GET IN TOUCH
between Atlantic and Beach
Beach Haven, New Jersey 08008
Perhaps you're a visitor on Long Beach Island. Maybe you haven't been in Church for a while and would like to start back. Whatever is going on in your life, you are welcome at Holy Innocents. Your past affiliations don't mean nearly as much to us as your present affiliation with us.
Dear Friends in the Lord:
It’s funny how the mind and heart work…what leads to what, and how things are connected in thought and prayer…it’s seamless but not always logical. Not long ago, I was contemplating the conclusion of a specific ministry; as I said my prayers about that and was listening, the prayer led me into a larger meditation on how we know when things begin and when they end- anything. There are lots of indices. One of the most common ways is to determine who’s first and who’s last.
Someone has to be first. Someone has to be last. With such distinctions we draw the boundaries of processes and events and periods of time. We understand an individual event like a footrace, both as the event itself elapses and in total, by the one who finishes first and the one who finishes last. We understand class rank by discovering who has generated the most accomplished record, and whose record sparkles the least. We understand a fundamental change in the human experience when we mark the firsts or lasts in human experience- the first person to eat an oyster, the first person to fire pottery, the last linen-covered bi-plane, the last incandescent light bulb, the last steam locomotive, and so forth. Personal vital statistics make records of when and where individual births and deaths occur- a lifetime on a small government form. Until we know when/how something began and when/how it ended, we have little sense of what it means or how to value it. So we mark the day/time/place that we understand to be a beginning and we note the same markers at the end. The great sweep of life around us makes more sense with first and last.
Florence Li Tim Oi was the first woman ordained an Anglican priest. Someone had to be. Roger Bannister was the first human being recorded as having run a mile in under 4 minutes. Someone had to be. Charles Lindbergh was the first aviator to solo non-stop New York-Paris, and Yuri Gagarin was the first human being to travel in space. Someone had to be. Junko Tabei was the first woman to climb the Seven Summits. Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh were the first to reach the Challenger Deep. Someone had to be. Robert M. Losey was the first American killed in World War II, and Darwin Judge and Charles MacMahon were the last Americans killed in Viet Nam. Someone had to be.
None of these human events are small. Each marks a tender boundary with the addition of a human face.
That last item- the last person to die in a war- was where my heart stopped wandering and my prayers re-focused. When it occurs, we don’t know that the victim is the last person killed. When they die they’re just the next- the latest- person claimed by the conflict. Later however, when the shooting has stopped, we take stock and realize whom the last person to die was. That’s sobering. Anyone who has seen the violence of war abhors it, and the ones I know would gladly give their life as the last one killed if they had faith that the fighting really would stop when they died. The staggering sacrifice of any human death in war seems magnified by the pathos of knowing it was the last. Someone had to be the one by whom the boundary was set- someone had to be last.
Jesus is the last man to die in the war on death. Someone had to be, and God willed that it should be His Son. Someone had to be the last one who faced death as all preceding humanity had- without the assurance of Resurrection. Someone had to be that last person. Some might say that having been resurrected, (and having made some intimations of resurrection) the evidence suggests that Jesus didn’t die. Oh, no. He really did die; that’s the whole point. If He hadn’t really died, the Resurrection wouldn’t really be Resurrection. If one is not dead one cannot be raised. It would be no more than sideshow sleight-of-hand…a cosmic parlor trick. Jesus was a casualty in the war on death- the last casualty. As with any other such last wartime death, there is a particular poignancy and pathos that the last casualty in the war on death was God’s Son. In the war on death, someone had to declare of death by His own death “it is finished.” That someone is Jesus.
Having set one boundary as the last person to die without the certainty of Resurrection, Jesus sets another boundary, this time as the first. Someone had to be first, and in the case of the war on death it had to Jesus. If Jesus were not the first one raised, He would not, by definition, have been the last one to die in the war on death. The only way we know who the last one was is to see who the first raised is…adds vivid clarity to “the last shall be first” doesn’t it?
Lazarus notwithstanding, Jesus is the first human being to be Resurrected. Being fully human as well as fully divine, Jesus is the last person to die crying out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me” in order to be that He might be first person ever described by: “He is not here, but has Risen!” Paul understands the universal, had-to-be-last-so-He-could-be-first nature of The Cross and The Empty Tomb when he writes to Rome: “The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.” Resurrected, Jesus is “the beginning, the firstborn from the dead” and what happens to Jesus personally happens now to us all, forever. His Resurrection provides to each his/her own resurrection- “we are buried with Him by baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.”
Jesus sets the end-point on death with His death. Jesus sets the starting-point on eternal life by being raised.
I am grateful to all souls who gave themselves as the last in any conflict, setting that boundary. I am more grateful than my words can say that Jesus was the last to die in the fight with death, setting the ultimate boundary. He is risen, and that means that you and I can be too…gives true depth to the phrase, “Thank you, Jesus!”
Love you. See you in Church.
PALM SUNDAY, 29 March ~ 9:30am The Proper Liturgy of The Day ~ congregational singing, choir, organ & trumpet
THE MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK, 30 March ~ 9:00am The Holy Eucharist with Laying on of Hands for Healing
THE TUESDAY IN HOLY WEEK, 31 March ~
THE WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK, 1 April ~ Noon The Holy Eucharist
MAUNDY THURSDAY, 2 April ~ 7:00pm The Proper Liturgy of the Day, with Stripping of the Altar, and Commencement of the Watch at the Altar of Repose (overnight, in The Bethlehem Chapel) ~ congregational singing, choir & organ
GOOD FRIDAY, 3 April ~ Noon The Proper Liturgy of the Day ~ congregational singing, choir & organ; 7:00pm The Proper Liturgy of the Day ~ congregatonal singing, vocal soloists & organ
EASTER DAY, 5 April ~ 9:30am Festival Eucharist of The Resurrection ~ congregational singing, choir, vocal soloists, organ & Lighthouse Brass