Saint James Anglican Church

Joseph Howe Drive at the Armdale Rotary, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada             


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Rector's Messages

Message Archive

 

Easter 2009

 

"Your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you."

(-John 16:22)

 

There is a certain level of risk involved when men write about the birth of their children. It is the mother, after all, who does all of the heavy lifting of labor and birth. However, the births of each of our children are my most indelible memories. Our first child was born on Good Friday at 5:13 in the morning. Labor began the day before, Maundy Thursday. I was a student and a newly ordained deacon at the time. The new arrival took priority. A colleague of mine conducted what were to have been my first Holy Week services as an ordained person. The weeks of Lent had been passed in anticipation of the baby's arrival. Easter took on a very special feel that year. Resurrection was celebrated through the experience of having a new born. More than three decades have elapsed since that Holy Week and Easter; but I have a lasting appreciation for a metaphor Jesus uses in anticipation of his passion and resurrection. According to John, as the time for Jesus' passion draws near, he speaks with his disciples in a parable drawn from birthing.

 

"When a woman is in labor, she has pain because her hour has come. But when her child is born, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy of having brought a human being into the world. So you have pain now; but I will see you again, and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you." (John 16:21,22 NRSV).

 

Labor pains are not erased from memory. What is meant here is that the hard work of labor gives way to the euphoria that comes with the new born child. The original Greek language version of this story makes it clear that the pain and physical pressure of giving birth are transitory. The joy that comes with the new life is long lasting. Undercurrents of longing and anticipation flow throughout John's Gospel--no where more so than in this passage. The disciples will experience a double longing. They will long for Jesus after his death on the cross. After his resurrection they will wait with anticipation for eternal life. Jesus encourages them with the promise that their longings will be replaced with permanent joy.

 

There are a great many things to long and pine for in our world. Many of them, even if eventually obtained, fail to bring any true sense of peace or joy with them. Stories both ancient and modern counsel us to take care about the nature of our wants, desires, and longings. The Gospel is coaching us to see the connection between lasting joy and the things we long for in the first place. The disciples have a spiritual desire and longing for the fullness of a Christ centered life. Longing for a more peaceful world, a more compassionate society, for close or closer relationships with family and friends, for a sense of place or community, for a life of faith and meaning, such longings contain the seeds of joy and fulfillment. Righteousness brings lasting fulfillment to those who hunger and thirst for it. Each, year in holy Week and Easter, faithful Christians recall the passion and resurrection of Christ. Such recollections afford us an opportunity to carefully review our deepest human longings within the horizon of eternal life. What longings are laboring within you ? What joy and gladness is waiting to be born from them?

 

-The Rev. Canon Rod Gillis, Passiontide and Easter 2009

 

O God you have made us for yourself, and against your longing there is no defence, Mark us with your love, and release in us a passion for your justice in our disfigured world, that we may turn from our guilt and face you, our heart's desire.

 

- A prayer by Janet Morley from "All Desires Known" (Morehouse-Barlow 1988 p. 13)