Continuing Home

The ongoing saga of a Continuing Anglican church home, as seen by a member of the laity.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Easter Birthday

Today is the greatest day of the year. Without Easter, Christmas would be nothing more than "Winterfest", Good Friday would be at best a bummer, but today completes it all.

Today is also a special event for your blogger, one I have literally looked forward to for decades: It's my birthday, and to have it land on Easter is for me a once in a lifetime event. Even if it's raining this morning (as it is) -- if you're going to live in the Pacific Northwet, you better learn to love the rain.

But back to Easter, last night my father e-mailed me a copy of his sermon for today, "Hail Thee, Festival Day," with something new to ponder, excerpted as follows. I commend it to you:

I have been studying the Bible intensely for the last 60 years. After many years it finally has become clear to me that one needs to pay attention to the small details in Scripture, if you are not to miss important and enriching aspects of the Bible’s message. Our Gospel lesson for today contains one of those small details that adds much color to John’s story of his own and Peter’s discovery of the empty tomb.

The detail I have in mind this morning is a single Greek word that the King James translates "rolled-up," and that the NIV translates as "folded." It is referring to the napkin which had covered Jesus’ face and that Peter saw placed separate from the rest of the grave clothes. As with so many New Testament Greek words, this word has a range of possible meanings, but more than that, it is associated with customs and meanings that are different from our everyday experience. The word is related to the word for "command," as a king or teacher commanding something of his followers. It can perhaps be translated "ordered."

In ordinary Roman and New Testament banquets, people didn’t have individual plates, but ate with their fingers from common platters and bowls. Large napkins were therefore obviously necessary. The host or head of the family was in charge of the meal, and when he judged that the meal was over (there were no desserts), the host would gently throw his napkin on the table in front of him, perhaps upon some bones or grape stems. This was a sign that the meal was finished, and the servants (usually women) could remove all platters and napkins.

If the host were called away from the table before the meal was completed, the host would carefully fold or roll his napkin, and place it in a clear area to the side of his place (that is, it was said that he "ordered" his napkin.) This was a clear sign that “I am not finished yet.” “I am returning.” A carefully arranged napkin in a place by itself was the non-verbal message that it is not yet over.

When Peter and John saw the napkin “ordered” in a place by itself, they had seen that arrangement so often at meals that the symbolism couldn’t be missed. It said, loud and clear, “I am not finished yet, I am returning.”

John writes that he saw, and believed. He believed instantly, for he got the message instantly. Even before the first resurrection appearance, Christ has already delivered His message of resurrection, and John believed. Now, nearly 2000 years later, we join him in belief. There is a lot of skepticism going around concerning the resurrection. All honest questions have honest answers available. But we join St. John and “Hail Thee Festival Day.”

Hail Thee, Festival Day!


  • At 3:14 PM, Blogger The Miller Menagerie said…

    Sorry we were so caught up with the food that we didnt have the chance to say...

    Happy Birthday!

    Both of my folks were born on Easter (4/12 in 1936 and 4/10 in 1955) and Easter has been on their birthday again only once.

  • At 3:17 PM, Blogger Continuing Home said…

    Thanks -- and thank you for the brunch this morning!!


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