Easter People

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One of the great—if not underutilized—gifts of the Episcopal Church is the Daily Office. Each day we are given the gift of scripture and prayer. While the Sunday lectionary takes center stage, the Daily Office lectionary is there for us every day.

In today’s readings we get the story of Jesus first teaching in the synagogue in Nazareth. He starts by quoting Isaiah: “’The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.’ And he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down. The eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. Then he began to say to them, ‘Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.’” (Luke 4:18-21). This bold introduction to his ministry didn’t exactly go well with his hometown congregation and Jesus quickly left town before he could be hurled off a cliff.

His introduction sets up the model for Jesus’s earthly ministry and for how we are to act in the world as people transformed by Christ. God willing, no one will try to throw us off a cliff for following Jesus’s example, though some may want to.

Lately, I have been thinking especially about what it means to “let the oppressed go free and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Over the last several months the world watched first the horrific attacks by Hamas on Israelis and then the months-long bombardment of Gaza in response. Much of the conversation has centered around proportionality and rights of defense. But I’m not sure how to square proportional deaths of civilians with letting the captives go free. “We are an Easter people and ‘Alleluia’ is our song!” A quote attributed to Saint Augustine offers a sentiment we share throughout this season, and it is a good and uplifting sentiment. Still, to say we are Easter people means doing the work of Christ in the world, otherwise the words are hollow. We are peacemakers. Like the mourning dove in the painting above, we carry the olive leaf even when it’s not welcomed. We speak for those who are suffering and dying, proclaiming the Lord’s favor of the oppressed, the imprisoned, the sick, hungry, and weakest.

I’m not a natural proclaimer. I’m mostly reserved, saving my thoughts for myself and those closest to me. In this moment, saving my thoughts doesn’t do anyone any good. During the Great Vigil of Easter we renew our baptismal vows. We promise, with God’s help, to proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ, to” seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves, and to strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” Our Christian duty is to speak up for peace and for the lives of the innocents.

About the Painting

The Mourning Dove and the Hoopoe
Earth and mineral pigments and oil on canvas
Stella Maria Baer

Learn more about Seth & Stella.

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