Holy Manna: Acknowledgments

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Shane Rounce on Unsplash.Com provided the picture. It was taken on the Padley Gorge Trail in Derbyshire, UK.

I am indebted to my devotion writers because they make the project possible. For the first time ever, people filled all the slots without me having to take on extra reflections. They are Margie Adams, Fr. Keith Axberg, Michael Boss, Charlotte Burnham, Barb Cheyney, Cathey Frederick, Fr. Paul Moore, Sue Shepherd, Nicole Smith, Ashley Sweeney, Mary Ann Taylor, Carol Treston, Fr. Jonathan Weldon, Sharon Weldon, Penny Worrell, and Tom Worrell.

Sandy McDougall helped me source hymns for the playlist. I’m thankful that she has this talent and shared it with me.

Thank you to Fr. Paul Moore for trusting me enough to take this project on yet again.

I wish you all a blessed Easter!
-Jen McCabe

Holy Manna: April 9, 2023 (Easter Sunday)

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb. And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it. His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow. For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men. But the angel said to the women, ‘Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified. He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay. Then go quickly and tell his disciples, “He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.” This is my message for you.’ So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples. Suddenly Jesus met them and said, ‘Greetings!’ And they came to him, took hold of his feet, and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me.’

In February, Turkey and Syria suffered a massive earthquake that tumbled buildings, killing, wounding and displacing thousands of people. Life as it was known crumbled into ruin. After years of war, this was not what they needed. Life can never be the same again.

It is fitting that an earthquake marks the resurrection, a metaphor for its impact. The two women are headed to the tomb to do for the dead what their culture dictated. Jesus’ death was disastrous, but it didn’t derail them from what they knew to do—until the earthquake. Their earth, their world, crumbled into ruin. The world would never be the same again.

I don’t know, at this writing, what will happen in Turkey and Syria, but I would hope that the common catastrophe might bring warring factions together in the face of the human tragedy. Something good could come of it. Something good certainly came from the earthquake the two Marys experienced. In the post-earthquake world, Jesus was known to be alive among them—like before, but not like before, encompassing all he had been, but adding a whole new dimension.

They run from the tomb, in a disorienting fog of fear and joy. Jesus meets them and gives them the orientation they need: “Go, tell my brothers to go to Galilee;” back to where it all started, for a new beginning, but on a brand new, much greater, and much more significant foundation.

The resurrection is more than a declaration that there is hope amid hopelessness. It is a promise of a whole new world, like the old, but unlike it, encompassing all we knew, but transcending it as well.

God of earthquakes, give us hearts to embrace the crumbling of our routines, that we may live into the new world you are bringing forth. Amen.
Fr. Paul Moore 

Holy Manna: April 8, 2023 (Holy Saturday)

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: Matthew 27:57-66

The part of the Queen’s funeral services and processions that brought me to tears was the piping. It was sweet to hear Warrant Officer 1 Pipe Major Paul Burns, the Queen’s personal piper, piping “Sleep Dearie Sleep” in Westminster Abbey and “A Salute to the Royal Fendersmith” at St. George’s Chapel as they were lowering her into the crypt. The pipe bands playing “Skye Boat Song” during the funeral march through London also made me teary.

Jesus was a king, but he did not have a massive funeral procession or any funeral rites at all. Joseph of Arimathea came and asked for Christ’s body, and then his body was wrapped in a linen shroud before being put in a freshly-hewn tomb. In John’s Gospel, Nicodemus comes with a mixture of myrrh and aloes which was wrapped into the linen with the body. In any case, Jesus got a quickie burial because the Sabbath was coming.

And where were his disciples? They were hiding because they saw what Rome did to Jesus. They thought they had a conquering king who was going to kick the Romans out of Judea. Instead, their fearless leader was executed like the leader of a revolt. How embarrassing! How inconvenient for them!

O God, Creator of heaven and earth: Grant that, as the crucified body of your dear Son was laid in the tomb and rested on this holy Sabbath, so we may await with him the coming of the third day, and rise with him to newness of life; who now lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Collect for Holy Saturday from the Book of Common Prayer)
-Jen McCabe

Holy Manna: April 7, 2023 (Good Friday)

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: John 18:1-19:42

One of the most stunning things from the funeral doings of Queen Elizabeth was the contingent of eight of her personal guards hoisting her coffin on their shoulders and processing it into the various cathedrals and chapels where the various prayer and memorial services were held. The reason it was so stunning (other than how smart the young men looked in their uniforms) is that her coffin weighed in at 250-300 kg… or 551-660 lbs due to its lead lining. This means that each man was shouldering between 68-82 lbs while navigating stairs and long aisles before setting it down gently on the catafalque. (If you want a video of what I am talking about, click here to see members of the Royal Regiment of Scotland carry it from the hearse and into St. Giles Cathedral in Edinburgh.)

When I watched the Queen’s funeral in September, the young men bearing the coffin on their shoulders brought to mind Christ bearing his Cross on Good Friday. I looked up the weight of the Cross, and I got figures ranging from 250-300 lbs with the patibulum (horizontal bar) weighing 70-90 lbs. Jesus would have carried only this piece as the stipes (vertical bar) would have been fixed permanently to the ground at the site of the crucifixion. The flogging, scourging, and other beatings given to Christ would have weakened him severely, so Joseph of Cyrene had to help him carry the patibulum. (I will spare you the details of attaching Christ to the Cross as those are pretty gruesome.)

In addition to bearing the weight of the patibulum on his shoulder as he wound his way to Golgotha, Jesus bore the sins of the world upon him as he hung on the Cross. The figurative weight of that was massive, and it is an act of love for us that goes beyond the scope of leadership or anything we can ever comprehend.

Lord Jesus Christ, you stretched out your arms of love on the hard wood of the cross that everyone might come within the reach of your saving embrace: So clothe us in your Spirit that we, reaching forth our hands in love, may bring those who do not know you to the knowledge and love of you; for the honor of your Name. Amen. (BCP, p. 101)
-Jen McCabe

Holy Manna: April 6, 2023 (Maundy Thursday)

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: John 13:1-17, 31b-35
The death of Queen Elizabeth in September 2022 brought many positive stories of her leadership during the seven decades of her reign. One of the most touching ones was from a gentleman named Pete Morgan, who spoke of having the job of revising the plans for Operation Overstudy in 2009, which details how the UK would repatriate the Queen’s body if she were to die overseas. The plans to use a BAE 146 business jet to use it were faulty as the freight bay was almost impossible to access after recent modifications, so they were trying to figure out what type of aircraft to use. The aircraft had to be able to land at RAF Northfort near London, and the two choices were the C17 and the C130. The C130 would have been too noisy, so the C17 was considered the better choice, having been used to bring home the remains of troops from Afghanistan. The plans were sent to Buckingham Palace for approval, and the Queen’s response was beautiful:

“If it’s good enough for my boys, then it’s good enough for me.”

Thirteen years later, that C17 Globemaster that was “good enough for her boys” was the plane that carried her coffin from Edinburgh to RAF Northfort accompanied by Princess Anne and an RAF Honor Guard.

That story comes to mind for me today as we read about Jesus stripping off his outer robe, tying a towel around himself, grabbing a basin, and washing the feet of his disciples. Washing feet was a dirty job that was reserved for the lowest of the servants. Think of the sand and dust that caked them and how filthy the water and towel would be at the end! Why would a respected teacher do such a gross task??? Well, one of the signs of an effective leader is humility. The best leaders get down in the muck with us and help, so Jesus doing such a filthy job is him trying to demonstrate humility to his disciples, who have no clue that he is not the conquering king that they are expecting. He then challenges them to do this for others, telling them that he has set an example for them.

Gracious God, you showed your disciples that to be a leader, you need to be a servant. Help us to follow your example and “wash each other’s feet”. Amen.
-Jen McCabe

Holy Manna: April 5, 2023

Holy Manna: A Lenten Devotional for St. Paul's Episcopal Church

Read: John 12:20-36

The scene this passage from John sets for us is scripted for dramatic effect. Tell me you don’t immediately visualize how verses 21-32 play out as you read them. As an exercise in constructive confrontation befitting a spiritual leader, however, I think the Lord could have handled the situation with a mind toward more generally accepted HR practices. Rather than “out” him as a betrayer in front of his peers, wouldn’t dealing with Judas one-on-one have been preferable? One could argue, of course, that public humiliation was a small penance for the one who sold out the only Begotten Son of God for a few pieces of silver.

If I may linger on the topic of “leadership by example” for a moment longer, I know that this is going to seem petty of me, but I can’t help but feel that Jesus is exhibiting some passive/aggressive behavior. Imagine instead re-writing verse 26 as, “Jesus answered, ‘Listen up, yo! There’s something important I need to say to our brother Judas here, and just so y’all are on the same page with this, I’m saying it in front of you as well.”

Of course, what these admittedly irreverent musings ignore (besides the fact that there was a time not all that long ago when I would have been burned at the stake for expressing them) is the fact that what transpired between Jesus and Judas, as the Lord himself freely admitted, was nothing other than the fulfillment of scripture. From that standpoint, it’s a bit creepy to think that Jesus was colluding with the devil. Between the sacrament and Satan, Judas didn’t stand a chance — which is why I had some compassion for him even before I saw “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

Lord, keep me strong in faith and in covenant with you and with all those with whom I enter into relationship. Amen.
-Michael Boss