Resurrection, a new way

The Hallelujahs live-streamed on Facebook

First Presbyterian Church. windowThis is different. It’s Easter Sunday. We get up, take showers, and have breakfast. Then we travel, all the way back upstairs, to the office and watch church.

On March 15, church did not happen for me. The sermon was subsequently mailed out. But on March 22, some of our fine technical experts, along with our pastors, presented service on Facebook. The pastors offered scripture, prayers, and sermons, while the service was augmented by song selections from the past four years of the Chancel Choir. There are some tracks from the Bell Choir ss well.

Like anything new, the process has evolved, with hymn texts projected on the screen so that we may sing along. The Presbyterian Church USA has indicated that it was OK to have communion at home, and we did on Palm Sunday and Maundy Thursday.

The Good Friday worship service was the scripture readings traditionally referred to as “the last seven words.” Additional readings from Psalms, the Gospels, and the epistles expanded on the message. The readings were separated by sung responses from the Taizé Community, a Christian community in France known for its contemplative, meditative music. The service concluded with music, and we were invited to ponder Jesus’ death before departing in silence.


And now we’re in the resurrection mode. Funny thing, though. Instead of passing on chocolate for Lent, we had given up hugs and handshakes and even face-to-face contact. On the other hand, Lent isn’t all about refraining from, but taking on. We’re taking on “an abundance of caution” and handmade masks. We work from home, or in perilous conditions if we’re working at all.

And Easter doesn’t change that. Not yet.

Still, we celebrate Easter Worship Service today. The Hallelujahs may be live streaming on Facebook – my church’s service is at 10 a.m. EDT – but I hold onto hope. I must, for my own sake. Being part of a community, even one I only “see” because of the zeroes and ones on my computer screen, is still a blessing.

Easter AND April Fool’s Day

One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general.

There’s probably some sort of theological joke I should make here, how, after Easter, when most of the disciples saw Jesus, doubting Thomas, who was not present, said, “You’re kidding me!”

The last time Easter was on April 1 was in 1956; no wonder I don’t remember it. But before that, it was in 1945, 1934, and 1923, each eleven years apart. There was another wave in the 19th century: 1888, 1877, 1866, eleven years apart.

After 2018, it’ll happen again in 2029 and 2040. Yup, 11 years. This kind of thing fascinates me.

So why is it that modern Christianity isn’t appealing to more people? Is it that secularism is “winning”?

Or is it that some folks, purporting to lift the Christian banner, foolishly embrace concepts that do not seem to be consistent with Jesus’ teachings of feeding the hungry and welcoming the outcast? Those looking from the outside may think, understandably, “If THAT is Christianity, to hell what that!”

Interesting results of some Pew Research polling in the last couple years:

The term “spiritual but not religious” label applies to a growing share of Americans. And the methodology was fascinating – The survey “asked two separate questions: ‘Do you think of yourself as a religious person, or not?’ and ‘Do you think of yourself as a spiritual person, or not?’ The results presented here are the product of combining responses to those two questions.”

A growing share of Americans say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be moral. Interestingly, “attitudes about the necessity of belief in God for morality have also changed among those who do identify with a religion.”

And the vast majority of these religious “nones” (78%) say they were raised as a member of a particular religion before shedding their religious identity in adulthood. “One-in-five express an opposition to organized religion in general. This share includes some who do not like the hierarchical nature of religious groups, several people who think religion is too much like a business and others who mention clergy sexual abuse scandals as reasons for their stance.”

Having gone about 360 degrees in my own religious quest – no, that’s not correct, since I didn’t end up in the same place as I started – I understand more than most the feelings of those who believe in God and those who don’t.

I DO wish each side could find a way to hear the other’s point of view. But perhaps that’s my own foolishness.

Easter music throwback: Hallelujah (Beethoven)

I’ve been singing it, off and on for about a half century myself, including this very day.

As I’ve mentioned before, when my sister Leslie and I were in high school in Binghamton, NY, we somehow had the opportunity to visit an eighth-grade class in suburban Vestal. It was only a few miles from the county seat, but, in the late 1960s, it was a cultural canyon.

What was amazing about this group was that they put out an album of classical and popular music. And one of the pieces was Hallelujah, from Christ on the Mount of Olives, Opus 85, an oratorio by Beethoven. They were rather good, as I recall. Where IS that LP?

From the Wikipedia: “[The oratorio] was begun in the fall of 1802… The libretto in German is by the poet Franz Xaver Huber, editor of the Wiener Zeitung, with whom Beethoven worked closely. It was written in a very short period; in a letter to Breitkopf & Härtel written shortly after the oratorio’s completion, Beethoven spoke of having written it in ‘a few weeks,’ although he later claimed that the piece required no more than 14 days to complete. It was first performed on April 5, 1803 at the Theater an der Wien in Vienna; in 1811, it was revised by Beethoven for publication by Breitkopf & Härtel. The 10 years that passed between the composition of the work and its publication resulted in its being assigned a relatively high opus number.”

While the piece as a whole has had mixed response, including from the composer himself, “the “Welten singen…” finale chorus has enjoyed some popularity on its own.

And I’ve been singing it, off and on for about a half century myself, including this very day. There’s a surprise chord about 30 seconds before the end which is always my favorite.

LISTEN: to Hallelujah:

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

William Baker Festival Singers, Guest Singers from Area Parish Choirs, and Symphony Orchestra

Chancel Choir; Scott Dean, director; Wayne Slater, organist. June 12, 2016


A shot at redemption

“As I spent more time listening, and really learning the root causes of poverty, I realized I was wrong.”

homeless-woman-with-signThere was a woman outside of my building at work on Good Friday. She had a sign made from cardboard box that said, “HOMELESS.” I gave her a dollar; sometimes I’m moved in these situations, and sometimes not, I don’t know why.

I could see the man right behind me with the Look. You know Continue reading “A shot at redemption”

The church’s one foundation?

How does the church, supposedly the Church Universal, an entity with presumably some core beliefs, find its COMMONALITY to real issues?

adherentsTheoretically, all the churches in Christendom are on a celebratory mode this week (Yes, I know Orthodox Easter is NEXT Sunday). The idea is that death lost out. So Christians are presumably on the same page, except, of course, they (we) are not.

Some friend of a friend named Roderick wrote: “I’d like to see a pie chart that showed how US Christians divided up: Just plain folks from Iowa who live a good life, Lunatic homeschoolers who don’t believe in dinosaurs, gun-totin’ Kill-a-Commie-for-Jesus grade school dropouts, timid white folk who will pay money every Sunday to make sure they don’t go to Hell, Holy Rollers (unspecified), cheerleaders praying they didn’t get knocked up last night, car salesman who need to be seen as honest, and so on.” Continue reading “The church’s one foundation?”