It's a strange Spring in North Texas!
Temperatures dive down to 35 degrees, soar up to 84, decline again to 38; then, again, rise up to near 90 degrees....and all that in a couple of days!!
In the Smith front yard, wildflowers (wild, but planted by Meisha) are resplendent: blue bonnets tall and electric; Indian blankets, strong and sturdy; and two or three more whose names escape me (ask Sara). While in the "Mary Garden" (GSAC's gracious gift from Fall of 2016), a beautiful bouquet adorns the foot of the Blessed Virgin's statue. Roses of several varieties grow around the house: "knock outs" in over-abundance; the Peace rose...recuperating from its severe pruning; delicate, smaller members of the "rose" family adorn one side, punctuated by nearby yellows and a sassy, long asparagus.
Something about a garden speaks of God: the fecund beauty...the bold colors and sturdy greens... reveal God the Father's strength and intricate Wisdom. And, remember: one of the better translations of Jesus' saying, "I am the good shepherd is actually this: "I am the beautiful shepherd".
And so He is.
Our parish will soon celebrate its "Feast of Title": the 4th Sunday of Easter is nick-named "Good Shepherd Sunday"- April 22nd, this year.
What's happening in our parish that reveals the Beauty of our Savior?
Well: So glad you asked!
Here we go....
(A) "Wow! What a Holy Week!"
Good Shepherd was signally blessed with a powerful presence of the Holy Spirit, and a great esprit de corps amongst the parish family during the 8 days beginning with Palm Sunday, ending with Easter Day's Feast of the Resurrection.
Though I'm tempted to rehearse the power and pathos of each of the days between 3/25-4/01/18, I'm going to restrain myself, and simply say to you: "if you couldn't be here (or chose not to be here)- Oh, what a crown of glory you missed!" I made the statement earlier in Lent, "If you will come to every day of Holy Week, it will change your life!". At least one member of the parish family commented to me at the Easter vigil (Saturday's 8:30 pm miracle) "Father: you were so right about this week!" Even if you were only able to worship during the Triduum (the great 3 days of Maundy/Good Friday/Vigil), I'm guessing you were as moved as I was by the palpable mercy and grace of Jesus in our life or worship. And, now, ahead for us is an even greater Joy: the Season of "alleluias"...the 40 days of Eastertide.
So: mark this down for Holy Week, 2019: "This year, I'm gonna make every effort to keep every day of this Week of weeks!"
(B) Our Bishop on 'the Lawsuit'; Q&A at the reception on 4/08
During Bishop Iker's wonderful annual visitation on April 8th (72 of the family were present...a goodly turn out for "low" Sunday), Bishop Iker announced the Judgment of the Texas Appeals Court concerning the TEC's 9 year lawsuit to take our diocese's properties: WE LOST.
That reality stunned and stung a bit. We had every educated hope that the Appeals Court would uphold the earlier decision by the Texas Supreme Court that "neutral principles" (our position) would prevail over the "deference"... or "identity" principle (the National Episcopal Church's position). Instead, in a 178 page decision, they "remanded and reversed" the decision which Judge John Chupp made 2 years ago.
For more insight on this issue, please surf on over to: www.fwepiscopal.org and click on the "Legal News Archive" at the bottom right of the Home page. Additionally, Bp. Iker has given his a press release answer... found on that same web site...to "what's next". What's next is...of course...more lawyering, and more judging. It will likely be 2 more years...at least...til 'the last gavel falls' on this unseemly case.
I asked Bp. Iker if he would be willing to do a Q&Q session after his announcement at the Reception. He very graciously, and informatively, spent over 20 minutes hearing and responding to some very good questions.
Bp. Iker will soon celebrate 25 years of faithful, and lion-hearted service as the bishop of our diocese. Though it may be a pity that he has spent almost half that time dealing with the need to disassociate from the National Church and defend the diocese from the litiginous wrath of the leadership of the National Church, are we not very blessed to have this good man standing up as he has for the Truth!?! Many men would have ducked out of the episcopal office in 2006...or 2008... or in one of the years since then to now. But Jack Leo Iker has valiantly and uncomplainingly kept us focused on Jesus Christ, and our Mission to love and serve Him in the world. God bless you, Bishop Iker! We are proud of you.
(C) EASTER'S 40 DAYS OF JOY!
In The Acts of the Apostles, Luke the physician tells us that for 40 days the Lord Jesus Christ made His Mighty Resurrection known to His disciples. Those 40 days of post-resurrection lingering with the 12 Apostles (and others surrounding them) are the definition of the season of Eastertide: the season of Resurrection revelation. [Then, of course, comes the 10 day 'mini-season' of Ascension-tide: the ten days following Christ's Glorious Ascension into Heaven up to the Day of Pentecost]
Just as Christmas' 12 days help us revel in the Incarnation of the Son of God...since 1 day (Dec. 25th) would never be enough to plumb the depths of this Mystery- So, the 40 Days of Eastertide provide us a time to savor the hilarious, powerful, marvelous, heavenly reality of the bodily resurrection of the crucified Christ. "Alleluia, Christ is Risen! The LORD is risen Indeed!"
That is our Song, our Shout, and our everlasting Faith about 'what happened to Jesus beyond Calvary'.
Christian Formation Class will be the primary venue for savoring the Resurrection at GSAC. From this coming Sunday, 4/15 through Sunday, May 6th, this CF series will examine in loving detail and prayerful discussion, the details of Jesus' post-resurrection appearances during Eastertide. Come. Enjoy. It happens right after "refreshment hour", and it will be thrilling!
In Christ's Love,
Fr. Stuart Smith