Jelly Bean Prayer

This was passed along to me by my organist, Dr. Fred Guzasky. So you can blame him. Actually, Fred’s always good for churchy blog fodder. God knows where he comes up with this stuff.

The Jelly Bean Prayer

Red is for the blood he gave,
Green is for the grass he made.
Yellow is for the Sun so bright,
Orange is for the edge of night.
Black is for the sins we made,
White is for the grace he gave.
Purple is for the hours of sorrow,
Pink is for a new tomorrow.
Jelly beans, colorful and sweet,
a promise, a prayer, and loved one’s treat.

Nothing like sucking the joy out of an Easter Egg Hunt. What a buzz kill! And, to paraphrase Dr. Freud, sometimes a jelly bean is just a jelly bean.

Well, fear not. I’ve taken things into my own hands and rewritten “The Jelly Bean Prayer.” I started to write the Mel Gibson version in order to one-up the original killjoy (“Red is for the blood dripping down the cross, Green is for cookies that he did toss”) but decided on an Episcopal version.

The Jelly Bean Prayer (Anglicanized)

Red is for the Holy Spirit blowing ’round,
Green is for God’s blessings that abound.
Yellow is the color of Easter dresses,
Orange, used liturgically, merely distresses.
Black is for our clergy’s attire,
White is for robes worn by the choir.
Purple is for bishops who like to look fancy,
Pink is only worn by women named Nancy.
Jelly Beans, colorful and yummy,
They’re just candy, you evangelical dummy.

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Death by Peep?

Evil Easter Bunny Was Here

More reflections on Easter Day…Following our 9:15 am liturgy we hold an Easter Egg Hunt on the church’s front lawn. This is nothing unique among churches, of course, although some clergy/congregations see this as anathema or worse. Something about being pagan in origin (as opposed to a vast number of Christian traditions that have been overlayed over pagan ritual including the date of Christmas!). Nothing like sucking the joy out of Easter.

I’m of the mind that, as long as the hunts are done in the context of the resurrection (ie. we just came out of church), they’re great fun. Who doesn’t get jazzed seeing the thrill of discovery on the face of a four-year-old?

Anyway, this particular Easter Egg Hunt is pretty popular in Hingham. We set the younger kids up in the Memorial Garden and they toddle around with great glee. It’s a relaxed affair with parents helping out their kids while chatting with one another.

The hunt on the front lawn is quite another matter. When the signal is given hordes of elementary school-aged kids race for the eggs. The lawn is on a downhill slope so it adds a slight element of danger. As I witnessed this for the first time on Sunday, one image came to mind: The Running of the Bulls in Pamplona. I was just glad I didn’t get trampled by a bunch of well-dressed children or gored by a wayward Easter basket. Death by Peep is not how I want to exit this mortal life.

I’m thinking that next year I should find a ceremonial way to start the hunt. I’m not sure how it started this year — I think a parent yelled “Go!” or something. I might invest in a Paschal Air Horn though perhaps Sanctus bells would better fit the tenor of the day.

I was glad to see that the kids were all very respectful. We gave them a limit of three eggs to make sure everyone got enough. This was not the competitive blood sport I’ve seen at some “community eggs hunts” in years past. Thanks be to God.

I fully expect to find a few leftover eggs sometime in mid-July when the contents have melted into a gooey mess. It happens every year — especially when teenagers do the hiding. But what better way to be reminded of the resurrection than by a melted Peep/jelly bean combination in the heat of the summer?


Christ is Risen! The Clergy are Dead!

As happens every Easter Monday, I’m nursing an Easter hangover. It’s a hangover that has nothing to with alcohol and everything to do with eleven services in five days. I’m sermoned out, incensed out, liturgied out, and bulletined out. And yet the warm glow of the resurrection and sharing the journey with the people of St. John’s leaves me feeling fulfilled, if exhausted.

It is a privilege to lead a congregation through the Christian “High Holy Days.” It is a gift of priesthood that I cherish even as it sucks all the life and energy out of me. In baseball (and since yesterday was Opening Day as well as Easter I feel justified in using this analogy) ballplayers talk about “leaving it all on the field” to describe an effort where they gave their all. I like to think I left it all in the sanctuary. And most clergy I know feel the same way — the hours of preparation and intense planning eventually come together in meaningful, profound, dramatic, and joyful liturgy. But it’s a lot of work.

One of the aspects I love about Holy Week is that I try to keep my calendar. I don’t schedule meetings (if I can help it) so that I can focus exclusively on the liturgies and the pile of sermons that need to be written. Things always arise of course — that’s Murphy’s Law of Holy Week: Things will not go according to plan. This usually means that the copier will stop working just as the Good Friday bulletins are ready to print or, as happened this year, two people died during Holy Week. This is the stuff of life that gets interposed on top of the liturgical year. And all you can do is be present pastorally and/or curse the copier and move on.

This was a particularly meaningful and intense Holy Week for me being in a new parish. In a sense I felt as if I was just trying to stay one service ahead of the curve. It makes a big difference when you plan out all the liturgical details in a new space. The comfort of being in the same church for a number of years is that you know the traditions, you know where the large wooden cross for Good Friday lives, you know who will set up the flowers for Easter, you know where to put the foot washing stations for Maundy Thursday, you know where you’ll have the choir stand at the start of the Easter Vigil, etc. If you have any control issues at all (and what rector doesn’t?) you have to give some of them up and rely on your key parishioners to assist with the details. I’m lucky to have a number of folks at St. John’s who are just as passionate about liturgy as I am.

So it was a lot and I’m feeling the effects — never again will it be my first Holy Week and Easter at St. John’s and next year, God willing, I’ll have a curate in place to share the burden and the joy. But it was also a wonderful journey. Attendance at Holy Week services was higher than it’s ever been and between the Easter Vigil and the three Easter Day services we saw 700 people. A great opportunity to share the gospel of the risen Christ in this community. There is much to build upon and, with God’s help, I look forward to doing so.

In the meantime, I cringe to think of  all the things I put off “until after Easter.” But they can wait until tomorrow. I have a hangover to nurse.


Easter Peep — Easter Miracle

Here’s my latest In Good Faith column for the Hingham Journal. I explore the miraculous nature of Easter Peeps in the context of the resurrection.

IN GOOD FAITH

By the Rev. Tim Schenck

Easter Miracle

It’s not about the Peeps. It’s a fringe benefit, of course. But Easter is not about the Peeps. Now, don’t get me wrong; I consider Peeps to be an Easter miracle in and of themselves. How else do you explain the popularity of those delectable chick-shaped marshmallow novelty treats? How else do you explain the unnaturally bright yellow of the classic Peep (well, besides a heavy infusion of Yellow Number #5). How else do you explain the incredibly long shelf life of your average Peep? As long as you don’t open the plastic packaging, it may well last until the Second Coming.

But as I said, Easter is not about the Peeps. I realize there’s confusion around this issue, however. Walk into any drugstore and the entire Easter display is highlighted by rows and rows of Peeps. And not just the classic yellow Peep – you can now get them in lavender, pink, blue, and white. Call me a Peep fundamentalist but these are all anathema to me. Give me yellow or I’m switching to jelly beans!

Now I’m not sure how or when the Peep became linked with the marking of Jesus’ resurrection in America. And the minor “miracle” of Peep technology set within the context of the truly miraculous Easter story pales in comparison. But once we recognize the real miracle of Easter: the empty tomb, Christ’s victory over sin and death, and our own redemption, we’re better attuned to the minor miracles that abound in this life. Once we recognize that through the resurrection of Jesus we are forgiven, healed, redeemed, and loved, we can move on to see the minor miracles that surround us. And there are many – the reconciling of a broken relationship with a friend; taking the dog for a walk and reveling in the beauty of the spring weather; or walking into a church and recognizing for the first time in awhile that, yes, God is in relationship with me. That God loves me for who I am rather than who I seek to become.

This week, throughout the world, Christians will be marking the events surrounding the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The liturgies of Holy Week allow us to fully participate in this, not as passive observers but as active participants. For the stories of this week are our stories; the drama is our drama; the victory is our victory. But we must be fully engaged in order to be fully transformed. You can’t experience the breadth of Easter joy without first experiencing the agony of the cross. Or at least reflecting upon it. Otherwise you end up crashing from the sugar high – as if Easter morning was spent downing Peep after Peep with no genuine sustenance in sight. Which sounds dandy until the inevitable crash.

Wherever you worship this year, I encourage you to embrace the Christian “High Holy Days:” Maundy (Holy) Thursday, Good Friday, and the Easter Vigil. Of course we also have services on Easter Sunday at St. John’s — three of them to be precise. So consider this an invitation — to my own church or any church in Hingham this week. You won’t be disappointed and your faith will surely be deepened along the way. I know how difficult it can be to enter the doors of a church for the first time. “Will they be annoyingly hard sell? Will I be smothered with pleasantries? Will I know what to do? Will they make me stand up and introduce myself?” But I bid you to overcome the feelings of vulnerability and uncertainty. You’ll be glad you did.

One final word about Peeps. Last year I was a “celebrity” judge in a contest called “All God’s Peeps” that took place in Maryland. Besides playing fast and loose with the word “celebrity,” the organizers encouraged people to submit photos of shoe box dioramas depicting scenes from the Bible using Peeps. There was a Jesus Peep walking on water, a David Peep slaying a giant chocolate Easter bunny Goliath, etc. You quite literally had to see this to believe it. But perhaps there is a more significant role for Peeps on Easter than I give them credit for. Or maybe my own sugar high is one Peep away from delusion. In any case, I wish you all a most blessed Easter.


“Feed My Peeps”

feedingNow, this never happened when I was in Sunday School: marshmallow Peeps used to illustrate a Bible story. You just gotta love hip, creative Sunday School teachers. Especially when they ply their trade at your parish as opposed to the “competition” across town (just kidding St. Mary’s, Trinity, and St. Paul’s).

Inspired by a link I forwarded about the Diocese of Maryland’s Peep-based Biblical diorama contest, our elementary school-aged kids were treated to a tasty lesson about the Feeding of the 5,000. They listened to the story and then re-created the scene using Peeps. Jesus was a yellow bunny, the disciples were pink bunnies, the crowds were every other unnatural color you could imagine, the “loaves” were jelly beans and the “fish” were Swedish fish. Brilliant!

The kids had a blast and, more importantly, this is now a story that they will never, ever forget. And isn’t that really the underlying point in all of this?

Of course they also got to eat their fill of Easter candy along the way. As Coffee Hour was winding down, the edible Scripture was deemed fair game. I can’t imagine why my boys had absolutely no desire to eat lunch after church. Hmmmm. I think Ben alone had about 13 Peeps. Including, I’m slightly mortified to admit, Jesus. As we were leaving he proudly announced, “Dad, I ate Jesus.”

Hah! Can’t get a rise out of me that easily. This is, after all, what eucharistic theology is all about. Perhaps that’s a future Peep-inspired lesson…


Hip Hop

bad_easter_bunnyI’m afraid that when the Temple curtain was torn in two this year, Ben and Zack got a glimpse behind another curtain: they no longer believe in the Easter Bunny. Now I admit I’m not a big fan of the Easter Bunny. We’ve had our run-ins in the past — which I can’t go into (though “egg hunts” on Good Friday were involved). But generally I take a “don’t ask don’t tell” approach to the Easter Bunny: Bryna is welcome to encourage the arrival of the bunny on Easter morning; I just don’t want to hear anything about. Nor will I enable the Easter Bunny by abetting her like some sort of Paschal elf.

This year, however, I overheard a great conversation between the boys a few days before Easter in which they agreed there couldn’t possibly be any such thing. Ben: “A big bunny hopping all around the world delivering candy? Yeah, right.” Zack: “Plus bunnies can’t even swim. How would it be able to take Easter baskets to China?” Good point.

So they know. Which is fine with me since it’s not a myth I care to perpetuate. Bryna just smiles and uses that old parental cliché, “You have to believe to receive.” In reality, I don’t think they care about the delivery system as much as the end result. They certainly “believe” in Peeps, jelly beans, and chocolate bunnies.

Funny, though. There’s been no talk about that other gift bearing icon; the one who shows up in December. I guess his sleigh helps him get to China. Plus, at this stage, not even our guys want to mess with a good thing.


Cathedral Easter

cathedral.jpgIt’s very strange to wake up on Easter Monday not feeling completely spent. By this time my head’s usually still spinning from leading eight intense services in four days. And I’m ready to crawl into a cave and roll a large stone in front of the entrance. Hey, he’s not using it anyway.

Easter morning was glorious. We worshiped at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in NYC. We actually needed to get tickets in and, while I was curious about what they’d bring on the open market, I didn’t scalp them. Though I had fun imagining the headline in the next day’s edition of The New York Post: Priest Scalps Easter Tix, Spends Night in Overcrowded Tomb.

A friend at the diocese hooked us up with four great seats in the Great Choir — reserved seating at that (my name was plastered on the back of them). Which meant we could go to the world-famous Hungarian Pastry Shop across the street and then waltz in during the prelude.

Easter morning at the Cathedral is everything you’d imagine. Bishop Sisk was the preacher and celebrant, the music was stunning (choir, harp, timpani, brass, etc), two flaming pots of incense, four sets of crucifers and acolytes, various liturgical functionaries. All in one of the most beautiful settings in the world. Not a bad place to be a priest without a parish. And it was very special to be there sitting in the pews with my family. I even wore a suit and tie rather than clericals — it’s been awhile but, yes, I remembered how to tie it.

When you attend a nearly two-hour service with kids, you’ve got to come prepared. We were armed with the usual accoutrements — grapes, cheese sticks (things that don’t crunch!), and lots of art supplies. During the bishop’s sermon (all about living a life of hope and peace in the midst of ongoing conflict) Zack was very actively coloring an elaborate Star Wars battle. There were light sabers and lasers flying everywhere resulting in large-scale death and destruction. At The Peace I handed it to the bishop’s wife (who was sitting behind us) and said, “Here’s Zack’s response to your husband’s sermon.” She loved it.

One more note about the service. During communion Judy Collins sang something — this is the kind of thing you get at the Cathedral on Easter morning. Now I’d heard of her (and she was only sitting about eight people over from us) but when I asked Father Patrick Ward what he knew about her on our six-mile run this morning, I inadvertantly shed light on my inexcusable ignorance. He was staggered by my lack of musical knowledge and metaphorically slapped me. Evidently she’s bigger than I knew — 1975 Grammy winner for “Send in the Clowns,” has recorded with Arlo Guthrie, and is the “Judy Blue Eyes” of Crosby, Stills and Nash fame. She’s also the Artist in Residence at the Cathedral. 

Oh well. Perhaps I’d better book her now for next year’s Easter service.