God says “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”  (Isaiah 43:1).  When the resurrected Jesus calls Mary’s name, Mary is being claimed by new life.  In that instant, Mary’s focus turns from looking for a dead body to wonder and awe at the new life before her.  Her life is transformed.  Easter calls each of us by name in the same way, releasing us from the hold of death to the joy and hope of resurrection life. 

          Lastly, Jesus says to Mary “Do not hold onto me.”  Like Mary, we do not get to hold on either.  Easter faith is not about holding on.  Easter faith is about letting go.  Like Mary, we can long to cling to the way things were before….before a pandemic, or a family tragedy, or a disappointment so we can be who we were before.  But the tomb is empty, giving us no reason to cling to the past.  We do not belong to death.  The voice of the Risen Christ claims us and calls us to let go of the tomb in all of its forms so we can move forward into the abundance of resurrection life and love. 

Like Mary, the resurrected Christ calls us each by name so that we can know the love of God deep within our souls, so that we can recognize the risen Christ in our midst, and so that we can move forward into the world to proclaim with our lives that resurrection life and love have won this day and forever. 


The Powers of Darkness

Charlotte Collins Reed
Christ Church Episcopal
April 7, 2023

Good Friday

          Heavy on my heart this Holy Week is the shooting at the Covenant School in Nashville last week.  Don and I lived in Nashville not far from that church while we were in graduate school and we worshipped there one Sunday when I had an assignment to worship at a church in a tradition other than my own.  One of the children killed was the daughter of the pastor, and the sister of the substitute teacher killed was a friend of one of our own parishioners.  The powers of darkness had won, once again, and this time with very few degrees of separation.

          Tonight, we heard the account of the passion of Jesus in John’s gospel.  In the beginning of that gospel, we hear the words “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  We hear the ending of the story before the story is even told.  On this Good Friday, as we wait and watch with the dead body of Jesus, as we live in a world where terrorists, violence, fear and suspicion seem to win way more often than not, how are we to live as followers of Christ and bear witness to a story in which light ultimately triumphs?

          I am sometimes asked what it means to be a Christian.  While being a Christian does mean patterning our lives after the life of Jesus, that is not the primary meaning.  There are a great many people after whom we would do well to pattern our lives. But being a Christian is fundamentally different from simply trying to live like someone we admire.  At the most primary level, being a Christian means that I am not defined by the sum total of my success minus my failures or vice versa, and certainly not by anything that happens to me or in the world, good or bad.  As Christians, we are defined by the death and resurrection of Jesus.  Our baptismal liturgy tells us that in baptism we are joined with Christ in his death and resurrection.  We are people who follow a crucified AND risen Lord. 

          On Good Friday, our liturgy holds together death and resurrection.  We will hear “We glory in your cross, O Lord, and praise and glorify your holy resurrection; for by virtue of you cross, joy has come into the world.”  On this holy and somber night, when the powers of death and hell have taken their best shot, we hold fast to the belief that the darkness cannot overcome the light.  The death of Jesus is real.  Evil is named, not denied.  But even on Good Friday as we stand before the cross and witness the power of evil at work, and the pain and horror evil causes, we praise and glorify the resurrection, bearing witness to the light.

          Jesus was not alone at the cross.  Good Friday calls us to gather at the cross with Jesus as did Mary, Mary’s sister, Mary Magdalene, and the disciple whom Jesus loved, and be people who can look evil in the eye without living in the shadow of fear.   Good Friday calls us to gather at the cross and not look away as Jesus gives up his spirit, recognizing those places where we are complicit in the forces of darkness and fail to receive the gift of Jesus’ life, which no one took from him but which Jesus gave out of his great love for humankind.  Good Friday calls us to tend to the broken body of Jesus as Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea did, tending with the same extravagant loving care to those who are victims of violence, injustice, and hate in our own world.  In the midst of the pain and grief wrought by the powers of darkness, in the midst of this Good Friday world, we are called, not to deny the power of evil, but to be the very embodiment of the words “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.”  We are called to let our lives be defined by the death and resurrection of Jesus.