a reflection on a todd’s point sunrise service

[This year’s SSU students saw the sun rise from Todd’s Point, but that has not been a common occurrence. What follows is a reflection that Joel Mason wrote after a foggier Easter morning]

I remember going out one Easter morning with a few friends for an early sunrise service; we decided on Todd’s Point, a slab of rock overlooking the water. We had prepared in our minds vistas of sun and sea salt ricocheting off each other in dazzling displays of beauty and in reverent devotion to the occasion. But even as we plunked through the dark with our flashlights, guitars, and armfuls of firewood, we could tell that it would be a grey and misty beginning to the day. We lit the fire and huddled around its unimpressive flame, waiting for any sign that night had turned to light, that Jesus was anywhere close to exiting His tomb. I remember vividly the wall of fog that slowly revealed itself as the sun was dragged up over the hills, sitting invisible behind grey and white; we couldn’t even see the water. All we were left with was grey fog upon grey stone, our faces quickly following suit as the cold continued. We tried to play some songs of worship to raise our spirits but our fingers grew numb within seconds; We were speechless as the poetics of our time surrounded us: did God really raise Jesus from the dead? Perhaps we are fooling ourselves; we should’ve stayed in bed.

There is no part to this story where the sun comes out; no finale where our spirits are lifted by nature’s kind intervention, proving all our doubts to be counterfeit. The fog stayed with us for the whole day. And this is how the resurrection is to many; we know that it is supposed to be important but we often live with the sense that we are cut off from its depth, truncated from God in the hour when we should be most connected. The crucifixion is easier, at least in the sense that people are tortured and killed everyday. But the resurrection can seem to stand aloof from the grasping hands of our minds and hearts.

That morning, something else did happen. For me, it happened without drama and without organized fanfare. I looked up from the fire to see my friend walking down the rock to the place where the impenetrable wall of fog shot up from the water. In his right hand he held a conch, a shell that you can us and beyond us into the formless mass. It peeled like bells in the wilderness. It was a distress call and a song of praise all in one. It was mystery colliding with history colliding with our small brains, bodies, hearts. It was protest and lament, thanksgiving and stubborn hope. Soon after, we packed up and trod the muddy trail back to our cars and, in our cars, back to our beds.

I want to put my hand in the scarred side of the risen Jesus. But sometimes all there is is my feeble song of faith sounding into a formless void. Somehow, on that day, it was enough. My friends and I had a certain idea of how our celebration of the resurrection of Jesus should be; and it was thwarted quite completely. But perhaps what really needed deconstructing was our idea of the resurrection itself. Perhaps the strange mix of disappointment and joy that sat in my belly as our car jangled and bumped its way home was the realization that we had indeed celebrated the risen Jesus. Can a celebration be akin to a cry against a void? Can something be so mysterious and so explosive that its sound waves escape you completely?

One day the fog will lift and I will scatter song in the full assembly of the sun and sky; but until that day, my heart does not stop singing. It is fired by a sun which shines as well in darkness as it does in light. My song does not have to be a certain melody of clarity and picturesque moments; it can exist, can thrive, can still utter the only refrain I believe when I believe nothing else: He is Risen.

– Joel Mason, St. Stephen’s Prayer Book 

Thinking about Jesus as Rebel and as Obedient Son

One group of people see Jesus and relate to him easily as the listening and obedient son of the Father God. This is so perhaps because these people are looking for a certain kind of Jesus; a Jesus that lives a vibrant interior life with God, whose everyday life is ordered by kind supernatural interaction. What this group of people often doesn’t relate to is Jesus as the passionate rebel. At least for me, accepting Jesus as rebel sometimes seems too close to reality, too close to a kind of life where I would be held responsible for my actions; rebels are hanged if caught, I remember with a shudder.

But there is also a group of people who relate much easier to Jesus as the passionate rebel. They see him standing up for those who have no social legs to stand up for themselves, they see him overturn the tables of injustice, opting for fairness and reconciliation over individual profit. This group often finds it hard to see the usefulness of a Jesus who is a listening and obedient son; to them (and to me sometimes), it seems too escapist and far away from the reality of suffering people. To use an image of what ‘Jesus’ this group fears: Jesus alone praying on the mountain, seemingly helping nobody. This is a problematic image for this group (just as Jesus physically defending the cause of the poor people is a problematic image for the other group).

But what if Jesus were both passionate rebel and obedient son at the same time? Not only this, but what if one of these two characteristics were the essential cause of the other? Well, we will have to do some stretching because…

Jesus is the passionate rebel, pleading and defending the cause of the poor because he is the listening and obedient son.

To return to the above image, Jesus cannot bring a freeing voice to our world without going up the mountain to be with the Father God, listening to what that freeing voice is saying.

– Joel Mason

A Prayer for Times of Loneliness

call out to your savior in silence
let him hear your faithful waiting
here in this dark place
where only the candle burns to remind us that
the Lord always comes for his own

written by Joel Mason

Christmas Thoughts

In the birth of the small and vulnerable Jesus, we already celebrate by extension the crucified and resurrected Jesus, and this means something concrete regarding materialism and the luminosity of the Gospel. As his imitators, we are called to simplicity just as Jesus was. We are called to identification with those whose financial status disqualifies them from participating in the mad rush of holiday shopping, just as Jesus is. We are called, not to family-centrism, but to open our doors to those who may be crushed by loneliness, just as Jesus did.

***

What I mean is that until we find ourselves looking like Jesus at Christmas: poor, humble, and extremely open, then we have nothing to say to the culture. But have good cheer! I am convinced that we have been given a wonderful party with incredible joy waiting for us in the humility of the pennyless babe!

– Joel Mason