Friday the 13th and Overcoming Death

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Paraskevidekatriaphobia is the word of the day. Great Scrabble word.  The word means “fear of Friday the thirteenth.”

There is a lot of discussion just about everywhere today of today being unlucky. For those who are superstitious this is a horrendous day to do just about anything. But you ask, is there anything behind this at all? UrbanLegands.com cites a 1993 English Study as saying that “Friday 13th is unlucky for some. The risk of hospital admission as a result of a transport accident may be increased by as much as 52%. Staying at home is recommended.” The study published in the British Medical Journal, studied the number of vehicles on the same highway on Friday April 6th and Friday April 13th and the number of motor vehicle accidents resulting in hospitalization on those two days. Paraskevidekatriaphobics will not be surprised to hear that while there were fewer cars on that same highway on Friday the thirteenth, there was a higher rate of accident and hospitalization. And here I have been suggesting that this stuff was just silly — a real ‘honest to God’ scientific study seems to refute my ‘this is just silly’ response to Friday the thirteenth! But wait a minute….what if you are Italian and driving on that highway? In Italy, thirteen is a lucky number and folklore around Friday 13 is not nearly as prevalent. So the moral of the story is…. if you are going to drive on the highway today, do not drive in England…. take a nice drive in Italy instead.

Here is some more interesting lore about 13 from UrbanLegends.com

Legend has it: If 13 people sit down to dinner together, one will die within the year. The Turks so disliked the number 13 that it was practically expunged from their vocabulary (Brewer, 1894). Many cities do not have a 13th Street or a 13th Avenue. Many buildings don’t have a 13th floor. If you have 13 letters in your name, you will have the devil’s luck (Jack the Ripper, Charles Manson, Jeffrey Dahmer, Theodore Bundy and Albert De Salvo all have 13 letters in their names). There are 13 witches in a coven.

I sort am freaked out now — but glad to report that my name has only 11 letters. In the meantime, I had a rough start to today. The family of Greg Lambden (read my last post)called me at 10:30 am to let me know that they were at the cemetery waiting for me to do an internment. I was so upset. Somehow through a communication error I had the date for this all wrong. Thankfully the Lambdens were patient and understanding and we had a beautiful last farewell to Gregory. That being said, as I was rushing to the cemetery, I was thinking maybe there is something to this Friday the 13th business. I mean I am driving to excessive speeds and got trapped behind no less than three, ‘let’s go for a drive in the county’ drivers, a cement truck, and a road paint crew that had closed a road. Maybe this day is in some way jinxed….then I remembered that I am religious, not superstitious and decided checking scripture might be helpful. The Lectionary is a tool used to set different scripture to be read for each day as a part of praying the office. Here is the Epistle reading for today:

Listen, I will tell you a mystery! We will not all die, but we will all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality. When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

‘Death has been swallowed up in victory.’
‘Where, O death, is your victory?
Where, O death, is your sting?’
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labour is not in vain. 

What is most interesting and chilling for me about this reading is the fact that Sandie and Danny chose this as one of the readings for Greg’s Memorial this past Wednesday. WOW! I read this and thought, ‘this is unbelievable.’ Perhaps this day is just meant to come together as it has. What are the odds that the reading that the family choose for Greg was appointed in a daily Lectionary the day of his committal two days later?

So on the Friday the 13th, I am pleased to have had opportunity, late as I was, to be reminded of what each and every day (Friday 13th included) promises us. While some worry today about bad luck or what they should and should not do, we a s a people declare that death, darkness, superstition and even bad luck have no dominion over us. No matter the challenges of each day we leap forward confident in the God who tells us to be immoveable in excelling in doing God’s work and being a people who bring joy, light, hope, healing and forgiveness. Everything on this earth is perishable — even our superstitions. But the unwavering Love of God is eternal and will sustain us in all things.

Thank you Danielle, Sandie and Danny for being so understanding on this Friday the 13th. Greg was obviously loved very much and cared for so very well by a family that fully understood that there is victory in living and victory in life that death will never be able to destroy. 

Strength from Greg Lambden

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Today I officiated at the funeral of Greg Lambden. While I did not know Greg, I know his family and I know how very important he was to his family. Greg was only 35 when he died. His life was way too short. Greg had Spinal Bifida. One doctor gave him no chance at life when he was born. Thirty-five years later, we were celebrating a life of a man who made a big difference in this world. Greg had to overcome much more than most of us can imagine. From all accounts, Greg did not just overcome and survive — he thrived and he loved life. He loved his family and he loved his friends.

I was witness to something remarkable today. Nearly 200 people filled a room and brought their love together to blanket Dan and Sandie, and Danielle a warm support to help them face this incredible loss. I was also so very privileged to hear a couple fo wonderful eulogies to this great young man. Steve Kerr spoke so well and reminded us all that Greg is so very free from any weighty concern, worry or pain and is soaring freely. Greg’s good friend (his brother really) Nav gave an incredible tribute to his friend. He sang, he told stories, he wept, he laughed, he consoled, he encouraged, he reminisced and he gave us a snapshot of a live which was lived with and incredible will and an indomitable spirit. I was so moved by Nav’s testimony of how important Greg was in his life.   

As I listened to Sandie and Dan tell me about Greg and as I heard these powerful tributes to Greg, I was reminded of the words of the great American priest Phillips Brooks – “Do not pray for easy lives. Pray to be stronger [people]! Do not pray for tasks equal to your powers. Pray for power equal to your tasks.”

I often buckle under challenges that pale in comparison to what Greg had to face every day. It becomes easy for me to look at whatever today’s aggravation might be and pray that things would just be easier for me. Then I meet people like Greg who somehow always found the power to equal the many tasks that he had. I get frozen by fear at times, particularly when facing the unknown. Greg set out to conquer with grace so many unknowns. I am grateful to have been a part of this powerful celebration of life today. Thankful because Greg taught me something – even in death. You see the wonder of it all is that in telling Greg’s story – we allow the life that he had not just to be honoured, but to continue to have an impact. Greg’s impact on the world lives on in the lives of the people that he loved and shaped.

The day is coming to a close for me. As I reflect on the events of today, I find myself praying for courage like Greg’s and the for the strength like his — that I may find strength equal to my tasks. Thank you Greg Lamden and thank you to your family and friends for inspiring so many today by sharing his story. 

To read Greg Lambden’s Obituary click here

The Lord is Risen Indeed


 

The cross is the main symbol of our faith, and it invites us to find hope where we see pain and to reaffirm the resurrection where we see death. The call to be grateful is a call to trust that every moment of our life can be claimed as the way of the cross that leads to new life. Can we be grateful for everything that has happened in our life – not just the good things but for all that has brought us to today? In the world’s eyes, there is an enormous distinction between good times and bad, between sorrow and joy. But in the eyes of God, they are never separated. Our ministry is to help people gradually let go of their resentment and discover that right in the middle of suffering there is blessing. Where there is pain, there is healing. Where there is mourning, there is dancing. Where there is poverty, there is the Kingdom of God.

 

This is an excerpt from THE HENRI NOUWEN SPIRITUALITY SERIES, A Spirituality of Living by Henri J.M. Nouwen

 

What a wonderfully full Holy Week and Easter we have just celebrated at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. How incredibly inspiring it was to, day by day, follow Jesus from the glory of the palms, to the pain of the cross, to the glory of the resurrection. Each liturgy of the church is so rich. We had the fulsome experience of following our Loving Lord with an intentionality that allowed us to experience joy, excitement, service, betrayal, agony, denial, anticipation, and jubilation. We were able to gaze directly into the empty tomb and see for ourselves that “The Lord has risen indeed – Alleluia!”

What is so enriching for me this time of year is the reminder that the via dolorosa is a constant pathway to new life for us. Too often we reduce our life to a laundry list of the ‘good times’ and the ‘bad times.’ It becomes too easy for us, as Nouwen points out, to show gratitude only for that which falls under the list of ‘good times.’ Nouwen is right – with God there is no separation between good times and bad times. God is fully present in the sunshine and in the rain. Part of what makes Holy week and Easter celebrations so powerful for me is the expression of different mood and tonality, all of which proclaims that God is near. The power of the great singing of Alleluias on Easter Sunday is amplified by very visceral memory of the chanting of ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me,’ on Good Friday.

 

Let us give thanks to God for the glory of the empty tomb, the power of the resurrection. Let us give thanks to God for breaking the bonds of death and darkness that we might come to know when we walk through those valleys of deep shadows, that God has already trod the via dolorosa and we never walk alone and we are never far away from the resurrected Christ

Let My Prayer Rise as Incense

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Blessèd are you, God of compassion and mercy,
to you be praise and glory for ever!
In the darkness of our sin,
your light breaks forth like the dawn
and your healing springs up for deliverance.
As we rejoice in the gift of your saving help,
sustain us with your bountiful Spirit
and open our lips to sing your praise,
Father, Son and Holy Spirit:
Blessèd be God for ever!

From Psalm 141

Let my prayer rise before you as incense,
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

O Lord, I call to you; come to me quickly;
hear my voice when I cry to you.
Set a watch before my mouth, O Lord,
and guard the door of my lips.

Let my prayer rise before you as incense,
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Let not my heart incline to any evil thing;
let me not be occupied in wickedness.
But my eyes are turned to you, Lord God,
in you I take refuge;
do not leave me defenceless.

Let my prayer rise before you as incense,
the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice.

Tonight I sat in the stillness of the pews of St. Mark’s by-the-Lake and began my prayers with the words from Celebrating Common Praise (Above). Before I did I lit some incense and placed it by the Sacrament of Jesus. As my burnt offering was consumes, my attention became focused on the image of a wisp of smoke ascending into the air, its fragrance filling the empty church. I became aware of our bare skinned sanctuary, unclad last evening of all fine garments. My ears became aware of the sounds of this vessel called St. Mark’s. I guess I became aware that the church is still but not silent. I do not know what the sounds are but I know they are present and therefore I know that I am not in silence …but I am in stillness. My attention turns back to the visual of rising and redolent incense. I realize that I am not alone.

I am connected to something larger. I may be sitting on oak benches, but I really I am seated on Holy ground. My prayers turn to the myriad voices that had spoken prayers, sung prayers, and proclaimed prayer in the space I was occupying. How many prayers rose to the rafters of this great place of refuge over the years? How many names have been spoken, vows proclaimed, committals performed and baptisms celebrated? How many times has Jesus been called to be present in Bread and Wine? As surely as that fragrance filled the air around me I became aware of how very often the presence of the Divine has surrounded the community of saints at St. Mark’s by-the-Lake. This is holy ground!

Then my attention was shifted by the sound of a barking dog way off in the distance. It sounded desperate and afraid. It was as if it was crying out for rescue. So many tonight call out for rescue. So many people feel the pain of Good Friday. So many people are longing to be freed from captivity, healed from sickness, restored to right relationship, and forgiven of sin. So many cry out to be comforted from grief, fed because of hunger and given drink to quench an awful thirst. So I turned my attention to those whose cries can be lost in the chatter of a world preoccupied in self-satisfaction. Cries that are lost in a world which is often casting lots for robes, and hiding from the Love which was poured out for the world for fear of what it might mean to be found out! It occurs to me that the lonely, the broken, the lost, the isolated, the persecuted, the rejected, the forgotten, the ashamed, and all who are hurting tonight need my prayers…and I need theirs!

This is Holy Ground — it is good to be in this place and remember the myriad voices that have filled this sanctuary and give thanks for them. I am grateful for the safety of this sanctuary. It is good to remember the beauty in our place of worship, made more apparent by the absence of all that is colourful. It is good to be in this place and be reminded that there are so many who need my voice to pray. And so I gather all of these together and offer them up. I pray simply that what has passed through my being in these moments may be counted as prayer and that my prayer rise before God as incense, the lifting up of my hands as the evening sacrifice. I am so grateful for so much! Thank you Jesus!

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