Tag Archive: Easter


This was the homily I preached this morning based on Psalm 118:14-29 and Benjamin Britten’s cantata “Rejoice in the Lamb.”

There are images circulating around the internet right now that I’ve seen seminary pals posting on Facebook that say, “what do you mean Easter is over?!  Easter lasts 50 days!”  But it’s easy to forget after all the glorious celebration of Easter Sunday that we get to continue the party.  And part of this means being able to rock out the “hallelujahs” again!

The Lenten ban on “hallelujahs” or “alleluias” is something that I really try to uphold, but it gets hard because I love music.  Even with pop music, I’ll be singing along in the car, feeling the music, bopping along, and then I realize that I’ve let the forbidden word slip.  Oops.  One of these songs is Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” which has been covered by everyone and their brother.  You’d think that with a title like “Hallelujah” I’d be able to see it coming and restrain myself, but it’s still really hard because it’s a great song!  It is, however, a melancholy kind of song – the kind of song that makes me well up and want to let out all the emotion in my soul.

Music can do that to you.  It can carry you away so that you say “hallelujah” even in the middle of Lent or it can move you to tears.  And speaking of great music, we’re going to hear some fantastic music in just a few minutes.  In reading over the text of Benjamin Britten’s piece, which is printed in the bulletin and was written by Christopher Smart, I was at first a wee bit baffled by the lyrics.  But as Gerry and I discussed the piece, I became really moved by what it was saying.  One part of it that really caught me were these lines:

“Hallelujah, hallelujah,
Hallelujah from the heart of God,
And from the hand of the artist inimitable,
And from the echo of the heavenly harp
In sweetness magnifical and mighty.
Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.”

First of all, Christopher Smart’s poetry is mysterious and beautiful.  Second, I was hooked by this idea of a “hallelujah from the heart of God.”  What does that mean?

Hallelujah is a Hebrew word.  Well, actually, if we want to get technical, it’s two words – “Hallelu” and “jah.”  And this phrase is a command that means “you all praise God!”  So when we shout “hallelujah,” we’re really saying “ya’ll praise God now!”  It’s an exclamation – something that is not just for us, but that is meant to draw others in.  “You all praise God” so that we can join our voices together in praising and worshiping God, just like a choir.

But what would “hallelujah from the heart of God” mean?  I think it means something incredibly profound.  I think it means our praise of God doesn’t start with us.  It starts with God.   This may sound like a really foreign concept for us, but it shows up in the psalms as well.  “The stone that the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone.  By the LORD has this been done; it is marvelous in our eyes.  This is the day that the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. … You are my God, and I will thank you; you are my God, and I will exalt you, Give thanks to the LORD, for the LORD is good; God’s mercy endures forever.”

Psalm 118 is part of the praise psalms whose primary purpose is to praise and glorify God.  And the writers and singers of these psalms praise because God is who God is.  They give thanks and exalt the Lord because of who they know God to be and because of what God has done.  They give praise and bear witness to how God has been active in their lives in order to point to God and to share the goodness of God.   They shout “hallelujah” and command “praise God,” inviting others to join the song of praise.  They invite them to be a part of the chorus of hallelujahs by sharing with others what God has done for them.

We even see this in the Gospel of John: “now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book.  But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.”  All that we hear in this Gospel is written down so that we may come to believe in and worship Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God.  All these amazing things about Jesus’ life, miracles or signs, death and resurrection have been written down in order to invite us to believe.  All these things that have come from the loving heart of God and have been graciously and generously given to us – these things invite a hallelujah.  What we’ve experienced as the goodness and mercy from God’s own heart should evoke a hallelujah – our praise of God.

In all of this, the question is this: do we give praise and shout hallelujah in order that we, as well as others, might believe?

When I am struggling with unbelief, or doubt, or missing out on that encounter with God, I recall what God has done in my life and in the lives of those I know.  I listen to the stories of others who are praising and bearing witness to God’s action in their lives.  This hearing and remembering what God has done helps to spark gratitude and praise in my life.  It helps me to continue believing – and as we hear in the Gospel of John, it’s through this believing that we have life to the full in the name of Christ.

On Wednesday, I watched a TEDxChange event that was put on by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.  TEDTalks are devoted to “ideas worth spreading” – sharing ideas in order to make a difference in the world.  At Wednesday’s event, several speakers and poets took the stage, but the topic all were focusing upon was “positive disruption.”  The speakers spoke about ways of positively disrupting the world in order to make a difference – whether through better health care for women, contraceptives, or famine relief.

But I love that phrase “positive disruption.”  I think that’s what “hallelujah” is in our lives.  It’s a shout.  It’s a word you want to blurt out.  It’s a positive disruption or interruption in our lives in that it shakes up our doubts, sorrows, and difficulties and fills us again with gratitude, praise and joy.  It’s the word that bursts the tomb and offers us Christ, standing before us saying “peace be with you.”  It’s the word that causes us to think about what God has done.  It’s the word uttered from another’s lips that causes us to remember God’s goodness even when we feel far from God.  It’s the word that energizes us and helps us remember that we are invited to live our lives as responses to God’s love.

Today, may we let our hallelujahs burst forth in our words, prayers and songs.  May we let the Spirit stir up in us those hallelujahs that were born in the heart of God.  May we, with our hallelujahs, invite others to praise God.  And may we continue the celebration of Easter all our days.

Alleluia! Christ is risen!
Christ is risen indeed! Alleluia!

© 2013. Annabelle Peake Markey. All rights reserved.

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“Hosanna in the highest!” Even thought I’m not a Jesus Christ Superstar fan, I can’t help hearing this song in my head whenever the word “hosanna” comes up:

What is always fascinating to me about this song, and this Sunday (Sunday of the Passion/Palm Sunday), is that we quickly go from praising Christ to reading the passion story, putting ourselves in the place of the crowd. Let me explain that a bit. The song is happy and upbeat, but it has almost a menacing undertone which grows in intensity over the course of the song. Likewise, we begin waving palm branches and shouting “hosanna” to welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, but how quickly our cries turn during the liturgy to shouts of “crucify him!” I find this puzzling and powerful, sobering and also dramatic.

We hear the story of Jesus’ trial and crucifixion and I’m always amazed at how quickly the tide turns – from joy and acclamation to angry mobs and the death of the one we call Savior. Likewise, Psalm 130 (and so many of the psalms) oscillate between lament and hope, sorrow and joy:

1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord.
2 Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive
to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities,
Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you,
so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the Lord, my soul waits,
and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord
more than those who watch for the morning,
more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the Lord!
For with the Lord there is steadfast love,
and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel
from all its iniquities.

This psalm is both a plea for help and forgiveness as well as a song of praise for and trust in what God can do. It flows between knowing what God could do (mark iniquities) to declaring what God does do (forgive). God’s forgiveness, mercy and redeeming love take over rather than judgment. Rather than getting what we deserve for the sins we’ve committed, no matter how large or small, we receive the gift of grace. It’s because of this that we can “revere” God. Some translations even have “fear” instead of “revere,” indicating a deep awe for God and who God is.

I’m still processing this psalm as well as Palm Sunday, but I’m happy that they’re causing me to think and that they can’t be figured out in a few days! We’re now entering Holy Week and in order to be ready for Easter, I am going to try memorizing Psalm 145, which is rather long. We’ll see how I do!

Father, grant us insight and clarity this Holy Week as we meditate on the life, death and resurrection of your precious son, Jesus. We give you thanks for his coming into the world and his dying and rising for our sake. May we take the time to listen to you and what you would teach us during this week. Draw us closer to you and fill us with your Holy Spirit that we might be renewed and strengthened for service to you and to our neighbors. In the name of Christ Jesus, AMEN.

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Fifth Sunday in Lent

So far on my Lenten journey, I’ve managed to memorize Psalms 51, 121, and 42, and I’ve read Psalm 46. This past week I worked through Psalm 42, which has been a great exercise for me.

First of all, as I mentioned last week, I love the image of thirsting after God. This longing to spend more time with God has been really present this busy and hectic semester. I’ve truly appreciated the opportunity to sit quietly in contemplative prayer. There, quietly gathered together to focus on God, I’ve been blessed to listen to God and also to have some deeply meaningful reflections with members of the seminary community.

Second, in reflecting on life and situations I’ve been a part of or even witnessed (Haiti and Japan, for example), I have seen suffering. Unfortunately, it is all too often a part of life. Thinking about these times, I’ve come to appreciate this psalm’s questions and honest frustration: “I say to God, my rock, ‘Why have you forgotten me? Why must I walk about mournfully because the enemy oppresses me?’” The psalmist is freely about to express himself, but he also maintains his faith in God – the God who is the God of his life, his rock, and his help.

In spite of frustrations, pain and suffering, the psalmist is still able to praise God because he remembers God’s goodness and faithfulness. Now this is raw and unapologetic wrestling with the difficult questions of life – naming the problem, the hurt and the pain and asking God point-blank, “where are you?” I think we often feel like we cannot wrestle with God like this – that we cannot ask questions of God or call God to task, but the psalms invite us to pray deeply and honestly, voicing our concerns and airing our frustrations so we can once again praise God. I think we would be wise to learn from these ancient prayers.

In response to this psalm, I would like to tackle Psalm 145, but I am hesitant to do so since it is so full of praise. I think I should like to dwell a bit longer in the penitential and contemplative mood of Lent before springing into Easter joy – at least as far as my psalm choices are concerned! So, instead, I will work on 130, which has long been a favorite:

Psalm 130:
1 Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD.
2 Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!
3 If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities, Lord, who could stand?
4 But there is forgiveness with you, so that you may be revered.
5 I wait for the LORD, my soul waits, and in his word I hope;
6 my soul waits for the Lord more than those who watch for the morning, more than those who watch for the morning.
7 O Israel, hope in the LORD! For with the LORD there is steadfast love, and with him is great power to redeem.
8 It is he who will redeem Israel from all its iniquities.

It’s also quite appropriate since I’ve been thinking a lot about being made righteous through the cross of Christ and God’s grace – not through my own actions. Stay tuned to see what I learn from Psalm 130! Peace!

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

Arches - Pergamum, Turkey

Lent. The time which spans from Ash Wednesday until Easter. The 40 days in which Christians are to prepare their hearts for Good Friday and the Crucifixion as well as Easter and the Resurrection. A common practice is to give something up or to adopt a new spiritual discipline in order to reflect upon what Christ has done for us. However, often times, this Lenten practice is reduced to giving up sweets or junk food, something I, too, have done in the past. Thinking about this now, it seems like giving up candy is a silly idea since we’re supposed to be reflecting on Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and drawing closer to God – how does not eating something sugary help? Am I really sacrificing anything or drawing closer to my Lord and my God? I don’t think so.

With this in mind, as I am journeying through this Lenten season, I will be giving up Facebook. While it is a wonderful tool for connecting people, staying in touch, and, well, procrastinating, I think I will better be able to focus on the richness of Lent if Facebook is not around as a distraction. In addition to this and in response to my awesome “Psalter and the Life of Faith” course this semester, I am going to dig into the Psalter and work on “writing it upon my heart” (cf. Deuteronomy 11:18, Psalm 119:11). Yes, I am going to try to memorize some of the Psalms. We’ll see how far I go!

While I’m giving up Facebook, I hope to record and keep track of my journey and my experiences here. I’m so excited! I’d love to hear what others are doing this Lent – leave comments below about your past experiences and/or what you’d like to do this year. Can’t wait to hear what you’re up to!

© 2011. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

A few days ago, I heard the song “Make You Feel My Love” by Adele. I love its simplicity and the gorgeous harmonies that develop as the song progresses. It’s a beautiful love song for sure, but as I listened to it on YouTube and looked at the lyrics (posted below), I thought that maybe it spoke to a deeper truth.

“When the rain is blowing in your face,
and the whole world is on your case,
I could offer you a warm embrace
to make you feel my love.

When the evening shadows and the stars appear,
and there is no one there to dry your tears,
I could hold you for a million years
to make you feel my love.

I know you haven’t made your mind up yet,
but I would never do you wrong.
I’ve known it from the moment that we met,
no doubt in my mind where you belong.

I’d go hungry; I’d go black and blue,
I’d go crawling down the avenue.
No, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do
to make you feel my love.

The storms are raging on the rolling sea
and on the highway of regret.
Though winds of change are throwing wild and free,
you ain’t seen nothing like me yet.

I could make you happy, make your dreams come true.
Nothing that I wouldn’t do.
Go to the ends of the Earth for you,
to make you feel my love”

As I listened, I found myself thinking, “does God sing like this to us?” I would answer “yes.” God is there for us when “the whole world is on your (our) case” or “there is no one there to dry your (our) tears,” extending loving arms to us as a parent would to comfort a child. God patiently waits for us to turn to God even though we may not know what exactly to think about God or faith.

In the song, Adele sings, “no, there’s nothing that I wouldn’t do to make you feel my love.” Celebrating Holy Week last week, I heard again the stories of God’s amazing acts in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and of the sufferings of Jesus Christ, and, as I listened, I heard echoes of that line from Adele’s song. I think the authors of the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, are trying desperately to show us through story, song and letters how God has been trying to reach us throughout history.

Look how far God has gone to make us feel God’s incredible love for us – God brought up God’s beloved people Israel from Egypt, God delivered Israel from exile, and God has consistently taken sides with the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized and those crying out for mercy and justice. Taking this to the ultimate step, God took on human flesh and went to the cross for our sake. When the Crucifixion occurred 2,000 years ago, the world hadn’t seen anything like that and we still haven’t seen such an act since. Yes, there were many crucifixions, but never one in which an innocent man died in order to redeem the world. I would consider that going to the “ends of the earth,” wouldn’t you?

I enjoy this song as one sung about human love for sure, but I think it’s given me another chance to think about God’s amazing love for all of humanity. God is there, waiting to comfort us and bring us through the storms, winds, changes and regrets Adele sings about, even if we haven’t quite decided what to make of God. Thankfully though, God won’t stop trying to reach us – won’t ever stop trying to make us feel God’s love.

Happy Easter!

© 2010. Annabelle Peake. All rights reserved.

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