• I am my usual tired this afternoon from a wonderful week of liturgy in our church.  My favorite worship is always the Saturday Easter Vigil, and it is a great joy to see everyone on Easter morning.
  • Our houseful this holiday weekend included Mindy (from Champaign) and Scarlette, Tristan, and grandson Sean from Lisle, Illinois.  They have all hit the road for home this afternoon, after enjoying our traditional crepe Easter lunch.
  • Alison and Nelson (Madison, Wisconsin) could not be with us (her church responsibilities there) but her mom was able to make it up for the weekend, to be sure that everyone in the family had relatives around.
  • Reading Kurt Vonnegut's novel, Slaughterhouse Five.  Vonnegut is Jordan (my youth/children's/contemporary worship pastor's) favorite author.  I hadn't read anything Vonnegut wrote since I was in high school, and can't even remember which book it was. But I do remember liking him.  Jordan talks about him so much that I asked him to loan be a book.  In getting re-introduced decades later, I'm appreciating his ability to write such raw observations and bawdy phrases with such elegant arrangement.

April 1, 2018
Reruns and Easter
I'm feeling good this Easter morning, a little resurrected you might say, after a week of a painful intestinal infection, a high fever, and a listless aftermath.  I missed a day of working (which was my day off) and spent another day handling my work from home.  So, in the end, only Jie got the short end of the deal:  intense boredom since I was too exhausted to go out anywhere with her, or even engage in sentence-length conversation.  I wasn't good for much except to plop down and watch reruns on TV.  Why is it we can handle TV reruns when we're not up to anything else?
Of course, there are other types of reruns in life.  We can reread a book, repeatedly return to the same vacation spot, and tell the same story every time someone will listen.  We also do food reruns: going to the same restaurant even though we have 50 to choose from, and eating the same lunch, even if it makes us look boring and uncreative to others.  We even do reruns on people:  picking the same people to spend time with over and over. 
People will sometimes judge my personality on whether my favorite reruns coincide with theirs.  I'm can nearly always find the energy for a rerun of The Vicar of Dibley or Bob Newhart.  If it's a movie, ask me to re-watch Spitfire Grill or Out on a Limb. If you like bacon-lettuce-and tomato sandwiches, we're on for lunch.  And then there is my love for a Waffle House rerun, every time I travel to the south.  I like to re-read Susan Howatch and Wendell Berry novels.  I keep going back to Washington D.C. every couple years.  And of course, each person reading this:  I never tire of any of you!  Let's get together sometime...soon.
Reruns help us recover.  When life throws us curves, or when people we love have problems we can't solve, it is often necessary to temporarily retreat into our reruns.  We replay the old songs, gravitate to our comfort food, or watch an episode of West Wing.  
Reruns, however, have the power to deceive us. While they can nurture us back to strength, they can also ensnare us into avoiding our challenges and responsibilities.  Days...months...even years go by, and we dwell addicted to our reruns, and life slips on by. It is one reason why Karl Marx was right when he referred to religion as the opiate of the people.  After all, religion is essentially an enterprise of reruns: stories, songs, seasons, symbols, rituals, role playing, routines, rules...over and over again, forever and ever.  
If you stop to think about it, Holy week is one huge rerun...year after year.  We go from Palm Sunday to Maundy Thursday to Good Friday to the Easter Vigil to Easter Day...rerunning the program, year after year, even if the personnel comes and goes...or the organ is swapped out for a praise team.  
Normally I'm excited by the Holy Week reruns.  But not so much this year; probably because of how down I was physically.  And I also know from experience that the Holy Week rerun is not so much an escape as it is a reviving...to get back in the game.  No one in the midst of a high fever and painful intestinal infection has desire to get up and take on the world again.  I only wanted those reruns that promised me escape.  I wasn't quite up for being sent back to the battlefront.
But the rerun of the Easter story does exactly that: it sends us back to our neighbors, back to the injustices that confront our world, back to wrestling with institutions that have been purposed by God and need our loyalty.  

The rerun of an old TV comedy doesn't anoint me.  The rerun of the Easter liturgy does.
But only the rerun of the liturgical Easter, not the rerun of the now ubiquitous commercial Easter season:  the bunny, the ham, the chocolate eggs, etc.  By mid-afternoon on Easter Day, the commercial Easter Season is over, left-over items discounted to clear them off the shelves.

But in the church, the Easter season doesn't end on Easter Day, it's only beginning, a whole season...50 days worth!  The rerun of this Easter Season  is not an expensive escape, but a nurturing, a reminding, a coaxing, an elixir of spiritual inspiration.  

On this day which begins the year's greatest season, may each of you, my readers, be blessed with such renewal and new life.  --Mike

 The Sunday letter is something I have done now for over 20 years.  It is a disciplined musing:  mindfulness, memory, and imagination.  I write it when I first wake up on a Sunday morning and then share it with the congregation.  The letter you see published here is usually revised from what the congregation receives.  This discipline of thinking and writing puts me in the place of describing rather than advising.  It prepares me to proclaim the gospel rather than get preachy with the souls who will sit before me.  --JMS


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