I haven't worshipped with other Episcopal congregations during Easter in a while. So I haven't seen what others are doing when it comes to things like standing for the Prayers or forgoing the Confession of Sin or adding alleluias to most acclamations etc. I am aware of how difficult all of what we are doing in Madison is for several of us.
Just 4 Sundays into this most glorious season and I heard questions at the door. Yet, after what I wrote a couple of weeks ago I'm not about to make a thing out of our postures again. Remember it is our hearts we are called to lift in celebration. I'm still not a cop.
I do know that we are human and so we are prone to habits and patterns that help us to get out of our own way so that God has a chance to sit with us, to breathe with us, to sing and pray and celebrate.
One of the lessons I wink and teach to confirmands is that they should pick a spot in the church to sit every Sunday, so that God will not have to go looking for them.
Most everyone gets the joke but also gets the deeper meaning that our patterns should help us "get out of the way." It is the first part, our part of the basic sacramental formula that bridges between us and God by way of regularity, validity and efficacy.
There is a caveat. Sometimes we forget that our habits and patterns are a means to an end, a part of a process that should always seek to obey and and be attendant on God to take God's turn in the process. So when we hear Jesus saying that there is a connection between our keeping his commandments and the love we share with him it should get our attention.
It would be wrong for us to lapse back into legalism and become as hidebound as first century pharisees. Yes, we hope to get out of the way but so that we can do all we can to be in love and not just safely or solely habitual or patterned.
The effect of our sacrificial obedience is to surrender to God's love, God's power, God's authority.
I'm thinking Pinocchio. Yes, the puppet who yearned to be human. His struggles with learning right and wrong and having a conscience and suffering consequences were all to identify what it means to be human. Then one day he gives up the 40 coins meant to buy a new suit, helps the Fairy who has fallen ill, and wakes up the next morning a real boy!
Besides the intriguing allusions as they echo things like the biblical changes that come after 40 days/years, there is clearly a lesson about surrender, love and maturity.
Jesus, the incarnation of God's yearning, God's love is not just giving us a set of rules with which to march our way through life's trials. His commandment -- think "love letter" not "military orders" -- is so that we will rise to the maturity of love over law, into life from death ourselves.
There will be trials and struggles. That's what it means to be human. There will be love. That's what Easter means.