Easter: An annual Christian festival in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, observed on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the vernal equinox. – Dictionary.com
A book red in color, with neither gold leaf nor leather binding, sits quietly on my bookshelf.
Though small in size compared to its companions, it contains some of the most beautiful and meaningful words ever written.
Inside the front cover is an inscription: “To Noel Hamiel on his Confirmation.”
It was signed, “Father Alexander MacBeth,” and dated 1957.
The “Book of Common Prayer” was an Episcopalian’s guide to prayer services on Sunday and conduct each day of the week. The book contains many passages from the Bible, well-known creeds, and original prayers by the authors of the book first written in 1549. It describes how sacraments and rites of the church are to be administered.
My recollection of the confirmation process has been dimmed by time, but some of the answers to be given to the bishop on Confirmation Sunday are as vivid as yesterday. Father MacBeth, one of the kindliest men to walk this earth, made confirmation and its meaning a profound experience.
Sometime in the early 1970s, I left the Episcopal Church, which saddens me to this day. The church, I felt, had gone in a direction that was foreign to what Father MacBeth and other church elders had stood for in the 1950s. The church supported radical political causes, and even gave money to them. It extensively revised the “Book of Common Prayer,” 1928 version, and replaced its soaring, even poetic language, with prose that often failed to capture the depth of feeling characterized by the earlier work. It veered sharply to the left on social issues, causing a fissure in the church that exists to this day.
What occurred in the Episcopal Church has been seen in other mainstream protestant denominations in the United States. Whether they are ELCA Lutheran, Presbyterian, United Methodist, or Congregational, the numbers in the pews are down. Is it because the churches have changed and have taken positions that reflect a U.S. society instead of Scripture? Or is it because society’s values have changed and churches are no longer central to their lives?
As I looked at the rose-colored book on my bookshelf this week, a thought re-occurred to me. Churches change. Theologians and pastors give Scripture new interpretations. People continue to disagree on the Bible’s meaning.
What hasn’t changed is Easter’s promise: If you believe in Jesus’s resurrection, you too can have eternal life.
In today’s world, isn’t that a comforting thought?
March 28, 2018